The Old Fashioned creates award-winning Wisconsin fare

With 63 Best of Madison awards so far, The Old Fashioned has been recognized for the classic Wisconsin fare that one may expect.
brat from The Old Fashioned
Photo by Martha Busse

Coming to The Old Fashioned feels like a Madison newcomer rite of passage — a spot where locals bring guests shortly after driving into the city. The eatery is typically packed on the weekends with people waiting to grab a table with brandy Old-Fashioneds in-hand around the bar. It feels familiar and comfortable regardless of whether you’ve been there before or are making your very first visit. That feeling is exactly what Tami Lax intended when she opened the business 16 years ago on Capitol Square.

Lax, the co-owner of The Old Fashioned with Marcia Castro, based the restaurant on the special places in her life while she was growing up in northern Wisconsin. “I wanted to create a place that celebrated Wisconsin and Wisconsin’s culinary history … that would not only highlight Wisconsin producers, but the food would all be made from scratch on a daily basis,” Lax says.

With 63 Best of Madison awards so far, The Old Fashioned has been recognized for the classic Wisconsin fare that one may expect: cheese curds, fish fry, bloody marys and, of course, Old-Fashioned cocktails. Lax attributes the establishment’s success to attention to detail and the quality of the food. The Old Fashioned has won for all those reasons, but also in the categories of brunch, new restaurant, late-night dining, lunch, restaurant, burgers, kid-friendly, supper club, cocktail, bar for beer and more.

The cheese curds, which have won gold for the past five years in a row, are delivered to the restaurant fresh multiple times a week. Lax says nothing compares to the flavor of fresh curds. “I always knew that at some point that would be part of the menu if I ever opened a restaurant,” she says. The Old-Fashioneds, which have won nine awards, come from a family recipe that Lax’s relatives would make around the holidays.

Just as planned, The Old Fashioned has become a place to introduce the traditions of Wisconsin to younger generations and to allow older generations to reminisce. “It’s really fun to just watch people walk in the door and their eyes just go wide and it’s just immediately this place that people want to be,” Lax says.

Read more about the Best of Madison Legacy Awards here.

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