Whether traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, for business or pleasure, you’re in for a treat. While the capital city is relatively small, it’s genuinely quite pretty in places. But not only that, it has quite a diverse culinary scene.
It’s no surprise that Madison, like the rest of Wisconsin, is famous for its cheese (and cheese curds!), so many restaurants feature unique dishes that include the state’s most popular ingredient. Madison is also well-known for its superb craft beer, which you can find at many local restaurants and during festivals like the Great Taste of the Midwest and the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Festival.
Wisconsin may be known for beer, bratwurst, maple syrup, and cheese, but you’ll find a little bit of everything here, from Peruvian, French, German, Tibetan, and Italian cuisine to bougie downtown Madison restaurants. Regardless of what you’re craving, you’re sure to find great food at one of the many restaurants in Madison.
Best Restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin
Address: 1 S Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703
It’s no surprise that L’Etoile means “the star” in French, and it is one of the top restaurants in Madison. This upscale fine dining restaurant was a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award and also received recognition in the Outstanding Wine Program category.
Needless to say, the award-winning dishes are delectable, from Mortadella Agnolotti to Kyuquot Sound Sablefish and, of course, a Wisconsin Artisan Cheeses to round out the multi-course meal. Not only are the entrees savory and delightful, but the owner and executive chef work hard to source ingredients locally to provide farm-to-table cuisine. You may even find their team foraging at the Dane County Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
L’Etoile is conveniently located on Capitol Square in downtown Madison. The French-inspired American fare of this Madison, Wisconsin restaurant will no doubt tickle your taste buds, and make you cock your head at the ideas you had about some of your old favorites. Do note that reservations are a must at this popular fine-dining restaurant, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead!
2. Eno Vino Wine Bar – Downtown
Address: 1 N Webster St, 10th Floor of AC Hotel, Madison, WI 53703
You must try Eno Vino Wine Bar if you’re looking for some Spanish-inspired small plates (or tapas). With two locations in Madison, Eno Vino Wine Bar serves global cuisine and offers a lengthy wine list and great service.
The downtown location offers fantastic views from the 10th floor of the AC Hotel, in addition to great food. The restaurant features small plates such as Goat Cheese Tortellini, Lamb Meatballs, and Charred Spanish Octopus.
If your hunger isn’t tamed yet, try one of their delicious Cheese Boards with Roth Grand Cru, Brie, Cocoa Cardona, or Manchego cheese with apricot chili jam and crostini. If you aren’t a wine connoisseur, ask your server about trying one of the 40+ wines offered by the glass or share one of the 300+ bottles with your table.
Eno Vino Wine Bar is open for dinner service and late-night snacks (open until midnight during the week and 1 am on Friday and Saturday evenings). Reservations are highly recommended, as this popular downtown Madison restaurant fills up quickly! However, if you can’t make it in, schedule a delivery so you can eat in the comfort of your PJs.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
3. Monty’s Blue Plate Diner
Address: 2089 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704
While best restaurant lists often involve fine dining and upscale eateries, some of the best are small, locally-owned casual restaurants. Monty’s Blue Plate Diner is no exception.
Retrofitted in an old gas station, this diner is a blast from the past. While you can eat your favorite breakfast items all day long, the menu also includes plenty of vegetarian (and vegan!) options, traditional burgers, salads, soups, and more.
Soothe your soul with their Meatloaf of the Gods or their vegetarian version, Veggie Loaf of the Gods, a carrot mushroom loaf served with ginger-cashew sauce. Or, have a grilled cheese sandwich (with three types of cheese!) and tomato soup to warm you up on a cold day.
Whatever you decide to order, you won’t be disappointed. And you definitely won’t leave hungry! While dining at the hip and retro restaurant is more fun, they also offer delivery. Just a warning- you may have difficulty deciding what you want to order!
4. Tornado Steak House
Address: 116 S Hamilton St, Madison, WI 53703
This downtown Madison restaurant is a traditional Wisconsin steak house, complete with timbered walls, and warm red lighting, oozing the rustic vibe of a good ol’ Wisconsin supper club. Open for dinner daily, dining at Tornado Steak House is worth every penny.
The juicy and delectable selection of steaks includes filets, T-bones, ribeyes, tenderloins, and NY Strips. If you’re not a steak lover, don’t fret, as the Tornado Steak House offers fresh seafood, poultry and game, and specialties such as Venison Tenderloin, Sauteed Frog Legs, and Pan-fried Rabbit. Sides include green beans, hashed browns, and brussels sprouts.
The combination of impeccable service and amazing food makes Tornado Steak House a popular dining destination, so it’s a good idea to make a reservation. However, there is no online reservation system, so you must contact Tornado Steak House directly at (608) 256-3570 to reserve a table. Tornado Steak House is one of the best Madison restaurants with a cozy atmosphere, delectable food, and great people.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Appleton, Wisconsin
5. Greenbush Bakery
Address: 1402 Regent St, Madison, WI 53711
With two locations in Madison, Greenbush Bakery keeps locals happy with its delicious donuts and coffee. In addition, it’s the only certified Kosher dairy in the area, so you can rest assured knowing that you’re getting the highest quality donuts with the best ingredients!
Once you try one of their special donuts, you’ll understand why they were featured in Madison Magazine’s “Best of Madison” issue. The bakery offers classic donuts such as old-fashioned sour cream, cake, and glazed buttermilk crullers. If the classics don’t float your boat, they’ve got other menu items like cinnamon rolls, donut holes, fritters, and turnovers.
The menu may be simple, but they’ve perfected their craft over the last twenty-five years, and it is now one of the best restaurants in Madison. One thing is for sure- you won’t forget biting into your first Greenbush Bakery donut.
6. Heritage Tavern
Address: 131 E Mifflin St, Madison, WI 53703
Conveniently located near Madison’s Capitol Square, Heritage Tavern serves farm-to-table dishes in a classy environment. Don’t be fooled by “tavern” in the name, as the delectable menu items are created by the restaurant’s James Beard Award-nominated chef.
Open for dinner service and Sunday brunch, Heritage Tavern has menu items such as Tempura Bacon Wrapped Curds, Wild Rice Crusted Monkfish, Pork Confit Omelet, and Apple French Toast. If you’ve got a sweet tooth after your entree, try their family-style heritage sundae, chocolate and espresso opera cake, or the brandy ice cream float for dessert!
Because Heritage Tavern uses local produce, menu items are subject to availability. They also have a bar menu with pub-style sandwiches, fresh cheese, and charcuterie boards if you’re not looking for a full meal.
Whether you visit this Madison restaurant for dinner, brunch, or a snack, you will enjoy the award-winning dishes! Reservations are recommended for the dining room, but you can also place an order for carryout online.
7. A Pig In A Fur Coat
Address: 940 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703
Their tagline or motto is “good food, good drinks, good farms, good people,” and you’ll find it true when you visit. Stylized as “|a pig in a fur coat|” the restaurant serves Mediterranean dishes in a cozy atmosphere, with beer and wine service.
This bistro may have a small menu, but the attention to detail for each menu item is impeccable. Open for dinner service only, you’ll find some recognizable dishes and a few innovative ones, from Foie Gras Mousse and Jerk Rabbit to Lobster Risotto. They also offer the option to add shaved Italian white truffles to any entree to take it up a notch!
If you’re still hungry, you can order their Caramelized White Chocolate Budino with cranberry, amaretto, and chantilly cream or their Honeycrisp Apple Pound Cake with cognac and Hook’s 5-year cheddar caramel.
As you might imagine, reservations are recommended at this popular restaurant, but they also have first-come, first-serve seating available at the bar. And if you’d rather enjoy this fabulous food in your PJs, consider having it delivered! A Pig In A Fur Coat may have a funny name (|and a hatred for capital letters|), but it is easily one of the best restaurants in Madison.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Door County, Wisconsin
8. Lao Laan-Xang Restaurant
Address: 2098 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704
When you set foot inside Lao Laan-Xang and experience their delicious food, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world. Open since 1990, this Laotion restaurant brings a little bit of Laos to Madison. They are known for using fresh herbs and spices in their dishes, giving them a unique and complex flavor.
Open for dinner service only, Lao Laan-Xang offers a wide variety of dishes, including vegetarian options. Like many restaurants in Madison, they source many of their ingredients locally. Appetizers include spring rolls, coconut shrimp, and potstickers, while there are also more traditional Laotion specialties such as Larp, Moak Pa, and Laotian Spicy Sausage.
Be careful when you ask for something spicy, as native Laotians like to turn the heat on! Their four spice levels include Timid, Careful, Adventurous, and Native Lao. However, make sure to have some water nearby if you order Native Lao! (They also serve a selection of beers and wine.)
The restaurant is family-owned and operated and prides itself on providing its customers with a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Unfortunately, there is no online ordering, but you can call the restaurant for carryout orders and reservations.
9. Mint Mark
Address: 1929 Winnebago St, Madison, WI 53704
Nestled in a blue brick building, Mint Mark is a unique restaurant before you even step inside. This memorable American restaurant serves small plates, changing the menu frequently to serve the best farm-to-table dishes.
While menu items vary, you may find dishes such as Butternut Squash Sugo, Foie Gras, Deviled Eggs with Kimchi, or a Chicken Fried Mushroom. The menu is small but delightful, with a variety of items.
Beer, wine, and spirits are available, from a Mint Mark Martini to a Sangrita and a Pimm’s Cup to a Paloma. The draft beer is just as unique, with options ranging from a Raspberry Tart from New Glarus Brewing to a Pear Cider from Vermont.
Of course, there are more common IPAs, stouts, and lagers. Mint Mark also offers a decent selection of wines by the glass, including sparkling, red, white, and rose.
If you’re looking for a unique experience at one of the best restaurants in Madison, you won’t regret trying Mint Mark! Reservations recommended. If you can’t get a reservation, you can always order it to be delivered so you can enjoy the food from the comfort of your home.
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10. Toby’s Supper Club
Address: 3717 S Dutch Mill Rd, Madison, WI 53718
Toby’s Supper Club is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a traditional Wisconsin restaurant with American fare. Its unpretentious dining room, extensive menu, and reasonable prices make Toby’s a popular restaurant for locals and tourists alike.
It’s no surprise that the first thing on the menu is Wisconsin Cheese Curds, along with other classic dishes like fried chicken, steaks, and burgers. But you’ll also fried frog legs and African lobster tail if you want something outside the norm. And, speaking of outside of the norm, they’re famous for their Key Lime Pie Martinis!
Best of all, this Madison restaurant has been family-owned and operated for over fifty years and has won many local awards. When you go to Toby’s Supper Club, you’ll understand why it’s one of the most highly-rated restaurants in Madison.
11. Marie’s Soul Food
Address: 1637 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711
If you are looking for food to feed your soul, look no further than Marie’s Soul Food. Marie’s Soul Food will please your taste buds and your soul with its traditional dishes such as fried chicken, collard greens, fried fish, and cornbread.
This take-out-only restaurant features traditional soul food such as Sauced Up Fried Chicken (jumbo chicken wings tossed in sauce), BBQ Baked Chicken, Fried Catfish Fillets, and Pork Ribs. You can’t leave without ordering sides like collard greens, corn meal stuffing, and corn muffins.
The food looks and smells so delicious that you may be unable to make it back home (or your hotel) before digging in. You may want to bring some napkins (or wet wipes) and plan on eating in your car!
Unfortunately, delivery is not an option, but you’ll want to eat this delicious food while it’s hot! Check out their menu online before heading over to the restaurant, so you know what you’re in for!
12. La Penca Mexican Restaurant
Address: 1821 S Park St, Madison, WI 53713
Who says you can’t have delicious Mexican food near the Canadian border? La Penca Mexican Restaurant is easily one of the best restaurants in Madison if you’re looking for authentic Mexican food like tacos, burritos, tortas, caldos (soups), and fresh seafood entrees.
La Penca offers lunch and dinner service and has an extensive menu to please any palate. Start your meal off with Queso Fundido with Chorizo or guacamole and chips.
Making an entree choice might be more challenging, though, because there’s so much to choose from! You’ll find tried and true menu items like cheese enchiladas and beef tacos, but their specialty items include items like Chimichangas (deep-fried burritos), Carne Asada (grilled skirt steak), and Carnitas (pulled pork).
You won’t leave hungry, whatever you order! And whether you decide to dine in, order carryout, or have it delivered, you may want to look at the menu beforehand. You may find yourself ordering extra, so you’ll have leftovers!
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13. Mickie’s Dairy Bar
Address: 1511 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711
Mickie’s Dairy Bar has been serving locals since 1946, with homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner options, all featuring the state’s number one product. This no-frills restaurant is across the street from Camp Randall Stadium, home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s football team. As you can imagine, it’s a popular place on game days!
This Madison restaurant is a favorite for fresh, quick, and tasty food. Breakfast items include standard American fare like pancakes, eggs, and breakfast sandwiches, but if you’re looking for something a little different, they also offer an Oriental Chicken Omelet, cornmeal pancakes, and pork chops and eggs.
Lunch and dinner items are fairly standard, with various burgers and sandwiches. If you have a sweet tooth, you can order a root beer float or an ice cream shake to complement your meal.
Mickie’s Dairy Bar is one of the most well-known establishments in Madison and is worth a visit! Reservations are not required, so stop on in whenever you get a hankering for some tasty food!
14. Paul’s Pel’meni
Address: 414 W Gilman St, Madison, WI 53703
Sometimes referred to as the “heart of Russian cuisine,” pel’meni are Russian dumplings stuffed with various fillings. So, if you’re looking for a taste of Russia, you must stop by Paul’s Pel’meni!
While the menu is short and simple, it follows the restaurant’s motto, “Do one thing and do it well.” (So, if you’re looking for other Russian foods, you won’t find them here.) The dumplings include beef or potato fillings with options to top them with butter, soy sauce, curry, cilantro, sour cream, or chili sauce.
These delicious dumplings are available for dine-in or carryout. (You can order online for carryout.) Paul’s Pel’meni is open for lunch, dinner, and those late-night cravings!
Address: 122 W Mifflin St, Madison, WI 53703
Located in downtown Madison, Cento Ristorante is known for its farm-to-table dishes specializing in Italian cuisine. Cento means “100” in Italian, representing its location in the 100 block of Mifflin, near the State Capitol and the Overture Center for the Arts.
This elegant Italian restaurant is one of the top downtown restaurants in Madison, with house-made spaghetti, slow-roasted meats, and gourmet pizza. Appetizers include fried olives, bacon-wrapped dates, and polenta fries, or you can order a cheese board with your selection of cheeses and olives. Their specialty entrees include seared scallops, seafood risotto, and duck confit pizza.
Consider Cento’s special theater menu if you see a show at the Overture. The three-course menu requires participation from the whole table and is available before most theater performances.
While Cento is known for their delectable dinners, they are also open for weekend brunch. Menu items include Foie Gras French Toast, Crab Cake Benedict, and a Tuscan Kale Ceasar. (They also offer a “Boozy Brunch” option which includes two cocktails.)
This great downtown restaurant is worth visiting while you’re in town! Reservations are recommended but not required. But if you can’t secure a reservation, delivery is available to enjoy this delicious Italian food from the comfort of your home. This Italian eatery is easily one of the best restaurants in Madison, so don’t miss out!
16. Weary Traveler Freehouse
Address: 1201 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703
Located near Madison’s east side, the Weary Traveler Freehouse is a restaurant focused on international comfort food. They serve everyday brunch and offer dinner service every night.
If you’re wondering what “international comfort food” entails, menu items range from Hungarian Goulash and Mulligatawny to Chicken Dijonaise and Tom Ka Tofu. But if you’re looking for more standard fare, they also offer a delicious bone-in pork chop, a Reuben sandwich, and a breakfast burrito.
They also have a wide selection of beers on tap, including local and regional craft brews. Their large outdoor seating area is great for relaxing and enjoying a drink in the warmer months.
This highly rated and eclectic joint is one of the best restaurants in Madison, with its unique menu, creative space, delicious food, and fantastic beer selection. While the space’s ambiance makes dining in the restaurant a real treat, the Weary Traveler Freehouse also offers carryout options if you prefer to eat at home.
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Address: 2262 Winnebago St, Madison, WI 53704
Madison is home to many diverse, unique, and eclectic restaurants, one of which is Ahan. Located in Bur Oak, Ahan serves delicious Lao-inspired food. Ahan is the Lao word for “food,” and the restaurant’s extensive menu supports the meaning!
Ahan serves traditional Lao menu items such as Laap Nuea (Beef Laap), Thum Mak Hoong (Papaya Salad), and Khao Mun Gai Oup (Lao-style roasted Stack Farm chicken). They also serve other Asian specialties like Drunken Noodles, Pho, and Kung Pao Shrimp.
You may want to look at the menu before dinner, as so many delectable options exist! They are also incredible about dietary restrictions and food allergies, so there is likely something at Ahan for everyone to enjoy. You can choose outdoor seating on a nice day or always order carryout or delivery.
Address: 12 S Carroll St, Madison, WI 53703
If you’re looking for a truly authentic Wisconsin cheese experience, you must put Fromagination on your itinerary. Conveniently located on Capitol Square at the center of America’s “Dairyland,” Fromagination is a sight to behold.
While the 15-year-old cheese shop sells hundreds of Wisconsin cheeses, they also carry cheeses from Minnesota, Vermont, California, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. However, they don’t just sell cheese at Fromagination, which is why it’s on our list of best restaurants in Madison.
One of the cheese shop’s specialties is the Fromagination Signature Sandwich, and until you see it in person, you may not believe just how ridiculously drool-worthy they are. Their local shop offers eight Signature Sandwiches, one of which is the Great Wisconsin Sandwich.
This towering sandwich includes prosciutto, salami, mozzarella, and provolone cheese, with balsamic dressing and olive oil on a three-cheese sourdough miche. To give you an idea of its greatness, this sandwich was named the “best in Wisconsin” by the Daily Meal.
If you’re not feeling like a hearty sandwich, the cheese shop also offers salads, Wisconsin mac and cheese, chips, and sodas. While you can order online, it’s a fun experience to witness the making of your sandwich and peruse all the amazing local cheeses! Also, the Dane County Farmers Market operates just outside the cheese shop, so you can simultaneously shop for your local produce, cheese, and goodies!
19. Estacion Inka
Address: 616 University Ave, Madison, WI 53715
Near the University of Wisconsin’s campus, Estacion Inka is a casual Peruvian eatery. It’s one of the many casual restaurants on our list, but the quick-service atmosphere doesn’t take away from the authentic Peruvian flavors of the menu items.
The most popular menu item is the Pollo a la Brasa, rotisserie chicken with Peruvian spices served with Inka yellow and green sauce. However, you can also order entrees such as Salchipapa, a Peruvian dish with beef sausage and french fries, or Tofu Saltado, sautéed tofu, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.
Some of their traditional sides include rice and black beans, Twice-Fried Green Plantains, and Yuccas Fritas. If you’ve got a sweet tooth and want to try a Peruvian dessert, you must order a box of mini alfajores. These Peruvian macaroons are a delicious way to end your meal!
Whether you decide to dine in, order carryout, or have it delivered, you’ll understand why this Estacion Inka is on our list of best restaurants in Madison! Because of its downtown location, it’s a staple for students and professionals looking for a quick, delicious lunch!
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
20. La Taguara
Address: 3502 E Washington Ave, Madison, WI 53704
With two locations in Madison, La Taguara is the go-to place for authentic Venezuelan and Latin American dishes. If you’re not familiar with Venezuelan cuisine, this restaurant will soon turn you into a big fan!
Popular Venezuelan foods include plantains, rice, yucca, beans, corn, and yams, so many menu items include these ingredients. Appetizers include items such as Yuca Frita (crispy yucca sticks), Tequeños de Jojoto (Sweet Corn Bites), and Tostones (Smashed Green Plantains).
The Venezuelan national dish, Pabellón, which includes shredded beef, rice, black beans, cheese, plantains, and an arepa, is a favorite at La Taguara. Many like to top it with a sunny-side-up egg for a taste bud explosion!
No matter what you order, you won’t leave here hungry. But, if you crave something sweet at the end of your meal, try either the Arroz con Coco (rice pudding in sweet coconut sauce) or Tequeños de Guayaba y Queso, the Venezuelan version of small cheese sticks filled with cheese and guava.
While La Taguara made our list as one of the best restaurants in Madison, they also have a fantastic karaoke night every Saturday at their Crossroads location! Stop by for the delicious food, and stay for the music!
21. Dexter’s Pub
Address: 301 North St, Madison, WI 53704
For some, it may seem weird to have a humble pub on our list of the best restaurants in Madison, but once you’ve tried some of the menu items (especially the fish fry!) at Dexter’s, you’ll understand why!
People may go to Dexter’s Pub for their large selection of draft beer, including Scottish ales, Stouts, Porters, Sour Fruits, IPAs, and Seltzers, but they stay for the food. Known for its weekly fish fry, Dexter’s Pub features fried walleye, cod, and perch every Friday.
If you visit any other day of the week, you’ll find popular appetizers like cheese curds, pizza rolls, and brew fries. If you want a real treat, order the Stuffed Grilled Cheese with Swiss Cheese, Cheddar Cheese, bacon, Brussels sprouts, and tomato. If that doesn’t float your boat, there are many other options, from burgers and pizzas to a Blackberry BBQ Pork sandwich and Buffalo Chicken Salad.
Once you try the food at Dexter’s, you’ll be a fan for life. There’s something for everyone at Dexter’s Pub, which is why it’s on our list of the best restaurants in Madison.
22. Little Tibet Madison
Address: 827 E Johnson St, Madison, WI 53703
Little Tibet started their culinary journey with a food truck in 2016. After its success, they opened this brick-and-mortar location on E. Johnson St. in 2019. This splendid restaurant serves Tibetan and Himalayan cuisine, offering both dine-in and carryout options.
One of the more popular menu items is Momo, which are bite-size dumplings with a small amount of filling. These dumplings are usually steamed but are served fried on occasion. The restaurant offers ten variations of Momo, including Mushroom and Paneer, Traditional Beef, and Tofu Vegan.
Some classic Tibetan entrees include Tibetan Chicken Curry, Shogo Phing Sha, and Beef Shaptrak, all served with jasmine rice. If you’re looking for vegetarian options, Little Tibet offers several tasty options like Jhol Veg Momo, Tofu Vegan Momo, and Bhajiya.
In Madison’s eclectic Tenney -Lapham neighborhood, within walking distance to downtown, Little Tibet is a local fave! It’s worth a visit to explore Tibet’s incredible tastes and smells in Madison.
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23. Beef Butter BBQ
Address: 3001 N Sherman Ave, Madison, WI 53704
Inspired by Aaron Franklin of Austin, Texas’ Franklin BBQ, the owner of Beef Butter BBQ wanted to bring the flavor of Texas brisket to Wisconsin. Starting with a food truck, Beef Butter BBQ became an instant hit. Now with a brick-and-mortar location, the BBQ restaurant has won multiple awards, including the Best BBQ in 2022.
While the mouth-watering brisket is a customer favorite, their ribs, chicken, jalapeno cheddar sausage, and pulled pork are close seconds. Individuals can order meat plates with sides, but there are also family packs for 2, 4, and 12 people. Make sure to add some of the loaded Mac n Cheese topped with their buttery brisket or some of their popular Apple Pie Baked Beans.
They have more sides than any BBQ restaurant I’ve been to, with options for cole slaw, french fries, kettle chips, jalapeno cheddar cornbread, potato salad, white cheddar mac n’ cheese, and even side salads. If you don’t have enough food, you can also order their smoked wings or cheese curds for an appetizer.
And, if you’re just looking to buy 10 lbs of their buttery brisket, you can do that too. Their mouthwatering brisket and a juicy, delectable selection of BBQ meats make this one of the best restaurants in Madison!
For the final touch, order their house-made pecan pie or chocolate-dipped key lime pie so you can quench your sweet tooth after your meal! Beef Butter BBQ offers dine-in, curbside, delivery, and catering. Before heading to the restaurant, you may want to check out their menu to decide what you want first!
24. The Old Fashioned
Address: 23 N Pinckney St #1, Madison, WI 53703
Inspired by the old Wisconsin supper clubs, The Old Fashioned is a throwback to the old days. This retro-style tavern offers quite a decent selection of food, an extensive beer list, and some ciders and ales.
If you’re looking for fried cheese curds, poutine, Wisconsin fondue, or other Wisconsin classic dishes, you’ll want to put the Old Fashioned on your food itinerary. One of the most popular menu items is their Wisconsin beer cheese soup garnished with iconic local popcorn or their clam chowder (served on Fridays only – shellfish Friday, yo!).
Their mouth-watering entrees include Pan-seared Beef Tenderloin with Brandy Mushroom Cream Sauce, Mac & Cheese with Aged Wisconsin Cheddar and Sarvecchio Cheese (featured on the Food Network!), and their Fried Chicken Dinner with Spicy Buttermilk Dipping Sauce. If you aren’t drooling yet, one of their mouthwatering sandwiches or salads may sway you!
Their Pork Shoulder Sandwich is a customer favorite, topped with pickle relish, Muenster cheese, and smoked Spanish paprika sauce on buttered and toasted Texas toast. And if you’re craving some greens, their Door County Cherry Salad is a popular choice. Mixed greens are topped with dried cherries infused with white wine and served with blue cheese and a vinaigrette dressing.
Whatever you decide to order, it’s unlikely that you’ll leave hungry. The Old Fashioned is one of the best restaurants in Madison with its retro-style feel and traditional Wisconsin dishes, so be sure to check it out!
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Address: 617 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703
If you’re looking for an upscale eatery with lake views, put Sardine on your list! This French bistro is open for dinner and weekend brunch. With outdoor seating and views of Lake Monona, you can’t go wrong!
Sardine may have a smaller menu, but each item is meticulously perfected. Appetizers include options such as Warm Montchevre Goat Cheese served with grilled bread, roasted tomato jam, and olive tapenade, and Chicken Liver Toasts with fruit compote and baby greens.
The restaurant offers salads, entrees, and small plates (if you want to try a few specialties). One of the more popular salads is the Warm Duck Confit and Frisee with bacon, a poached egg, crispy potatoes, and vinaigrette dressing.
Or, try their Seared Salmon in a beurre blanc sauce. Try their Basque Cheesecake with caramelized custard and a cranberry-sage confit to end your delightful meal!
If you visit Sardine during their brunch hours, you’ll be delighted with their breakfast offerings, including omelets, pastries, waffles, and breakfast sandwiches. You can’t miss their Crab, Bacon Lardon and Shrimp Cakes, Mushroom Toast, or Croque Monsieur sandwich.
Whenever you visit Sardine, you’re in for a culinary treat! Reservations are highly recommended for this Madison gem.
Address: 2138 Atwood Ave Madison, WI 53704
If you’re looking for an intimate dining experience, you must check out Nook. This teeny-tiny restaurant has a 12-seat dining room with no barriers between the kitchen and the guests.
The dining room has a communal feel, with six tables arranged closely together. It feels like being seated at the same table but with a little extra breathing room so guests aren’t uncomfortable.
Nook’s tasting menu includes between 12 and 14 courses. For an additional charge, you can add a beverage pairing service or just order drinks a la carte from the menu. The menu is constantly evolving, so even if you’ve been to Nook recently, the tasting menu is likely different.
On the 1st of every month, just after midnight, reservations go live to the public for two months ahead (for example, on January 1st, reservations open for March). You can make a reservation for two to twelve guests.
This unique culinary experience easily makes Nook one of the best restaurants in Madison, with its intimate dining room, delectable tasting menu, and relaxed atmosphere. It is worth it to secure a reservation during your trip to Madison!
27. Tavernakaya | Umami
Address: 27 E Main St, Madison, WI 53703
Located on Capitol Square, Tavernakaya offers a variety of culinary delights, from Asian comfort foods to a Japanese take on Wisconsin’s famous cheese curds. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, serving everything from poke bowls, sushi rolls, nigiri, sashimi, noodle dishes, fried rice, and bento boxes.
While plenty of traditional Japanese cuisine is on the menu, you’ll also find some unique variations. For example, Tempura Curds with spicy mayo and togarashi chili powder or Bacon and Egg Fried Rice with onions, bean sprouts, eggs, and scallions.
But you’ll also find some usual suspects, like Steak Udon with onions, carrots, green beans, and broccoli. If you’re craving sushi, be sure to come hungry, as the selection is extensive!
Tavernakaya’s dining area has a clean and modern industrial feel. Its great ambiance and fresh Asian comfort food make this restaurant one of the best in Madison. Although not required, reservations are recommended for this popular eatery, but they also offer carry-out.
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Address: 2701 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711
Everly is the spot for a comfortable and casual restaurant with options for lunch, dinner, and brunch! This eclectic eatery has a fantastic outdoor dining area for beautiful days, but you can also dine outside in not-so-perfect weather since it’s covered.
Everly has something for everyone, from kids to adults. There are many delightful menu options, from Scandinavian Meatballs and Cauliflower Fundido to Thai Style Crispy Chicken and Tea Braised Pork. And those entrees are just from the dinner menu!
The brunch menu is equally delicious with options like Sirloin Steak Hash, Everly Chicken and Waffle, Challah French Toast, and Brunch Fried Rice. Everly takes care of the kids, too, with options ranging from avocado toast and a burger to grilled cheese and noodles with butter.
No matter which menu you’re ordering from, you’ll surely find something for everyone in your group. This highly-rated eatery is easily one of the best family-friendly restaurants in Madison, so be sure to check it out! And if you’d rather have it delivered so you can binge-watch your favorite show in the comfort of your home, that’s fine too!
29. Ha Long Bay
Address: 1353 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703
Conveniently located in downtown Madison, Ha Long Bay offers Thai, Vietnamese, and Laotian dishes. It’s one of the most popular restaurants in Madison, especially in the area, so it’s often busy. It’s a good idea to make a reservation, so you aren’t waiting long, but since they do not utilize an online reservation system, you must call the restaurant to make one.
Their menu is impressive, with Vietnamese dishes ranging from pho, Bahn Canh, Banh Xeo, Chao, Mi, Bun, and Chao. Select Vietnamese entrees include Hot and Spicy Lemongrass, Vietnamese Beef Stew, and Shrimp Curry Stir Fry.
If you’re craving Thai food, Ha Long Bay offers a large selection of Thai Noodle Soup, Thai Stir Fried Noodles, Thai Curries, and Thai Fried Rice. Some popular Thai entrees include Chicken Pad Prik King and Beef Pad Kra Prow.
You’ll want to order the Chicken Laab if you want a taste of Laos, as it’s the dish of the Laotians! However, the Laotian Style Sausages and the Tum Som Gai Yang (Grilled Chicken with Papaya Salad) are also popular dishes from Laos.
You’ll be in for a treat no matter what you order at Ha Long Bay. The portions are large, and the fresh ingredients and delicious flavors will delight your tastebuds! So if you’re looking for one of the best Asian-inspired restaurants downtown has to offer, put Ha Long Bay on your shortlist! Once you visit, you can also purchase merchandise to show your HLB love wherever you go.
Address: 1 S Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703
In Madison’s Capitol Square, Graze is an upscale gastropub that offers farm-to-table cuisine. Open for dinner service only, Graze is a fantastic place to enjoy outdoor dining on beautiful days while relishing the locally-sourced food. Almost all of Graze’s menu items contain ingredients from local farmers, including meat, dairy, and produce.
If you want to eat like a true native, you’ll want to order the Fried Hook’s Cheese Curds with a vodka batter and served with buttermilk ranch. While these fried curds are a little more upscale than traditional Wisconsin curds, they are amazing.
One of the most popular menu items is the beet and walnut burger, which includes a vegetarian patty topped with feta cheese, lemon Greek yogurt, cucumber, red onion, and arugula on a sesame brioche bun. Of course, they also have options for meat eaters. The roasted honey nut squash ain’t too shabby either
For example, you can order the Seven Seeds Double Cheese Smash Burger, served with American cheese, bread & butter pickles, and special burger sauce on a duck fat bun. Or, if you want something a little sweet and spicy, you may want to try the Korean Fire Chicken with spicy soy chili sauce, mushrooms, cabbage, and mozzarella. Then there is the Seven Seeds Pork Belly, which is to die for.
Whatever you order, you will be in for a treat! Graze is consistently listed as one of the best restaurants in Madison, and when you take your first bite, you’ll understand why! If you plan on dining here, be sure to plan ahead, as reservations are highly recommended.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Hudson, Wisconsin
31. Kettle Black Kitchen
Address: 1835 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711
Kettle Black Kitchen is a new restaurant in the Madison restaurant scene, opening in August of 2021. This casual yet upscale restaurant is open for dinner service and weekend brunch. Kettle Black Kitchen serves EuroAmerican comfort food.
The dinner menu, while not lengthy, has a variety of mouthwatering entrees. You’ll find appetizers such as the Charleston Shrimp & Grits Cake or Fire Roasted Oysters.
The main courses include Maple Braised Bone In Pork Shank, Pan Seared Wild Cod, and Butter Basted Atlantic Salmon. They also have a decent selection of wines by the glass and by the bottle, beer, cider, and non-alcoholic drinks.
If you visit Kettle Black Kitchen on a weekend morning, you’re in for a real treat! The brunch menu includes a few standard breakfast items like omelets and egg dishes, but the Chicken Crepes and the Fried Tomato Creole Benedict steal the show!
Kettle Black Kitchen is perfect for a casual meal or a special occasion, with its tasty EuroAmerican comfort food and great ambiance. As it’s one of the more popular restaurants in Madison, it’s a good idea to make reservations.
Address: 2611 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711
Fairchild is an upscale restaurant focused on exceptional ingredients and impeccable service. Fairchild is one of the best restaurants in Madison, although it’s only open for dinner from Wednesday through Sunday.
Their menu is like fine dining, but not at fine dining prices. Appetizers include La Belle Farms Fois Gras, Black Bass Crudo, and Lobster Bisque.
The entrees and pasta are drool-worthy, with options such as Seven Seeds Pork Loin, Wautoma Family of Farms Duck, Tagliatelle Carbonara, and Tortellini with Butternut Squash. Not only does Fairchild use the finest ingredients, but their attention to detail is exceptional.
Its consistently high ratings and delectable food make this fine-dining restaurant one of Madison’s best! Reservations are highly recommended because of their limited hours.
33. Naples 15
Address: 15 N Butler St, Madison, WI 53703
This Italian restaurant is located in downtown Madison, making it a convenient eatery for those working and visiting the area. This upscale restaurant serves house-made spaghetti, wood-fired pizzas, and authentic Italian entrees.
The executive chef lived most of his life in Napes until he immigrated to the United States in the 80s when he settled in Madison. Determined to bring a piece of home to his new city, he opened Naples 15.
Patrons of Naples 15 can enjoy outdoor dining on nice spring and summer days while enjoying a glass of Moscato and Linguini Alla Puttanesca. If you’re looking for something a little heartier, you can also try the Chateaubriand, a roast-size filet mignon. And for something completely different, order their Tuna Fish and Onions Pizza with black olives, basil, and tomatoes.
If you’re still hungry after eating your main course, you should try one of their Italian desserts, such as the Cannoli or the Sfogliatella, both delectable dessert pastries. Or, enjoy one of their wines by the glass to round out your authentic Italian meal.
Naples 15 is one of the best restaurants in Madison, with fantastic and authentic Italian food, a great location, and good service. Call them to make a reservation if you’d like to experience a taste of Italy! You can also have a taste of Italy delivered to your house, so you don’t have to put on real clothes.
See Related: Best Things to do in Minocqua, Wisconsin
34. Tempest Oyster Bar
Address: 120 E Wilson St Suite 3, Madison, WI 53703
Blending old-school decor with stylish and modern vibes, Tempest Oyster Bar has been serving the people of Madison since 2011 with fresh seafood and steaks. Dinner service is offered daily, and reservations are highly recommended.
If you’re craving oysters (I mean, you are at an oyster bar!), you can order fried oysters or Oysters Rockefeller from their appetizer menu. If you’re not a fan of oysters, they also have various other choices, including Steamed Mussels, Pan-Seared Scallops, and Conch Fritters.
The menu is extensive for an upscale contemporary restaurant, with entrees ranging from Alaskan King Crab and Deep Fried Walleye to a Shrimp Po-Boy and a Double cut Pork Chop. There’s also a way to buy the kitchen a six-pack for an additional $10, and you’ll want to after you take your first bite!
If you still have room for dessert, there are several delectable options, including Pear Upside Down Cake, Vanilla Bean Creme Caramel, and Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart. The presentation and quality of the menu items make Tempest Oyster Bar a local favorite. It’s no surprise that it ranks as one of the best restaurants in Madison.
35. Essen Haus Restaurant and Bar
Address: 514 E Wilson St, Madison, WI 53703
Essen Haus German Restaurant and Bier Garden is a German-themed restaurant offering a variety of beers and traditional German food. Located on the East side, Essen Haus is known for its casual, lively environment, live music, and events.
This authentic German restaurant & trinken halle (drinking hall) takes you to Germany without ever leaving Madison. The charming German restaurant offers a fantastic variety of German bier, with 16 rotating tap bier selections available from its vibrant bar. Not only can you order a pint, but Essen Haus also offers their famous 2-liter boot (it’s a whole experience!), full-liter mugs, and half-liter steins.
So, if you’re looking for an authentic experience, including lederhosen and dirndls, live oompah music, and German (and American) cuisine, make your way to one of the most unique entries on this mighty list of Madison, Wisconsin restaurants! Prost!
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