I’ve had a love affair with cheese all my life. Growing up in an Italian household there was never a shortage of it. In my travels, I’ve had the good fortune of eating amazing cheese in Paris and Italy (can I say pure heavenly bliss!). Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d find artisan cheeses in…Wisconsin.
I have visited Madison, WI 3x in my life and have loved every trip. The people are friendly, the food is outstanding and it’s a chill, healthy, active city. But the stand out is truly the cheese – from old favorites to new gems – try them all.
I won’t bore you with cheese education, but highly recommend visiting (if you’re in town) or going on the website of the remarkable Fromagination: http://fromagination.com. It’s a cheese-lover’s paradise. They will break it down by Sheep’s Milk, Mixed/Various Milk, Cow’s Milk, Goat’s Milk and Other Selections.
Before I begin my guide, I must thank the following people for their insight’s and recommendations on this wonderful town: John Kinder, Zachary Correa and Grant Hurless.
Where to Stay:
- The Edgewater: luxury hotel on Lake Mendota (Dalai Lama stayed there!) and walking distance to State Capital https://www.theedgewater.com
- Hotel Red: great if you are going to the stadium http://www.hotelred.com
Where to Eat:
- The Merchant: what’s not to like about a farm to table restaurant, craft cocktails and a grocery store on site? The sausages and corn fritters are a stand out. The Buffalo style cheese curds are fantastic. Wash it all down with The Regret (I prefer with Death’s Door Vodka). Comes in cocktail or pitcher style. Sharing is caring. http://www.merchantmadison.com
- Dotty Dumpling’s Dowery: They call themselves the World Hamburger Headquarters. They do not disappoint. You seriously cannot go wrong with any burger. There is a style for everyone…or just build your own. Get the deep fried pickles and poutine fries for sides. A heart attack is also included in this meal. http://www.dottydumplingsdowry.com
- Heritage Tavern: the brunch is exceptional. For dinner, the tempura bacon wrapped cheese curds, sumac blackened chicken and peanut oil fried whitefish (sorry folks with peanut allergies, you’re missing out!) are stand outs. http://heritagetavern.com
- Nostrano: super fresh and simple. The salumi board is fantastic and although I normally don’t order this dish, the roasted quail is lovely. http://nostranomadison.com
- The Boathouse at The Edgewater Hotel: cheese plate is great and cheese curds come with siracha sauce
- The Old Fashioned: CHEESE curds at their finest. http://www.theoldfashioned.com
- Salvatore’s Tomato Pies: My mom turned me onto this type of pie. It’s all about the sauce. Enjoy building your own pie. Delicious… http://salvatorestomatopies.com
- Rare Steakhouse: if you are in need of a classic dry-aged steak with a view of the capitol, this is your spot. It’s a classic steakhouse with all the bells and whistles you’d expect. http://rareonthesquare.com
- Teddywedgers: A little hole in the wall serving everything in pastries. The chicken pot pie is like mom’s. The traditional is like hearty stew and the Big Cheese? No words. I wanted to take a pic of the food but ate it so fast I forgot. http://www.teddywedgers.com
What to Do:
- Dane County Farms Market
- Anything outdoorsy is available (hiking, fishing, etc)
- Eat cheese