The First-Timers Guide to Eating in Madison

Whether you’re visiting to take in a Wisconsin Badgers game, explore the stunning State Capitol or experience the energy of State Street, you won’t be short of fantastic places to have a meal in Madison. From fresh farm-to-table to classic pub fare, Madison’s food scene thrives on both innovation and tradition, and is a favorite among foodies looking to try new, creative dishes.

So, where exactly should you eat around here? We’ve picked out a few of the places that define the dining scene in Madison. Check them out!

Breakfast

Can’t Miss: Mickie’s Dairy Bar

Located in the shadow of Camp Randall, Mickie’s Dairy Bar has a history almost as storied as the stadium itself. For over 60 years, Mickie’s has been serving up hearty, no-frills breakfast fare to generations of hungry Badgers fans. Step inside and you’re taken straight back to the 1950’s: original menu on the wall, communal tables, old-fashioned shake machine on counter. Diners love their scramblers and plates of giant pancakes, and on weekends, lines can stretch well out the door – but it’s more than worth the wait.

Hidden Gem: Daisy Café and Cupcakery

Made from scratch comfort food is at the heart of the Daisy Café and Cupcakery, a well-loved restaurant in Madison’s eclectic Atwood neighborhood. Their extensive menu features everything from huevos rancheros to homemade meatloaves and plenty of gluten-free options, all served in a cozy, homey atmosphere.

For breakfast, try their signature strata – a homemade egg casserole dish in flavors like French toast, apples & cinnamon, and chorizo & pepper jack. And even if you’re there for breakfast, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take home one (or two…) of Daisy’s unique and delicious cupcakes.

Lunch

Can’t Miss: Ian’s Pizza

No visit to Madison is complete without a stop at Ian’s. With an original location near campus and a second at the top of State Street, Ian’s found its niche in serving innovative and exciting pizzas by the slice.

Their creative cast of pies constantly rotates (past favorites include the gyro, biscuits and gravy, and Thanksgiving slices) but one flavor can be found anytime – their most well-known slice and all-time bestseller, Mac n’ Cheese. Ian’s has become an integral part of the Madison community, and reflects that in their commitment to using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible.

Hidden Gem: Stalzy’s Deli

For one of Madison’s finest Rubens stop by Stalzy’s, a New York style deli with a focus on hand crafted sandwiches and high-quality meats. You’ll find many of the traditional favorites here – creamy slaw, borscht soup, and potato salad, all made with care and cooked to perfection. Locals love the Rachel, your choice of pastrami or turkey pastrami with swiss, slaw, and Russian dressing on rye, and the German potato salad, served hot, fried, and topped with bacon.

Dinner

Can’t Miss: The Old Fashioned

For a taste of Wisconsin’s supper club tradition, stop by The Old Fashioned on the Capitol Square. Dim lights and an aged wooden bar invite diners to sit down and stay a while, preferably while enjoying the drink of choice: you guessed it, the old fashioned. Hand-muddled and crafted by experts, it’s one of the best you’ll find in town.

For dinner, classic Wisconsin fare reigns supreme: beer cheese soup, Sheboygan brats, and melt-in-your-mouth cheese curds are all favorites. Come on Friday for their fish fry – cod, walleye, or perch served with coleslaw, matchstick fries, and rye bread – and feel pleased with knowing you’ve experienced one of Madison’s most quintessential meals.

Hidden Gem: Mickey’s Tavern

Mickey’s is a neighborhood place, through and through. With a history dating back to 1902, Mickey’s has spent the last century becoming a spot for Madison’s east side community to gather and enjoy great food, drink, and live music.

An eclectic mix of couches, tables, and chairs fill the bar’s rooms, and lend to the feeling of being inside someone’s (very cool and loud) living room. Be sure to try the “sexy fries” – crispy, thinly-sliced potatoes topped with white truffle oil, parmesan, and red pepper – and remember to stop by the ATM beforehand, as Mickey’s is cash only.

Looking for more great food in Madison? Check out these 6 Tapas Spots to Sample Madison's Local Flavor, or view our full dining directory!

This entry was posted in Restaurants