First-Timers Guide to Eating in Madison

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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!


Can’t Miss: Mickie’s Dairy Bar

Right across the street from Camp RandallMickie’s Dairy Bar has a history almost as storied as the stadium itself. For over 60 years, Mickie’s has been serving up hearty, diner-style breakfast fare to generations of hungry Badgers fans. Step inside and you’re taken straight back to the 1950s: original menu on the wall, communal tables, and old-fashioned shake machine on the 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. There’s even a separate vegan menu with tons of tasty plant-based options.

For breakfast, try their signature strata – a kind of baked French toast dish in flavors like mushroom and pesto, apples and cinnamon, and chorizo and 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 topped with their signature Italian meringue buttercream frosting.


Can’t Miss: Ian’s Pizza

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

Their creative cast of pies constantly rotates (past favorites include cheesy potato and ranch, 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. And with a full vegan menu, everyone in your group can find their perfect slice.

Ian’s has become an integral part of the Madison community and reflects that in their commitment to using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible. For dessert, grab a classic Midwest dessert: “Puppy Chow,” or chocolate and peanut butter-coated Chex cereal.

Hidden Gem: Stalzy’s Deli

For one of Madison’s finest Reubens 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.

Stop in to pick up fresh-baked bread including sourdough and challah and for unique lunch specials like the schnitzel sandwich.

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Can't Miss: Eno Vino

friends toasting drinks at rooftop restaurant

With its panoramic views of the State Capitol and Lake Monona, Eno Vino offers an unparalleled dining experience that captivates both locals and visitors alike. Sip on a glass of wine from the meticulously curated wine list featuring both local and international selections while you feast your eyes on Madison’s breathtaking surroundings.

Eno Vino complements its sophisticated atmosphere with expertly crafted small plates and entrees. Whether you're looking for a romantic evening or a lively gathering with friends, Eno Vino promises an unforgettable culinary journey through the unexpected tastes of Madison. A visit to this iconic restaurant is truly a can't-miss experience for anyone exploring the vibrant culinary scene in Madison.

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 anywhere.

For dinner, classic Wisconsin fare reigns supreme: beer cheese soup, Sheboygan brats and melt-in-your-mouth cheese curds are all favorites. Come with loved ones 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 and visitors alike to gather and enjoy great food, drinks 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) living room. Be sure to try the “Sexy Fries” – crispy, thinly sliced potatoes topped with white truffle oil, parmesan and red pepper. And you can’t go wrong with “The World’s Greatest Sandwich,” a BLT with Swiss cheese and a fried egg served on sourdough.

Looking for more great food in Madison? Check out these 6 Black-owned restaurants around the city.


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