DRUNK LUNCH GUIDE TO MADISON
Forequarter-- The best atmosphere and food in town. Timeless, thoughtful, mind-blowing dishes with an impressive cocktail menu and pleasantly peculiar wine list. Think Lula Cafe in Chicago or Diner in Brooklyn.
Sujeo-- Grab a seat in their noodle bar with its open kitchen and ever present 1990's hip-hop. Order a cocktail and the KBC, which is two pieces of super juicy, crispy + saucy fried chicken. Enjoy.
Mercado Marimar-- This unassuming Mexican grocery store and taco counter on Madison's south-side is one of the city's true hidden gems. First off, they make their own tortillas + every Saturday morning they have a carnitas special, which is out of this world. Best tacos in town-- no question.
Paul's Pel'Meni-- No-bullshit Russian dumplings. You only have a couple of choices to make at this spot: potato, beef, or potato + beef mix. Top it with "the works" which is cilantro, curry powder, a bunch of butter + sour cream. You'll never look back.
Graze-- Brunch with a view. Don't pass on the Magic Coffee.
Fugu-- Best Chinese in town. No question. The spicy string beans, please.
La Mestiza-- This Mexican restaurant in a strip-mall on the far west-side is not to be missed. Great tacos, a refreshing as hell shrimp ceviche, an achiote marinated pork dish called Cochinita Pibil that is just so so good, amazing margaritas + they fry the free basket of chips to order, god dammit!
Greenbush Bar-- Located in the basement of the former Italian Workman's Club, this dark, classic red sauce joint is the perfect place to wash down a pizza or a couple bowls of pasta with too many glasses of Chianti. Grab some friends and get loud under the glow of multi-colored Christmas lights.
Salvatore's Tomato Pies-- You haven't had pizza until you've had a Sal's tomato pie. I suggest the Forestiere-- it's topped with Pleasant Ridge Reserve for god's sake.
Tornado Room-- This place is some real Rat Pack shit. Their late-night menu, available 10p-1a 7-days a week, is a Madison institution. Grab a booth, a wedge salad, and a steak sandwich. If there is no space in the lounge, head down to their basement bar, The Corral Room.
Osteria Papavero-- Beautifully executed authentic Italian with a pretty casual atmosphere. A Madison service-industry lunch go-to. Not a dessert person? I don't care, you cannot miss the budino!
A-OK Sunshine + Spirits-- Biscuits, burgers, fried chicken! Coffee, house-made sodas, a Bloody Mary with jalapeño poppers! Super casual and cheery diner with a big beautiful courtyard.
Johnson Public House-- The social hub of the near-Eastside and the anchor of our beloved East Johnson street. A multi-roaster coffee shop that features the best coffees the US has to offer brewed to goddamn perfection-- Heart, Intelligentsia, and Four Barrel are some favorites of theirs. If theres a Kin Kin brew, their sister roaster, get it.
Gib's-- The drinks are inventive and balanced and the atmosphere is eclectic and cozy. Some of the cities most talented cocktail wizards are at the helm-- some real cocktail nerd shit right here.
Natt Spil-- Dark, small, kinda sexy. Great classic cocktail menu. Amazing music most nights. If the back room with the mural is open, grab it! If you're hungry, I suggest their Three Cup Chicken.
Brasserie V-- Belly up to the bar and dive into their extensive Belgian and European beer list-- 26 changing taps and 250 thoughtfully selected bottled beers. If you find yourself having ventured into the list a little too far and needing a little food in your belly, order their Moules et Frites, hands-down the best thing on the menu.
Robin Room-- Super chill neighborhood cocktail spot up the block from Drunk Lunch with not at all chill drinks, in fact, they're goddamn delicious. They have a euchre table too, so if you're looking to get your Midwest on, this is a great spot to do it. Also, the skinny red head behind the bars name is Pete, he's the best and he'll take great care of you.
Sardine-- Incredible space with the best happy hour in town-- $4 glasses of house wine and 1/2 off oysters available Monday-Friday 4p-6p. Splurge on the can of sardines in lemon with crostini. I mean it.
Memorial Union Terrace-- Once the students are gone, this place is a summer dream. Nothing crazy-- just THE PLACE to get at a bunch of pitchers of beer, hot dogs + the prettiest sunset views in town.
Bradbury's-- Perfectly prepared coffee without all the pretension and a small but mighty seasonal crepe menu. Also, probably one of the most creative uses of space in town.
Square Wine Co.-- A no-frills wine shop whose selection and staff knowledge is UN-GODDAMN-PARALLELLED!
Anthology-- A charming craft and gift shop on State Street. Just check it out. You'll find something, I'm sure.
A Room of Ones Own-- A little crunchy, sure, but a fantastic independent bookshop with a feminist slant and an impressive selection of fiction and graphic novels.
Good Style Shop-- THE vintage clothing spot in town. Expertly curated by their incredibly well-dressed and welcoming staff. Don't miss their used record collection at the back of the shop.
Artist + Craftsmen Supply-- This place is serious when it comes to art supplies. I dare you to try and leave without buying something.
The Century House-- Known mostly as a high-end Scandinavian furniture store, but their beautifully curated design annex next door is not to be missed-- home goods, accessories, cards & a children's department that won't trigger your gag-reflex.
Saver's-- This place is a thrift shopper's dream-- basically a huge second-hand department store. Sure, it's a chain, but proceeds support Easter Seals, which is a pretty cool organization without any religious affiliations that helps children and adults with special needs.
Strictly Discs-- A selection of both new and used vinyl that'll blow your goddamn mind. No genre is left un-represented-- mainstream pop, obscure electronic, classic country and everything in between. If they don't have it, they'll find it for you. This place is an afternoon well-spent.
Fromagination-- The cheese shop of your dreams. Of course, it isn't only cheese-- they have a pretty extensive selection of things that go with cheese.
Context-- Even if you're not in the market for high-end menswear, which is what they're all about, I suggest checking this beautiful spot out. Their shop is a work of art.
Underground Butcher-- Your one-stop shop for everything good in this world-- wine, beer, spirits, jam, pickles, sweets, crackers, cheese, fresh cuts and of course, their award-winning charcuterie. On the weekends? Fresh bagels and breakfast sandwiches. I'm not joking.
Chazen Museum of Art-- An incredible and often overlooked spot on the UW campus with a beautiful collection and fantastic exhibits. Make sure to track down the giant Helen Frankenthaler piece, the so so so cool Alice Neel piece, and the crazy Chuck Close made up of fingerprints.
MMoCA-- The architecture and the view from the roof alone makes this a goddamn must. The size and quality of the exhibits and events this place brings to town is consistently impressive.
UW Cinemateque-- Midwestern film buffs rejoice! An occasionally esoteric, but always incredible, free film program through the UW that features international and fine film.
Forward Theater Company-- A professional theater company which stand-up next to Steppenwolf or Roundabout. The actors are talented as hell, the production value is pretty goddamn high, and the quality of writing they bring into Madison blows me away every time.
Tone Madison-- Not actually a see or a do, but if you're looking to gain a little understanding of the local music, arts, and cultural scene, this independent online magazine is it. A highlight is their weekly events calendar.
Wisconsin Film Festival-- Featuring 150 films over 7 different theaters around town. The films and filmmakers they bring to town each spring is on par with film festivals three times its size. As far as we're concerned, this is the most exciting time to be in town.
Tandem Press-- If this internationally renowned fine print making studio has an open house GET THERE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! Follow them on Facebook for the scoop.
Yum Yum Fest-- This is the food festival to shut 'em down. Put on by the Madison Area Chef's Network, it's more of a food party than anything else-- a florescent hip-hop food carnival. Keep an eye on their website for dates and details.
Majestic Theatre/Orpheum Theatre-- These are the two major concert venues in town, both really cool spaces to check out a show.