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Best of Madison 2021 on the left with cookies that have lemons and pitchers

Following 2020, many local businesses have mastered the art of turning lemons into lemonade by pushing forward despite the challenges of COVID-19. This year, the 40th annual Best of Madison celebrates the people, places and businesses selected by our readers, with the addition of a few special editors’ picks. 2021 marks 40 years since Madison Magazine began highlighting what our readers deem the “best of” the city. This year we honor 458 businesses in our readers’ poll and 13 awards from our editors.

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Sometimes all you need to take a dish to the next level is some fresh lemon juice for a dash of acidity. Lombardino’s adds a lemon garnish to some dishes, including this pan-seared halibut with roasted cherry tomatoes. Lombardino’s is this year’s gold winner in the Italian category. Photo by Nikki Hansen

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The Conscious Carnivore and grinding meat

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Swagat best of madison ad with indian dishes

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The Del-Bar Best of Madison

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Driftless Glen Distillery added its lemon vodka to Reneé Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic and sour mix in crafting its lemon drop cocktail. The silver winner in the cocktail kit category has a variety of DIY drink options, but its citrus martini version is a sweet and sour treat. Driftless Glen also received silver for cleanliness and bronze for distillery. Photo by Sunny Franz

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Café Hollander is the gold winner for best bloody mary. Courtesy of Café Hollander

Le-Tigre

Le Tigre Lounge continues its reign as king of the dive bar category, winning gold for the fourth year in a row. Le Tigre is home to more than 300 tiger figurines, paintings, stuffed animals and pictures. COVID-19 forced the bar to stay closed because of its cozy size, but bartenders are back slinging cocktails and beers as of early June when Dane County regulations lifted. Illustration by Tommy Washbush

Chazen

This year’s gold-winning art gallery, the Chazen Museum of Art is home to a collection of 23,000 works, including artist El Anatsui’s “Danu,” a sculpture made of repurposed metal bottle caps, metal wrappings and copper wire (pictured). This photo snapped inside Chazen’s Gallery 17 was taken by gold-winning photographer, Samuel Li. Photo by Samuel Li for Chazen Museum of Art

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Jackie Ernst (bronze for local singer/songwriter) at Heid Music (silver for musical instrument store). Photo by Patrick Stutz

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Orange Tree Imports, which won gold for gift shop/specialty store, has everything you might need to brighten up a lemon-themed dream kitchen. In addition to lemon squeezers, you’ll find herbal tea, pasta, hand soap, towels and other yellow goodies. Photo by Nikki Hansen

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Primavera Cleaning Service 2021

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4 Senses House Cleaning the bronze winner of best of madison

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Booth 121, a first-time Best of Madison winner, placed in two categories: gold for home accessories and silver for gift shop/specialty store. The Monona shop is filled with fun decor, clothing and housewares largely created by Wisconsin artists and makers. Courtesy of Booth 121

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Record-Store

Whether you prefer listening to vinyl records or CDs, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for at a local music store. All three of this year’s winners in the local music store category opened in the 1980s, the same decade that Best of Madison was born. Strictly Discs, this year’s gold winner, opened in 1988 (customers Valerie Grayson and Tommy Yonash pictured at Strictly Discs above). B-Side Records has been a Madison staple since 1982. Sugar Shack Records opened in 1981 on State Street and moved to Atwood Avenue 22 years later. Photo by Paulius Musteikis

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Treat your pet to some fun snacks, food, accessories and toys from this year’s best pet supplies stores, Mounds Pet Food Warehouse (above), MadCat Pet Supplies and bad dog frida. Photo by Tim Burton

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Thrift-shop

Redecorate with the help of our winning secondhand stores: St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store, Agrace Thrift Store and Dane County Humane Society Thrift Store. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll score a lemon-patterned cup. Illustration by Tommy Washbush

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Heartland Credit Union Best of Madison

Machinery Row Bicycles

Embrace the sunshine on two wheels in one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. This year, readers voted Machinery Row Bicycles (general manager Ben Classon pictured above), Budget Bicycle Center and Trek Bicycle Madison the top three bike shops in town. Photo by Patrick Stutz

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University Ridge Golf Course Best of Madison Ad

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When it comes to the best campground and park, readers chose Devil’s Lake State Park for the top spot in both categories. Devil’s Lake in Baraboo has three campgrounds with 423 campsites and nine group campsites for additional campers. With two large beaches and more than 29 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, there are land and water activities that will keep you busy for hours. That, and the beautiful views, may be why it claims gold this year.

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Speed into a new pair of shoes from the silver best sports and recreation shop, Fleet Feet. This retail store has two nearby locations, one in Middleton and one in Sun Prairie, with large selections of women’s and men’s shoes. Photo courtesy of Fleet Feet

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