Madison’s Best Bar Food: 5 Local Favorites Chosen by YOU

Madison’s Best Bar Food: 5 Local Favorites Chosen by YOU

Photo courtesy of The Old Fashioned

By UpNorthNews Staff

March 13, 2024

The food enthusiasts and bar-hopping connoisseurs of Madison have spoken, and we’ve listened! There’s something heartwarming about diving into a plate of comfort food surrounded by the buzzing ambiance of a favorite local tavern. From award-winning cheese curds that melt in your mouth to burgers that redefine indulgence, we’ve got the inside scoop on where to find the most delectable bar food Madison has to offer. So, grab a seat, maybe a napkin or two (things are about to get deliciously messy), and let’s embark on this flavorful adventure together!

5. Mickey’s Tavern

Food at Mickey's Tavern

Photo courtesy of Mickey’s Tavern

Well-traveled bar-hoppers know that Mickey’s Tavern is a treasure waiting to be discovered by those with a keen sense for unique and inviting dining experiences. At Mickey’s, the vibe is laid-back, encouraging patrons to linger over their meals and soak in the cozy atmosphere that makes this spot a standout in Madison’s culinary landscape.

What sets Mickey’s Tavern apart is its unpretentious approach to reimagining traditional bar food. With a menu that marries the comforting familiarity of classic bar staples with inventive twists, every item is a nod to the creative spirit that defines Madison’s food scene. It’s here that you’ll encounter what they call the World’s Greatest Sandwich, a BLT that defies expectations.

Mickey’s is a place where conversations flow as freely as the drinks, where new friendships are formed over shared meals, and where the essence of Madison’s convivial spirit is alive and well. In this cozy corner of the city, every visitor is greeted with the kind of genuine hospitality that makes you feel truly at home.

4. Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.

Food at Great Dane

Photo courtesy of Great Dane Pub

In Madison’s bustling bar scene, Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. stands out. As the titleholder for Best Brewery in Madison, this revered establishment invites you into a world where the art of brewing and culinary craftsmanship converge.

Stepping into the warm atmosphere of Great Dane, you’ll feel the buzz of excitement that comes from being in a place that celebrates the art of good living. With a lineup of beers that showcase the depth and diversity of their brewing talents, from robust stouts to crisp ales, each pour is a testament to their passion for the craft. But it’s the seamless pairing of these brews with a menu bursting with creativity and flavor that sets Great Dane apart in Madison’s culinary landscape.

Their menu is a fusion of traditional pub classics and innovative creations, each dish designed to elevate your beer tasting journey. The beer cheese and potato soup is a velvety, heartwarming delight that encapsulates the spirit of Wisconsin’s love affair with beer and cheese. It’s a celebration of local flavors, crafted to complement the brewery’s award-winning selection.

Beyond the iconic beer cheese soup, the menu is peppered with dishes that surprise and enthrall. Whether it’s a towering burger that pairs perfectly with their hoppy Good Dog IPA or a plate of nachos that becomes the canvas for a symphony of toppings and the malty Stone of Scone Scotch Ale, each pairing is an adventure in taste and texture.

Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. is a cornerstone of Madison’s bar food scene, a place where the community gathers to savor the joy of craft beers and the kind of food that warms the soul. So, raise a glass and prepare to indulge in a dining experience that celebrates the best of Madison’s spirited brew culture and its penchant for extraordinary bar food.

3. Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry

Burgers at Dotty Dumpling's Dowry

Photo courtesy of Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry

When the cravings hit and only the most succulent, mouth-watering burger will do, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry is the beacon for burger enthusiasts in Madison. Holding the crown for Best Burger in Madison, Dotty’s is a burger paradise that has set the gold standard for what a burger can and should be. This spot has carved out a niche for itself in the hearts of locals and visitors alike, creating an almost cult-like following.

Walking through the doors of Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry is like entering a realm where the humble burger is celebrated in all its glory. Here, every burger is a story, a culinary journey that begins with the finest ingredients and ends with a creation that leaves you craving your next visit before you’ve even finished your meal.

The magic of Dotty’s lies in the details—a toasted bun that cradles the juicy, flavorful patty; cheese that melts with precision, enveloping the meat in a warm embrace; and the freshest of toppings that add texture and layers of flavor, making each bite a symphony of taste. And no burger feast is complete without a heaping helping of golden, crispy fries!

Dotty’s is a place where each burger is an experience, a celebration of local ingredients, and a nod to Madison’s foodie culture.

For those on a quest for burger nirvana, look no further. Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry is the holy grail, a place where burger dreams become a delicious reality. So, next time the burger urge strikes, you know where to go—join the legions of fans who have found their burger heaven right here in Madison.

2. Oakcrest Tavern

Food at Oakcrest Tavern

Photo courtesy of Oakcrest Tavern

Oakcrest Tavern shines as a beacon of Madison’s culinary creativity and warmth, missing the top spot by a single vote! This beloved haunt embodies the essence of a neighborhood gathering place where every dish served is a testament to the art of comfort food. It’s the place you go when you crave something familiar yet crave that little twist that makes your meal memorable.

Upon entering Oakcrest, you’re immediately wrapped in an ambiance that feels like coming home. But the real magic lies in their menu, a delightful array of classics reimagined with innovative touches that speak to the soul of Madison’s food scene. Their buffalo wings are known far and wide for their crispy exterior and juicy interior, each bite a perfect harmony of flavors. But the star of the show is the Hungry Hamburger – a local legend in its own right. This burger is a masterpiece of juiciness, flavor, and the kind of satisfaction you can only get from a meal crafted with care and passion.

But what’s a delectable meal without the perfect drink? Oakcrest Tavern has that covered too, with a selection of craft beers that not only quench your thirst but enhance every bite of your meal. It’s this thoughtful pairing of food and drink that makes Oakcrest Tavern a culinary destination for those who appreciate the finer points of bar dining.

Oakcrest is a place that reminds us that the best flavors often come from the simplest ingredients, transformed by passion and skill. And while it may have narrowly missed the top spot, Oakcrest Tavern holds a special place in the hearts of Madison’s food lovers.


1. The Old Fashioned

Cheese Curds

Photo courtesy of The Old Fashioned

If there’s one spot in Madison that embodies the spirit of Wisconsin’s legendary dairy prowess, it’s The Old Fashioned. Sitting at the top of our list, this beloved establishment has become synonymous with the pinnacle of cheesy indulgence. It’s a beacon for cheese curd aficionados far and wide, a place where the humble cheese curd is elevated to celestial heights. And it’s these little golden nuggets of joy that have secured The Old Fashioned’s victory in the hearts of locals and visitors alike, earning it the title of Best Cheese Curd in Madison.

Walking into The Old Fashioned is like stepping into a love story between Wisconsin’s culinary traditions and modern creativity. The atmosphere buzzes with the energy of happy diners and the anticipation of what many come here to experience: cheese curds that set the standard for all others. They’re a crispy, golden, and gooey celebration of what makes Wisconsin’s dairy so special. Each curd is a bite of bliss, enrobed in a perfectly seasoned batter that crunches to reveal a molten heart of cheese. It’s an experience so quintessentially Wisconsin, it’s almost a rite of passage for anyone claiming to know a thing or two about cheese curds.

Beyond cheese curds, The Old Fashioned boasts other dishes worthy of attention, chief among them being the Double Brat. This stellar creation, a tribute to Wisconsin’s German heritage, combines two succulent bratwursts grilled to perfection and laid on a bed of onions and pickles, all tucked inside a hearty roll.

And of course, no Wisconsin food tribute would be complete without mention of a classic fish fry. The Old Fashioned’s take doesn’t disappoint. Their beer-battered cod served with crispy fries, creamy coleslaw, and a slice of rye bread will make any Friday night in Madison a memorable one.

In a city where bar food is a part of the local identity, The Old Fashioned stands out. It’s a place where every dish tells a story. And the cheese curds? Well, they’re the main character in a tale of cheesy, crunchy perfection that keeps everyone coming back for more. So, when you find yourself in Madison, make your way to The Old Fashioned. It’s an experience, a tradition, and a delicious testament to the joys of Wisconsin’s bar food scene.




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