The Best of Madison issue is one of the biggest and most anticipated issues of the year in this city. The annual readers poll was first published in 1981 when, on the cover, the “best dressed man and woman,” attorney Don Johnson and mayoral aide Sue Springman, posed in the “best skuzzy bar,” Jocko’s Rocket Ship, on 430 W. Gilman St. Looking at this cover today, it shows its age considerably, as Jocko’s is a ghost of Madison’s nightlife, having been shut down in 1999 after a cocaine bust that put owner Robert “Boot” Schuh from behind the bar to behind bars for 10 years, along with others involved who also served time in prison. And we can’t overlook the fact that the outfit of Springman—in a bright blue suit dress—as well as the woman in the background—in a full-length cheetah print jumpsuit—are so dated that they’ve had enough time to come back into style.
Gone are some of the categories that appeared in the very first issue, including “best cab driver,” which went to “Someone out there hacking called Willie,” according to the 1981 poll. “We couldn’t find out who Willie works for or what his last name is. Congratulations, Willie,” the blurb reads. And we’ve welcomed new categories in the past few years, including the additions of “best bloody mary” and “best DJ.”
It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then, both in the city and in the annual readers poll meant to be a non-scientific reflection of Madison and the many things, people and places that make this city the best. Over the 37 years of conducting this poll, we’ve made small changes to the survey along the way. This year, we are tweaking the nomination process in the hopes of making this list an even better representation of the very best of Madison.
The changes to the 2018 readers poll nomination process, outlined below, are changes we hope will make it a more fair process for owners who wish to hang up a Best of Madison cover on the walls of their businesses, and our readers who wait for this list to come out every year. Here’s a look at what will be different, as well as what categories you’ll see in the first round of nominations starting Aug. 1:
There will be two rounds of voting for Best of Madison 2018, starting with a nomination period.
ROUND ONE: NOMINATION PERIOD
Throughout Aug. 1 to Aug. 31, nominate any local* people, places or things to do in the wide variety of categories. You can vote every single day in each category per valid email address**.
ROUND TWO: FINAL VOTE
Up to six top vote-getters*** in each category will become finalists in round two. The final voting period is from Sept. 18 to Oct. 15. Unlike round one, in which you can vote every day for what you think is the best, in round two of final voting, you will only be able to vote once per category, so consider your pick and make your vote count!
*Since Madison Magazine has discontinued the Best of the Burbs readers poll, the Best of Madison poll will qualify vote-getters residing throughout Dane County, plus cities in the counties contingent to Dane County—which include the counties of Columbia, Dodge, Sauk, Iowa, Green, Rock and Jefferson.
**You will be asked to register when you navigate to the Best of Madison voting page. It will ask you for a valid email address to vote in the poll. We WILL police entries and follow up on suspicious registrations or ballot stuffing.
***In order to move on to round two of voting, vote-getters must be what Madison Magazine considers a local business. For a business to qualify as local, it must be locally owned and operated and cannot be a national or international franchise. The only exceptions are franchise businesses first established in the state of Wisconsin, as well as car dealerships and hotels.
This is a local readers poll, as it was in 1981 and in all the years following. Almost every city regional magazine in a metropolitan area uses a “best of” list to celebrate and showcase the businesses that are unique to that area. That’s what we’ve done in the past, and that’s what we’ll continue to do moving forward with the Best of Madison poll. So please keep that in mind as you vote online, which we hope you do!
In 1981, there were only 28 categories in the poll. This year, there are more than 130! Here’s a look at the categories you will see on the 2018 Best of Madison ballot:
FOOD & DRINK
Artisan Food Product
Bakery - Bread
Cup of Tea
Destination Restaurant (Outside of Dane County)
Ethnic Grocery Store
Farmers' Market (Other than Dane Country Farmers' Market)
Fried Cheese Curds
New Orleans/Cajun Style
Local Pastry Chef
Specialty Food Store
Tapas (Small Plates)
Wine & Spirits
Bar for Beer
Bar for Cocktails
Bar with a View
Cocktail (Not Old Fashioned or Bloody Mary)
Local Craft Beer (Write as: Brewery, Beer)
Live Music Venue
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Local Band or Singer - Alt/Indie
Local Band or Singer - Blues
Local Band or Singer - Classical
Local Band or Singer - Country
Local Band or Singer - Cover Band
Local Band or Singer - Folk/Bluegrass
Local Band or Singer - Hip Hop/R&B
Local Band or Singer - Jazz
Local Band or Singer - Latin
Local Band or Singer - Rock/Metal
Local Band or Singer - Singer/Songwriter
Classical Music Group
Movie Screening Event or Series
Local News Website
Performing Arts Group
Social Media Personality
TV News Team
Youth Performing Arts Group
HOME & LIFESTYLE
Assisted Living/Retirement Community
Gift Shop/Specialty Store
Home Health Care Agency
Lawn, Garden & Landscape
Musical Instrument Store
Pet Day Care, Boarding & Pampering
Pet Supplies Store
RECREATION & FITNESS
Alternative Fitness Center
Martial Arts Studio
Sports & Recreation Shop