23 new Madison restaurants you’ll love

23 new Madison restaurants you’ll love
Fresh ricotta and rustic grilled bread from Cento, a new Italian restaurant from chef Michael Pruett and Food Fight Restaurant Group.

Each year brings with it a swath of new eateries, and with new eateries comes excitement. We love what’s fresh and untested but also untainted. Sure, some are more hyped than others (we’re looking at you, Sujeo, Cento, Rare and the Edgewater), but even the low-key taco joints and quaint cafes offer intrigue–maybe this is the place we’ve been waiting for. Whether it’s a go-to date night spot, an equal parts convenient and tasty takeout joint on the way home from work or the perfect neighborhood bar, the following twenty-three places offer something in the way of excitement, many for more reasons than one, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome them to town.

We got some sweet news this fall: Madison can now add Chinese bakery to its ever-growing list of culinary treasures. Asian Sweet Bakery, at the corner of South Park and Lakeside streets, serves such treats as coconut cream buns, cheese breads and the popular egg custard tart. But owner Ken Yan, who also owns Asian Midway Foods and Garden Asian Market and co-owns Imperial Garden, doesn’t stop at the sweet. Walk in during lunchtime and you’ll find savory items like meat-stuffed crepes, wonton noodle soup and fish with pickled mustard greens. 1017 S. Park St., 665-3988 $

If you’re in the mood for a burger and beer, a visit to one of two (and counting) area Brews Brothers is a good bet. It’s pretty much all they do, and they do it well. Local beef from Knoche’s serves as a base for creative and indulgent toppings, like cream cheese and sauteed jalapeños on the Jalapeño Popper burger, or avocado, red pepper mayo and pepper jack cheese on the California. Pair your burger with the house-made chips or fries that come with your choice of special seasoning, like Parmesan garlic or Cajun. Wash it all down with one of over forty craft beers on tap, many of which rotate as seasonal specials become available. 610 Junction Rd., Suite 107, 824-9600; 611 Hometown Circle, Suite 104, Verona, 845-2280 $ Editor’s note: Brews Brothers Pub is now called Mr. Brews Taproom

This long-awaited Italian restaurant from chef Michael Pruett and Food Fight Restaurant Group has impressed discerning diners since opening this summer, and it’s easy to see why. Whether you want to do antipasti and drinks with friends, an intimate five-course dinner, weekend brunch or a scrumptious dessert after a show at Overture Center, Cento delivers. Chef Pruett skillfully combines traditional flavors from various regions of Italy with modern techniques using local, seasonal ingredients. The pizza, fired in a wood-burning oven, is some of the best in town, and the pasta dishes, from pappardelle with rabbit to black tagliatelle with lobster, prawn and mussels, are anything but ordinary. Even the space itself is elegant, with original 1920s wood floors, stained glass and exposed brick walls. Cento’s quickly becoming a Madison must-visit. 122 W. Mifflin St., 284-9378 $$$-$$$$

While Madison does have a fair number of Chinese restaurants, finding a takeout spot that offers consistent quality can be tricky. Double 10, which opened on University Avenue opposite Whole Foods late last year, fills that void with its authentic northeastern Chinese cuisine. With both a traditional Chinese and American-Chinese menu, adventurous and cautious eaters alike can find something to love, though we recommend ordering off the former. Try the pork with dry bean curd or the moo shu pork–with a heaping portion of vibrant vegetables like carrot and mushroom mixed with egg and pork, Double 10’s version seems healthier than the more familiar version of the dish served with thin pancakes. Rather enjoy your meal there? The interior is simple but charming, with five tables for dine-in service. 3306 University Ave., 231-9988 $

If you’ve ever tried the Mexican fare from the food cart of the same name up by the Capitol, you know how much El Burrito Loco‘s bursting-with-flavor tacos hit the spot. The flavors are bright, and the simple ingredients shine. Now you can get your fill at a charming brick-and-mortar outpost on High Point Road, in the same development as restaurants Oliva, Swagat and the recently relocated New Seoul. And aside from El Burrito Loco’s tacos (be sure to order the authentic Mexican variety, with onions, cilantro and your choice of meat), you can’t go wrong with the decadent chimichangas or the chicken verde enchiladas. There’s also a good selection of drinks, from Jarritos Mexican sodas to horchata. 745 N. High Point, 203-9670 ​​​​​​​$

Flying Hound, run by the same folks who own the Free House Pub in Middleton, has won over many fans with its handmade pub food and great beer list since it opened in April. The gastropub serves such European-inspired dishes as fish and chips, Prince Edward Island mussels and a schnitzel platter, but also check out the killer grilled cheese with Muenster and cheddar, roasted garlic spread, arugula and tomato on sourdough (with an added crust of melted aged provolone on top, no less) or the namesake burger with Muenster, bacon, a soft egg, hot pepper mayo, arugula, tomato and red onion. The tap list includes thirty-two rotating beers–a mix of local brews and imports from Germany, Belgium and the U.K. 6317 McKee Rd., Fitchburg, 310-4422 ​​​​​​​$$

Sometimes an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is exactly what you need. And if you’re in that kind of mood, and you’re anywhere near Fitchburg, hit up Haveli. The buffet–which will only set you back $8.95 per person–isn’t the largest in town, but it’s well done, with familiar dishes like palak paneer and chicken tikka masala, but also some surprises, like the coconut naan and goat curry. The food is on the mild side, but hot sauces of varying degrees are at the ready if you prefer your meal zippy. If you stop by for dinner, order the vegetarian or meat dinner for two to sample a little of everything. And for a real treat, opt for the silky-smooth mango juice. 5957 McKee Rd., Fitchburg, 274-3333 $$

Hong Kong Station is one of those unexpectedly delightful restaurants that looks like a hole-in-the-wall on the outside but presents quite a different story within. The specialty here is Hong Kong-style noodles, and the possible combinations are astounding with a choice of more than ten different noodles, three different broths and twenty-one additional ingredients ranging from bok choy and chicken to pork intestines and whole unpeeled shrimp. Thankfully, staff members can help you navigate the options and find something you’ll like. Non-noodle options abound, too, if you’re more in the mood for beef tenderloin, sweet and sour pork or even a whole roasted duck. With all this authentic fare, the decor seems a bit (OK, a lot) incongruous, with retro beer mirrors, Coca-Cola posters and portraits of Elvis and Mel Gibson. But we’ll chalk it up to added charm. 1441 Regent St., 661-8288 $

Calling all Chicago-style pizza lovers in Madison! Your options now go beyond Uno’s! Itzza Pizza, occupying a small takeout and delivery space on University Avenue behind IHOP, serves up stuffed, deep-dish, hand-tossed and thin-crust pizzas in addition to calzones, pasta and sandwiches. The mouthwatering garlic Romano crust on the deep-dish pie is reason enough to order it, and it’s probably part of the reason it’s Itzza’s most popular item. Bonus: they deliver until 3 a.m. seven days a week for your late-night cravings. 2825 University Ave., 233-3500 $

There’s a whole lot more than just mac and cheese going into the skillets at this Sun Prairie spot. Yes, you could order the original with just cheddar and mozzarella, but why not choose one of the eleven other indulgent flavors, like the buffal chicken mac with provolone, mozzarella and blue cheese, or the jalapeño popper mac, with pepper jack, mozzarella, jalapeños, bacon and cream cheese? You get your pick of two sizes, meaning your outing to MACS can be as indulgent (with choice of the eighteen-ounce “mac daddy”) or guiltless (the twelve-ounce regular) as you wish. Not into noodles? MACS also serves six different sandwiches and three wedge salads. 2804 Prairie Lakes Dr., Ste. 106, Sun Prairie, 318-8823 $

The Schenk-Atwood neighborhood has a strong and diverse food lineup, from Nepali to tacos to Thai. And when Wong’s Garden closed in early 2014, a Chinese food void emerged. Thankfully, Magic Wok soon took its place, offering Cantonese-style dishes for takeout, delivery and dine-in. For starters, try the aromatic hot and sour soup–it’s just the thing to warm you on a cold Wisconsin night. Entree offerings are numerous and include both noodle and rice-based dishes. In the former camp, try the thick-noodled chow ho fun, with bean sprouts, onion and your choice of protein. The lunch special is a steal–your choice of entree and egg fried or white rice, plus an egg roll or two crab Rangoon, all for only $5.75. 2044 Atwood Ave., 244-7869 $

Monsoon Siam has quickly made its way into the Thai-food-loving hearts of Madisonians with its bold flavors, high-quality ingredients and diverse menu. The small and understated dining room is packed on the weekends–even with Southeast Asian standouts like Lao Laan-Xang, Sala Thai and Ha Long Bay nearby–with diners enjoying curries, noodles and stir-fries. Among more familiar dishes, the papaya salad and red curry are tasty standbys, but if you’re looking for something you can’t usually find at local Thai outposts, go for the sun-dried beef appetizer and an entree from the chef’s special section–maybe the river monster (a deep-fried whole tilapia) or the lemongrass chili tofu. 2045 Atwood Ave., 284-9282 $$

For a restaurant that seemingly transitioned from Mexican to Italian cuisine over the course of one night, Nonno’s has a lot going for it. First, it adds to a small list of locally owned restaurants in the area (Vintage and Takara are just on the other side of Odana Road, but there’s not much else). And second, the food shows real promise. Try the Margherita pizza or penne alla Genovese. The panino maiale, a hearty sandwich with pulled pork, caramelized onion and tomato and lettuce, is also a nice option. Nonno’s might not be the most exciting Italian restaurant in the city, but it’s an honest effort, and the atmosphere is warm and the service friendly. 704 S. Whitney Way, 661-9254 $$

A simple brat with some mustard is great, don’t get us wrong, but OSS proves that a sausage on a bun can be a vehicle for so much more. This Regent Street newcomer slings such inventive sausages as the egg roll with ginger Chinese pork sausage, sauteed cabbage and carrots, wonton strips, spicy mustard and sweet and sour mayo, and the doner kebab, a take on the Turkish street food staple that’s maddeningly hard to find around these parts. They also rock a mean báhn mì. Not into meat? They’ve got veggie dogs, too. Plus the cheese curds and craft beer list are killer. Need we give more reasons to pay this place a visit? 910 Regent St., 709-1000 $

Waiters in white coats carry their own business cards bearing the title “dining captain.” Caesar salad and bananas foster are prepared tableside. The wine offerings number over three hundred. Steaks, massive and cooked to your liking, are dry-aged in-house. The dark mahogany walls and handsome leather booths drip with elegance. That’s the kind of place Rare is. It’s an old-school, big-city steakhouse that’s counting on your willingness to spend a leisurely three hours enjoying sumptuous food in a swanky setting. It’s a special place, worthy of a special occasion. 14 W. Mifflin St., 204-9000 $$$$

This charming Monona Drive cafe serves the kind of crave-worthy treats that’ll turn you into a loyal customer after just one bite. Owner Coz Skaife is a baking expert, with gigs at the Ovens of Brittany, Hubbard Avenue Diner and the Elegant Foods on her resume. Her cakes, doughnuts, fritters, cupcakes, cookies and other pastries are some of the best in town, but Rosie’s doesn’t stop there. A custom coffee bar boasts made-to-order coffee from JBC Coffee Roasters, and you can choose your preferred brew style: pour-over, Aeropress, Chemex, Japanese siphon or standard drip. And then there’s the breakfast and lunch menus, with from-scratch quiche, sandwiches, soups and more. This place has it all. 4604 Monona Dr., 441-7673 $

Breakfast for eighty-eight hours straight? Brilliant! Short Stack Eatery is open from Thursday at 7 a.m. until Sunday at 11 p.m.–the whole time. It’s equally as satisfying as a late-night pancake pit stop on the way home from a night out downtown as a brunch spot with friends mid-morning. Heck, why not make it a dinner spot, just because you can. The Cajun biscuits with gravy and sweet potato oatmeal pancakes are creative must-orders, and the twenty-five-ingredient Bloody Mary may be one of the best in town. Ingredients come from local purveyors like Madison Sourdough and Carr Valley Cheese. And to the gluten-averse: rejoice! Even you can have pancakes at Short Stack, thanks to a special gluten-free batter recipe. 301 W. Johnson St., 709-5569 ​​​​​​​$

There’s a lot to love about the recently reopened Edgewater: lake views, gorgeously appointed guestrooms, a spa, a public plaza and, of course, the various dining options. Chef Tom Welther, who spent thirty years at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, oversees it all (learn more about Chef Welther on p. 108). The Statehouse, the Edgewater’s elegant main dining room, features exquisite entrees like dry-aged steaks and Maine lobster for dinner, but also makes a tempting new brunch spot. If you go, the poached egg crostone is a must. The best part? You don’t have to be a hotel guest to dine at the Edgewater. 1001 Wisconsin Place, 800-922-5512 $$$$

Tory Miller’s long-awaited pan-Asian restaurant on the ground floor of the Constellation building opened in August to much fanfare, and for good reason. The acclaimed L’Etoile and Graze chef has a penchant for mixing unexpected flavors with local flair. That balance shines in Sujeo dishes like the bimbimbap, a piping-hot Korean rice bowl with vegetables, a rotating protein and fried egg, and the khao soi, a spicy noodle soup with chicken in a coconut curry broth that will appeal to both the adventurous eater and the uninitiated unsure of what to order. For a more intimate experience, snag a seat in the separate noodle bar space and plow into a big ol’ plate of the dan dan noodles. And don’t forget to pair your meal with a cocktail. Try the Tongue Thai’d–a zippy Southeast Asian take on a mango margarita. 10 N. Livingston St., 630-9400 $$

With an inviting interior space and friendly service, Swad sets itself apart from other Indian restaurants sprinkled throughout the greater Madison area by offering the whole dining package. Madan Shrestha, formerly of Majaraja, opened the Monona Drive restaurant in January and serves up standards like saag paneer and tandoor-baked breads. In the mood for something a little different? Give the excellent Manchurian-style calamari a try. 6007 Monona Dr., Monona, 819-6950 $$

With its recent ownership change and interior facelift, Tip Top Tavern has left behind its somewhat seedy reputation of the past and taken on a new identity as a hip but low-key pub. New owner Ben Altschul, whose Madison food roots run deep, with stints at Mickey’s Tavern and Lazy Jane’s, has created a revitalized neighborhood tavern that serves elevated comfort food. The tempura-fried pickles with Sriracha dipping sauce are a must, and you can’t go wrong with one of the burgers or the gourmet grilled cheese with sharp cheddar, Swiss, provolone, basil pesto, avocado and tomato. Tip: Bring cash. 601 North St., 241-5515 $

One step into VIP Asian Cuisine and you’ll think you’re in some swanky downtown hotspot, not an Odana Road strip mall. Track lighting, granite bar tops, a sushi bar in the middle of the space, a traditional Japanese seating area and stellar service all give the impression that you really are a VIP here. The restaurant has both Japanese and Chinese menus, which at some places translates as master-of-none, but not here. Whether you’re craving sushi, hibachi, hand-pulled noodles or pork dumplings, this place does it and does it well. 6718-6722 Odana Rd., 831-5555 $$

Stoughton already draws in far-flung crowds for shows at the city’s Opera House, but with the opening of the terrific farm-to-table tavern Wendigo, there’s now one more reason to visit this historic town. With a handsome old-school bar up front and large paintings of owls, wolves and other animals hung on the exposed brick walls, the vibe is decidedly hip but far from pretentious. The menu has traditional pub fare–cheese curds, classic burger, mac and cheese–but why not upgrade to inventive entrees like the triple vinegar pork with scalloped potatoes, or the phorench dip, a Southeast Asian take on the classic French dip sandwich with pickled sprouts and jalapeños, Sriracha aioli and Thai basil (all classic ingredients of pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup)? Feeling ravenous? Try the cannibal burger, made with ground beef and pork, tenderloin and pork jowl. 121 E. Main St., Stoughton, 205-2775 $$

There’s always room for more ice cream. Madison boasts custard and gelato and frozen yogurt joints galore, and now we can add Mexican ice cream parlors to the list of local dessert destinations. Two such spots popped up in 2014, (6712 Odana Rd.) and (3050 Cahill Main, Fitchburg), selling the Mexican variety that’s a bit softer and creamier than standard ice cream. Flavors at both shops range from typical (chocolate, strawberry) to nuanced (tequila, pine nut, goat milk toffee). Also check out the paletas, a Mexican popsicle, at both spots for a cool treat.

Grace Edquist is associate/web editor of Madison Magazine. Find more dining coverage in our .