Welcome, American Cheese Society Conference and Competition competitors, speakers and attendees! Wisconsin Cheese is proud to have Wisconsin’s capital as the host of this national cheese industry event and would like to provide a helpful city guide for new visitors. Here is a starting point for the best of Madison’s many fine-dining establishments, cafés and specialty food shops.
Food: Find dinner at one of the top-rated restaurants near Madison’s Capitol Square.
Esteemed Chef Tory Miller creates fresh and local cuisine at these Capitol Square establishments paving the way for farm-to-table dining. Graze offers beautifully executed gastropub-inspired food, and L’Etoile features an ever-changing multi-course menu to highlight the best seasonal fare.
This chophouse is truly top-of-the-line dining with classic crisp linen, mahogany paneling and the best steaks in Madison. Having been voted Madison’s best steakhouse, Johnny Delmonico’s offers many entrée choices, from the finest cuts of beef to lamb and seafood options.
Just off the shore of Lake Monona, Sardine has a vintage-bistro-style appeal with divine dinner entrées, a lively bar area and a weekend brunch that has become a favorite among locals.
If you are looking to experience true Wisconsin cuisine, you will find it all at The Old Fashioned. From the Friday fish fry and Wisconsin Cheese Curds to the spicy pickled egg and landjaeger sausages, you will have your pick of unique, and delicious, Wisconsin eats.
As a more recent addition to the Capitol Square area, Nostrano has been called “the new face of contemporary fine dining.” This one-of-a-kind restaurant features cuisine with a mix of Italian, American and Mediterranean influences.
Drinks: If you are thirsty for a creative cocktail, visit one of these local favorites.
This is the place to be if you enjoy a custom-crafted cocktail. Merchant’s bartenders are masters of mixology, and if you venture beyond the list of Merchant-original cocktails, you are sure to be served up a one-of-a-kind drink matched to your palate preferences.
The Great Dane is a Madison-area original, offering a wide variety of award-winning ales and lagers brewed in-house along with hearty pub fare. The downtown location on King Street offers plenty of pool tables, dartboards and shuffleboards for an evening of entertainment for the whole group.
Craft kegged cocktails, house-made sodas and a variety of delicious milkshakes for dessert, boozy or not, are the highlights of the drink menu, while $8 burgers are the main event for food. The modern art and bold space make this a great choice for a reasonably priced dinner out on the town.
Celebrating its 30th year in business, the Essen Haus is known for its great German food, live polka bands and large “boots” of beer. Servers dress in traditional lederhosen, and you can order from 16 different German biers on tap, as well as over 200 various imports and microbrews.
Specialty: Seeking a uniquely Madison treat? These specialty destinations are your best bets.
This quaint, yet modern, butcher and sandwich shop located on “Willy Street” has become the local hotspot to find meats, house-made charcuterie and artisan sandwiches and sides. Select Wisconsin Cheeses are available as well as seasonal produce.
Another Madison original, Barriques has six locations in the Madison area and offers a full-service coffee and espresso bar, fresh bakery goods and a variety of tap beers and wines by the bottle. Free wireless internet and two levels of seating make the West Washington location a perfect place for early-morning coffee or a post-dinner glass of wine.
This boutique chocolate shop located on the Capitol Square features fresh-made chocolates, which are preservative free and made with the skills of Markus Candinas, who learned to master his trade in Switzerland. The truffle and chocolate options vary, often blending fine chocolate with caramel, fruit purees, herbs and spices or nuts.
Madison’s revered artisan cheese shop offers a beautiful array of Wisconsin’s finest cheeses as well as varieties from around the world. The displays feature whole blocks and wheels of cheese waiting to be cut, among a wide assortment of perfect accompaniments ready to be paired.
Every Saturday during the summer from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM surrounding the Capitol Square, rain or shine, you can find the best local goods being sold by the producers themselves. From fresh bakery items, honeys and flowers to just-picked vegetables, greens and fresh meats, it is the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the United States.