10 Best Restaurants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison

In the shadow of Wisconsin’s State Capitol Building, the University of Wisconsin-Madison retains a remarkable reputation. Some would say it’s a world renown university. A top-ranked research university. A work-hard-play-hard university. And they wouldn’t be wrong. 

But remarkable reputations don’t appear out of thin air — remarkable reputations are earned through years of repetetive work. Beyond UW-Madison’s top-notch academics and Big Ten culture, the university has a remarkable reputation for food. 

As an undergraduate, I have gotten a taste of Madison. Considering college students, I believe there are ten restaurants in no particular order who, just like UW-Madison, have rightfully made a name for themselves. 

1. State Street Brats 

State Street Brats and UW-Madison go way back. Since 1989, the prime location and reasonable prices have attracted past and present Badgers. It’s safe to say the college bar’s atmosphere is unlike any other, great on game days or warm Friday nights. While there, try a world-famous red brat with a side of white-cheddar cheese curds. 

2. The Old Fashioned

Near the Capital, The Old Fashioned is known for its charm. The tavern and restaurant serves up a variety of American soups, sandwiches and sides. Even with plenty of menu options, I say keep it simple with a delicious cheese burger and a side of beer battered cheese curds. 

3. Mickie’s Dairy Bar

Right next to Camp Randall, Mickie’s Dairy Bar allows college students and alumni to get the most bang for their buck. This quaint, game-day diner with an old school feel has anything and everything. While there are countless lunch and dinner choices, breakfast is served all day. Try a plate-sized pancake with a side yanks — Mickie’s delicious breakfast potatoes. 

4. Bassett Street Brunch Club

For a fancier breakfast, check out Bassett Street Brunch Club. Here, phones normally eat first. Bassett offers aesthetically appetizing dishes and serves Colectivo coffee. When looking for something deliciously light, consider the Spring Break Diet. Sweet tooths should treat themselves to the Coconut Cream Pie French Toast. 

5. Short Stack Eatery

Serving breakfast all day, Short Stack Eatery prides itself on fresh food and community impact. Short Stack has sweet and savory options which pair great with coffee, tea or juice. A sweet tooth myself, I swear by the pancakes. The hidden gem on their menu is easily the Sweet Potato Oatmeal Stack. 

6. Ian’s Pizza

At two Madison locations, Ian’s is serving up heaven by the slice. Baked and reheated in the oven upon ordering, the massive New York style slices were created with a college student’s appetite in mind. After a night out, those searching for a quick bite may gravitate towards a piece of Buffalo Chicken or Tomato Pesto. I, however, always find myself ordering the best-selling Mac n’ Cheese pizza.

7. Tutto’s Pasta

For over 20 years, Tutto’s Pasta has been cooking authentic Italian food. Tutto’s provides a family-like atmosphere. With soup, salad, pizza and pasta, one can’t go wrong when ordering. Still, my recommendation is their signature dish — Tutto’s pasta. The bowtie pasta paired with a tomato cream sauce and sauteed onions, mushrooms and chicken is absolutely delicious.

8. BelAir Cantina

BelAir is the best Mexican restaurant in Madison. College students without a reservation may wait for hours to celebrate a new job, a birthday or the end of a long week. But, when the chips and guac, tacos or burritos are placed on the table, the wait is well worth it. Though everyone has a go-to on the menu, stick with the Carne Asada Tacos. 

9. Colectivo Coffee

There are countless coffee shops on State Street to choose from, yet not every cup of joe is created equal. Colectivo Coffee has been brewing the best cup of coffee at multiple Madison locations since 1993. Colectivo has an artsy vibe and continues to attract coffee enthusiasts. Beyond coffee, Colectivo also has an assortment of baked goods. The Salted Caramel Latte with almond milk is a great choice.

10. Daily Scoop

Daily Scoop in Memorial Union satisfies one’s ice cream dreams. Whether Blue Moon, Orange Custard Chocolate Chip or Badger Blast, each flavor comes straight from UW-Madison’s Babcock Dairy Plant. At the plant, the ice cream recipe has not changed since 1951. My suggestion is to order a scoop of Union Utopia, relax at the Union’s colorful patio and take in the view over Lake Mendota.

Emma Conway

Hey there! My name is Emma Conway, and I'm a journalist, studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On campus, I continue cultivating connections with fellow Badgers. Beyond the Madison area, I have a deep desire to tell other’s stories and amplify underrepresented voices. Feel free to check out my other social media handles.

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