Well, I can officially say that I have been to more of Madison, Wisconsin’s best dining establishments than most local food critics. During my two week job training period they must have been concerned that we were going hungry, because every meal was more decadent than the last.
Breakfast and lunch were pretty standard, and by that I mean standardly over the top. The hotel we were at had an incredible breakfast bar with endless fresh fruit, countless hot options (french toast sticks every day – that I only snuck once) and tons of carbs. For lunch we would get box lunches, but when you work in the food industry they don’t just pack you a PB&J and call it a day. They were gourmet box lunches that would put even your mother to shame!
After two delicious meals each day, dinner was probably the last thing any of us needed, but with a new menu each evening no one could say no!
Here’s a rundown of all the places we went while in Madison:
Flat Top Grill
Mongolian BBQ at its finest! Not only was this place ultra cool, but the options were endless. I loved getting a lettuce wrap with my starry. We did edamame appetizers and dessert. I wish I had gotten pictures, but just imagine veggies piled on veggies!
Fat Jack’s BBQ
Fried catfish, all-you-can-eat BBQ ribs, and amazing grilled chicken, this place had all you could want if you’re a carnivore. It was a little dated and I hope you weren’t planning on getting a salad, but the food was delicious!
I’m not sure what was better here: the Southwestern cuisine or the margaritas!
Friday night fish fry here! Make sure to start your meal with a soup though. Both the Tomato Bisque soup and the New England Clam Chowder were incredible! Skip their cocktails and go for a local beer.
Ha Long Bay
While located in a very hip area of Madison, that ambiance doesn’t quite translate inside. The cafeteria feel aside, the food was delicious! The curry was phenomenal and no matter what you order there is plenty to take home. Peanut Chicken was also a must-have!
Margaritas! Margaritas! Margaritas! And WAY too much food. But that’s any Mexican establishment for you. What sets Pedro’s East apart from the others are the fresh, homemade tortillas they make in the restaurant that you can watch them cook up! Put some butter and sugar on them and you’re set! They serve it as an appetizer, but it’s really dessert.
One of the girls in our group, Theresa, was missing her graduation from THE Ohio State to be at training, so we used this as a graduation celebration dinner!
Located off of Capitol Square, this place is unreal it’s so good. A farm-to-table, uber local establishment, I had the trout that was caught just 40 miles from my dinner table the day before! Served with slivered almonds and asparagus, it was the best fish I’ve probably had in my entire life. Great wine selection as well. We were lucky enough to go when they were having a bartending competition and had free drinks abound!
The Nitty Gritty
This place is known for being THE birthday destination for University of Wisconsin students because of their free beer policy. While none of us were celebrating that night, they did provide some out of this world burgers. By this point in training I was trying to cling to some semblance of healthy eating and decided to go with a salmon salad. Regrettably a poor choice on my part.
I used to laugh when I worked at IHOP and people would be disappointed in the steak they ordered. You don’t go to a pancake house and expect the sirloin to be good. Going to a burger joint and ordering a salmon salad was along those lines. The salad was alright, but the salmon was terrible. Skip that and just go for the Nitty Burger next time!
Brazillian Steakhouse – need I say more? It should go without saying that the eight different types were each more savory than the one before, but it was the cinnamon sugar grilled pineapple that took Samba from incredible to roll-me-out-the-door good!
The Betty Lou Cruise
We finished our training with a graduation ceremony on a Betty Lou Cruise. We had to take the official Hotdogger Oath, complete with a hotdog toast, and after that it was an open bar and seafood galore!
Easily the most fun evening of the night, the cruise circled Lake Mendota – passing the Governor’s Mansion, downtown, and the UW student union.
So there you have it! If you were considering eating out in Madison I hope that gave you a complete rundown and provided you some options! You really can’t go wrong at any of them!
Other notable stops along the way:
The Ivory Room Piano Bar