15 buzz-worthy coffee shops in Madison
Get your caffeine fix around Madison
Madison’s cup runneth over when it comes to local coffee shops, and there’s no way a list like this could cover them all. But one thing is clear — when it comes to coffee, we like it hot, we like it cold, we like it served with whole milk, oat milk or no milk at all. We like it fast, slow, with a side of avocado toast. With no shortage of places to get your caffeine fix, Madison’s coffee shops have something for everyone.
Founded in 1994, Ancora is a Madison institution that continues to reinvent itself. With cafes located on University Avenue and a brand-new space on King Street — across the street from the shop’s original location — Ancora delights with organic fair-trade coffees, a brunch menu and a dedication to a communal atmosphere. Both spaces feel bright and welcoming with ample seating, gleaming white tiles and colorful wallpaper. The cafes specialize in egg sandwiches made with organic eggs, house-made biscuits, Hook’s cheeses, Underground Butcher meats and add-ons like Sriracha honey and blueberry jalapeño jam. Don’t overlook the pancakes — the seasonal offering is a stack of sweet potato flapjacks topped with brown butter, toasted marshmallows and maple-toasted pecans. 3318 University Ave., 233-5287; 107 King St., 255-0285
Black Locust Cafe
An Instagram-worthy coffee shop located in the revitalized area on East Washington Avenue known as Robinia Courtyard, Black Locust Cafe specializes in hip vibes, fresh juices and stark white and red coffee cups filled with drip coffee. Sure, there are bowls (farro porridge, miso tofu, avocado, you know the drill) but there are also bings. What’s a bing, you ask? A bing is a kind of traditional Chinese street food — a crepe wrapped with egg, scallion, cilantro, chili and hoisin sauce. Black Locust also serves bings with seasonal vegetables and vegan harissa mayonnaise. Get your bings daily 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 829 E. Washington Ave., 478-0110
This year, Bradbury’s celebrates its 10th anniversary as a haven for Madisonians seeking delicious coffee and delectable food. Be prepared to cozy up to other brunchers at the communal tables on the weekends at this intimate, triangular-shaped space right off the Square. Bradbury’s serves coffee from roasters including Kickapoo Coffee in Viroqua and a rotating menu of crepes based on Wisconsin’s growing season. The crepe menu offers both savory and sweet crepes; you will find savory selections filled with eggs, meats, cheeses and seasonal vegetables, as well as sweet crepes like made-in-house lemon curd and whipped cream, and a crepe with dark chocolate, caramel and sea salt. Go ahead and treat yourself — no one will bat an eye if you order off both sides of the menu. 127 N. Hamilton St., 204-0474
Cafe Domestique opened on Williamson Street in 2016 as a gathering spot for cyclists first and a coffee shop second. It’s highly likely that most people there will share your love for the 1979 bike racing movie “Breaking Away.” Don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t a destination coffeehouse, because it is. Cafe Domestique fulfills all your coffee shop needs with coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters, a rosemary brown sugar latte that’s all the rage, and treats from neighbor Batch Bakehouse. Look for Cafe Domestique’s second location which opened this fall in a shared space with 1 OAK bicycle shop in nearby Paoli. 1408 Williamson St., 563-8456; 6891 Paoli Road, Paoli
Located on Odana Road and South Bassett Street, Cafe Maya specializes in Mexican hot chocolate, flavored lattes, mochas and horchata, a traditional sweet rice milk drink with cinnamon sprinkled on top (or go for it and order the “horchatte,” a double-shot espresso latte made with horchata). With ample parking, it’s a good spot to grab a quick cup to go or to linger and relax — and it’s known for its friendly staff. It also features Wi-Fi, a kids’ corner with plenty of toys to keep the young ones occupied (at the Odana location) and a full breakfast and lunch menu that includes a breakfast burrito, croissant sandwiches and Cafe Maya’s signature salad. 5501 Odana Road, 709-1909; 45 S. Bassett St., 283-9997
Crescendo Espresso Bar + Music Cafe
When Crescendo took over a well-loved coffee destination on Monroe Street (formerly the home of Ancora and Gallup!) it kept a good thing going while adding some special touches, the most notable of which is a nitro tap pouring cold brew. Infusing nitrogen into cold press coffee creates a rich, creamy texture, similar to that of a Guinness (minus the alcohol, plus the caffeine). Crescendo also designated its Monroe Street location as a “music cafe” offering musical performances once a week. Crescendo is a solid spot for coffee, tea and food (baked goods, sandwiches and toasts) any time of the year, but it is coziest during colder months when you can nudge your way into a seat near the fireplace. Be sure to check out Crescendo’s new Hilldale Mall shop, which celebrated its grand opening in October. 1859 Monroe St., 284-7908; 719 Hilldale Way
As a no-frills, laid-back coffee shop located on Williamson Street — look for the bright red door — Ground Zero is the perfect place for a good cup of coffee, a tasty baked good and a quiet spot to enjoy them. Ground Zero roasts its own coffee (don’t miss the “atomic” house blend) and has a breakfast and lunch menu with sandwiches. With friendly, fun-loving baristas, warm yellow walls and big windows providing lots of natural light, Ground Zero is a welcoming place to study, work or meet up with friends. In warmer weather, grab a spot at one of the sidewalk tables and enjoy the people-watching. Also, enjoy Ground Zero’s tip poll, like the one featured on a recent Saturday: “Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” 744 Williamson St., 294-8668
Of course Indie Coffee has delicious teas, drip coffee and lattes (with organic and nondairy options, too), but this cozy coffee house on Regent Street might be best known for its waffles. Available all day, Indie’s waffles are crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and served with a variety of toppings including house-made whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate chips (purists can still get butter and maple syrup). During warmer months, take advantage of the back patio or head inside to admire the collection of artwork paying homage to the indie music scene. Indie is a popular college hangout, so avoid peak study hours or be prepared to stake out your territory — a waffle will be your reward. 1225 Regent St., 259-9621
Kindfolk Coffee Co.
Located in Cambridge, Kindfolk celebrated its first anniversary in style this spring with an avocado toast bar (because how else would you do it?). At Kindfolk Coffee Co., you will find inventive drinks like black sea salt mochas, oat milk lattes and nitro cold brew, and tasty food offerings like burritos and bagel sandwiches with house-made Sriracha aioli. Formerly the home of Cambridge Coffee House, Kindfolk’s space on Main Street in Cambridge, which is 20 miles east of Madison, has exposed brick walls and plenty of windows to let the morning sunshine pour in. 214 W. Main St., Cambridge, 423-2555
Lakeside St. Coffee House Wine & Beer Bar
A gathering spot for residents of the Bay Creek neighborhood and a destination for people like the ukulele players who converge here once a month for a ukulele sing-along, Lakeside has a strong community vibe. It also has lots of windows with great views of Monona Bay and plenty of table space for working, meeting or kicking back. Lakeside offers drinks from True Coffee Roasters, tea from Milwaukee’s Rishi Teas and a selection of beer and wine, too (perfect for the music events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings). Come for lunch and try Lakeside’s specialty, the Asian peanut tofu sandwich, or dig into a slice of quiche. 402 W. Lakeside St., 441-7599
Madison Chocolate Co.
Yes, Madison Chocolate Co. is an independent chocolate shop on Madison’s near-west side with decadent homemade chocolates and caramels featuring flavors like blood orange, bergamot, blueberry basil, coconut curry, passion fruit, rose and mango habanero. But Madison Chocolate Co. is also a destination for coffee, tea and gluten-free food like hand pies and quiche. With espresso and coffee from Kin-Kin roasters, specialty drinks like the ghost caramel latte, delicious hot chocolate and affogato (espresso poured over ice cream), Madison Chocolate Co. covers a lot of drool-worthy territory. 729 Glenway St., 286-1154
Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse
With the motto “coffee makes me nice,” Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse is a cornerstone of Madison’s near-east side neighborhood. At this homey spot, which first opened its doors on Willy Street in the spring of 1994, you’ll find organic coffee roasted by Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee, vegan soups from Green Owl Cafe and vegan baked goods like lemon bars, molasses cookies and banana chocolate chip cupcakes. Grab an organic Peacemaker espresso, find a seat on a couch and listen to the barista’s playlist, which might include some David Bowie. Open late, Mother Fool’s is a great spot to gather or work at night. Don’t forget to stick around for poetry readings on open mic night. Check Mother Fool’s website for event calendar. 1101 Williamson St., 259-1301
Tucked into the historic Milwaukee Road Depot off West Washington Avenue, Porter is a hidden gem. The first coffee-focused business from Gil Altschul – the Madison restaurateur behind Grampa’s Pizzeria and Gib’s Bar – Porter gives a lot of weight to its food menu, with items like avocado toast served on rye with lemon zest, sea salt, radish, scallion and toasted sesame oil, and a Cubano sandwich with smoked ham, slow-cooked pork shoulder, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard and pickles served on a pressed baguette. Porter’s coffee comes from North Carolina roaster Counter Culture Coffee, and the $4 bottomless cup is a good choice for those who settle into the handsome space for the long haul, taking advantage of communal workspaces and Porter’s Wi-Fi. 640 W. Washington Ave., Suite 101, 720-1110
There’s a good chance that when you walk into The Victory cafe you will be greeted by owner Patrick Downey, who knows most of his patrons by name. Downey opened his first shop in Brooklyn, New York, and kept the hip vibe when he transplanted his family to Madison and the cafe to the Atwood neighborhood. The Victory places an emphasis on community, and you will often find people chatting or reading (look for the basket with issues of The New York Times) instead of working on laptops or staring at their phones (there is no Wi-Fi). The playlist is eclectic and the coffee is excellent. If you are hungry, the yeasted waffles or sandwiches — try the lox — don’t disappoint. 2710 Atwood Ave., 240-0366
Owners Stephanie and Ryan Baughn’s describe Wildwood Cafe as a love letter to Stoughton, and the shop fills a void in this sleepy town 20 miles south of Madison. A destination coffee shop with coffee from Wisconsin suppliers Ruby Coffee Roasters, Kickapoo Coffee and JBC Roasters, Wildwood also has food offerings including a pimento cheese sandwich, waffles and biscuits. It’s a family affair at Wildwood; Stephanie designed the space — a stunner with lots of natural light, dark wood furniture and gorgeous wallpaper — while Ryan worked on the coffee bar and customized the espresso machine, complete with commissioning an artist to decorate it with the phases of the moon. Stephanie and Ryan’s four sons, ages 16, 14, 11 and 9, help out with tart baking and latte slinging. 218 S. Forrest St., Stoughton, 719-5016
Erica Krug is a Madison-based food writer for Madison Magazine.
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