Photo by Patrick Stutz, hand model: Danielle Lawry, drink made at Old Sugar Distillery

The 1920s were an era of decadence, emerging high fashion, increased consumerism and Prohibition. In honor of reaching a new decade, this year’s Best of Madison celebrates the connections between the rip-roaring 1920s and today, the new golden age. Best of Madison showcases the best of the best in the city. See the 572 winners our readers declared the bee’s knees in our 39th annual readers poll.

Best of Madison 2020 was presented by The Ho-Chunk Nation and Ho-Chunk Gaming-Wisconsin.

Pie-spread hubbard avenue

Once James Dole, “The Pineapple King,” figured out how to can pineapples in the early 1900s, the fruit became immensely popular in the United States. This helped lead to the invention of the pineapple upside-down cake. While it’s unknown exactly who created the first recipe, one of the earliest renditions was developed by Gold Medal Flour in 1925. Hubbard Avenue Diner’s bakery manager, Jason Harder — “The Pie Guy” — won gold for pastry chef. He reimagined the pineapple upside-down cake as a pie for Madison Magazine. This image also features items from two other winners: The pie plate is from St. Vincent de Paul Store (best thrift store) and the dessert server and spoon are from Odana Antiques (best antique store).


Cento, which placed in the categories of Italian, restaurant ambience and upscale dining, has building elements dating back to the 1920s. The maple floors, plaster beam ceilings, interior brick walls and stained glass are from 100 years ago. (Photo by Joseph Ridgway)

cassetta sandwich

These sandwich spots are the greatest things since sliced bread, which was invented in the ’20s. At Casetta Kitchen and Counter (pictured), The Coopers Tavern and Milio’s Sandwiches, you’re guaranteed to find a sammie that fits your craving.


As referenced in its name, Tempest Oyster Bar, the gold-winning best seafood restaurant, is known for oysters. Throughout the 19th century and early 20th century, oysters were bar food. Prohibition caused a decline in oyster consumption as saloons and bars closed. Luckily for us today, Tempest serves up East and West Coast oysters nightly. (Photo courtesy of Tempest)


What started as a way to conserve food during World War I has evolved into a way to cut down on meat consumption for health benefits and sustainability. Modern vegetarianism started in the mid-1800s, but it became popular in the 20th century. At the best vegetarian- and vegan-focused restaurants, you’ll find plenty of options. The Green Owl Cafe, Monty’s Blue Plate Diner and Everly (pictured) are this year’s readers’ picks in the category. (Photo courtesy of Food Fight Inc./Chris Hynes)


During Prohibition, bartenders would likely have been out of a job during the ban on alcohol or secretly serving up moonshine at a speakeasy. Our readers are happy they can now enjoy drinks courtesy of this year’s best bartenders: Stephanie Paull at Blue Moon Bar & Grill (pictured), Pete Thompson at Vintage Brewing Co. and Travis Splan at Eno Vino Downtown. (Photo by Patrick Stutz)

Queen-Jennie Old Sugar Distillery

The 1920s were an era defined by Prohibition, which went into effect on Jan. 17, 1920, and continued until Dec. 5, 1933. Like many other cities, Madison was a place where breweries would create “near beer” and people would smuggle liquor into the city. There were speakeasies throughout the city, some on State Street, some on the east side and some on the outskirts of town, according to Madison historian Stu Levitan. Many people have identified Prohibition as the start of the modern craft cocktail movement. Click image for more information on prohibition cocktails. (Photo at Old Sugar Distillery by Patrick Stutz)


Movie theaters have always been places where people can relax and feel a part of a different world. The first “talkie” films entered the picture in the late 1920s. They brought a whole new experience to film, and people flocked to see them. It is estimated that more than 50 million people went to the movies each week in the middle of the decade, according to Digital History. Madisonians still love going to the movies and named Marcus Palace Cinema the gold-winning best movie theater (pictured). As the palace name indicates, the exterior of Marcus Palace Cinema even looks similar to the movie palaces built in the first half of the 21st century. This year’s silver-placing Marcus Point Cinema has a grand neon sign that is reminiscent of art deco, which is fitting for a company that started opening movie theaters in 1935. Moviegoers in the 1920s could only imagine getting a full meal and freshly brewed beer at the movies, but at bronze winner Flix Brewhouse Madison, it’s possible to get both while sitting down for a flick.


Jazz was all the rage in the golden age and we have Madison groups that know how to make us get up and dance. Ladies Must Swing (pictured above) has brought the big band sound to the area for more than 20 years. The 18-member Waunakee Big Band plays music from the ’20s through today around the Madison area. Lo Marie, a solo performer, combines jazz with soul and pop. Lo Marie is nominated for eight Madison Area Music Association Awards this year in connection with her newest album, “Le Rêve.”

Victoire from Chazen

Chazen Museum of Art, 2020’s gold-winning art gallery and silver-winning museum, has the second-largest art collection in Wisconsin, which includes pieces from the early 20th century. This piece is Victory “Victoire” Automobile Mascot created on April 18, 1928 by René Lalique.


There’s no better time than now to rock a flapper look when you’re in the mood to kick up your heels and dance. In the 1920s, flappers wore short dresses or skirts, high heels, makeup and bob haircuts, which were considered taboo at the time. If you’re attending a special event and need an outfit that’s the cat’s pajamas, consider stopping at this year’s best thrift stores: St. Vincent de Paul Store, Agrace Thrift Store and Goodwill. You’re bound to find clothing or accessories similar to those from 100 years ago, or pieces with a modern twist. If you’re not sure what to wear, read “1920s-inspired looks for the 2020s” to get some ideas courtesy of local thrifter @sunsetsaraid (pictured at 10-time Best of Madison winner Eno Vino Downtown and who put together this outfit with St. Vincent de Paul Store finds). (Photo by Patrick Stutz)


You might notice there are more car categories in this year’s Best of Madison. We’ve added seven categories to give readers better advice on the best places to buy certain cars, parts or services. Many of the standard automobile functions we need today were introduced in the 1920s. We can thank the era’s inventors for introducing head restraints, automatic transmissions and car radios.

a room of ones own

Many of the authors we know and love today published some of their most famous works between 1920 and 1929. Find many of these classic books at gold-winning bookstore A Room of One’s Own. During the coronavirus, the store will bring books ordered online to your car.“A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf“The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald“The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner“The Story of Doctor Dolittle” by Hugh Lofting“The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway“The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams“Ulysses” by James Joyce“Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne


lake mills advertisement with its van and dry cleaned coats

AC Hotel Advertisement

photo of AC Hotel Best of Madison


Wild Bloom Studio, the silver winner for best maker, creates evil eye earrings (pictured) reminiscent of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” Most of Wild Bloom Studio’s handmade earrings are made from a lightweight polymer clay.

Nails laquerus

Ever since nail polish was created in the late 1910s after being inspired by the shine of car paint, Americans have loved adding pops of color to their nails. The trend really took off in the 1920s once women stopped wearing gloves and could showcase their nails. The “half moon,” in which the tip and bottom of the nail were left blank, was the main style and saw a revival in 2019. This year’s gold-winning best nail salon, Laquerus, is known for creating unique nail art. Laquerus technicians have painted everything from pizza designs to modern half moons (pictured) and Bucky Badgers to Ariana Grande lyrics on their clients’ nails. (Photo by Timothy Hughes, nails by Destiny Sparks @sparks_nails)


Gold-winning campground Devil’s Lake State Park has provided fun for all for over a century. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Devil’s Lake is the third oldest state park in Wisconsin, having been founded in 1911. This postcard takes us back to what Devil’s Lake looked like in 1928. (Photo by Wisconsin Historical Society WHi 82050)


The “Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture” in America was between the end of World War I and the start of the Great Depression, according to PBS, and this year’s best golf courses are just as grand. Pleasant View Golf Course in Middleton is a three-time consecutive gold winner for its 27-hole championship golf courses, par 3 course and practice range located atop hills 300 feet above Lake Mendota. Home of the American Family Championship, University Ridge Golf Course (pictured) is a popular spot for both seasoned pros and newcomers to the sport. Feel at peace while teeing up at The Oaks Golf Course and admire the more than 250 oak trees surrounding the course. (Photo courtesy of University Ridge Golf Course)


golf course next to best of madison information