The capital of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County, Madison is the state’s foodie capital, combining locally sourced produce with all-American tradition and a dash of international flavour. We explore the city’s dining scene and select 10 must-try restaurants.
The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned draws the best of ingredients from all over the state to craft meals closely associated with Wisconsin. Local farmers and suppliers provide the restaurant’s produce, which allows the chefs to concoct mouth-watering fish dishes, cheese platters and brats. The goal here is to create a level of nostalgia around state traditions and foodstuffs, such as wood-fired chicken and spicy pickled eggs. A selection of ‘home and away’ beers and wines to compliment each meal is available.
The Old Fashioned, 23 North Pinckney Street, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 310 4545
Restaurant, American, Contemporary
Sleek, chic and ultra modern, Bluephies is a fun and contemporary restaurant that serves new Southwestern food, in addition to much-loved and well-known comfort foods. Catering to both carnivores and herbivores, classic burgers and sandwiches sit alongside house specials such as zucchini chips and onion dip of duck confit pop tarts. The ‘vodkatorium’, meanwhile, makes sure that the atmosphere remains relaxed with a gourmet choice of vodkas and vodka drinks, which rotate every week.
Bluephies, 2701 Monroe Street, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 231 3663
Serving up contemporary American cuisine in an upscale yet relaxed atmosphere, that’s the motto of the popular Bonfyre Grille. Wood-fired steaks, rotisserie chicken and seafood selections are firm favourites along with the now-renowned pot roast. And yet, with a seasonal menu in place, the dining options are constantly changing. Bonfyre Grille also offers a wide array of local beers on tap, along with cocktails and an extensive wine list.
Bonfyre Grill, Arbor Gate Towers, 2601 West Beltline Highway, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 273 3973
Courtesy of Bonfyre Grille
Born of the New York Gastro pub scene, Graze aims to provide an atmosphere of comfort, starting with the surroundings and finishing with the food itself. The restaurant’s name comes from the importance it places on rotational grazing to get the best out of each meat product, here, nothing is wasted and guests can be assured of the food’s intense quality. The specialty smaller plates of ‘comfort food’ allow guests to sample more of the delicious dishes on offer in a convivial, laid-back atmosphere.
Graze Restaurant, 1 S Pinckney St, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 251 2700
Ha Long Bay
A family-owned business that is named after the Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, the restaurant Ha Long Bay specialises in Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian food including rice dishes, noodle dishes and a range of Thai curries. Specialties that bring authentic flavours of Asia to the tables of Wisconsin include the tamarind-fried red snapper or the lightly battered chicken in house sesame sauce.
Ha Long Bay, 1353 Williamson Street, Madison, WI, USA,+1 608 255 2868
Sushi Muramoto is a sumptuously decorated sushi restaurant that also serves up a great line in Japanese cooked foods, such as deep-fried shrimp or tofu and crab croquettes. With extra bites from contemporary American fare, like grilled steak and pork cutlets, Sushi Muramoto is a fail safe option for an orientally infused dinner. Chef’s tasting sessions are available during the week for those looking for expert guidance on how best to sample the gems of modern Japanese cuisine.
Sushi Muramoto, 546 Midvale, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 441 1090
Sushi © Pixabay
Bringing genuine Middle Eastern tastes to Madison, the Kabul Restaurant focuses specifically on the dishes of Afghanistan, and cooks up sumptuous curries, dumplings, hummus and other offerings from the region. The cuisine provides plenty of options for both meat lovers and vegetarian, as the dishes here are spiced up with light yet aromatic flavours, catering to all tastes. There is also plenty of choice for those with a sweet tooth with balaclava and firni being favoured desserts.
Kabul Restaurant 541 State Street, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 256 6322
The Green Owl Café
Claiming to be Madison’s only vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl Café serves up gourmet delights without any meat in sight, offering a vegan and gluten-free menu as well. Vegetarian jambalaya and vegan schnitzel are house favourites, whilst a custom salad bar means that guests can pick and choose their own greenery. The restaurant tries to maintain local connections by sourcing food and ideas from nearby farmers and producers. So highly lauded is the food at The Green Owl Café that in 2010 it won the best BLT sandwich award at the 2010 Madison Restaurants Awards, a feat made more impressive by the fact they only serve vegetarian bacon.
The Green Owl Café, 1970 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 285 5290
A Pig in A Fur Coat
Despite the whimsical name, A Pig in A Fur Coat presents itself as a highly sophisticated, upmarket charcuterie and restaurant the serves up such delicacies as rabbit rillettes or foie gras mousse in a refined and relaxed atmosphere. With a community focus that has brought it close to local suppliers, the restaurant also hosts events such as a sherry appreciation evening. Occasional musical accompaniment frequents the restaurant and offers a pleasant, melodic backdrop to the Mediterranean dining ambiance.
A Pig in A Fur Coat, 940 Williamson St., Madison, WI, USA, +1 608 316 3300
Habanero’s Mexican Grill
Habanero’s Mexican Grill combines Mexican flavours with a local twist, as the restaurant uses only local, organic produce. A broad range of burritos makes them stand out from the crowd, and signature dishes include the fajita burrito, which sees onions take the place of beans in the traditional burrito. Veggie options abound next to meat feasts, making choosing a near-impossibility with tacos, tortillas and other well-known Mexican fare making up a fair portion of the menu.
Habanero’s Mexican Grill, 2229 S Stoughton Rd, Madison, WI, +1 608 223 9222