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Fried chicken sandwich at Camp Trippalindee
Photo: Camp Trippalindee / Facebook

The 10 Hottest New Restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin

Where to find Taiwanese street snacks, Friday fish fries, and of course, fried cheese curds

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Fried chicken sandwich at Camp Trippalindee
| Photo: Camp Trippalindee / Facebook

Today Eater returns to Madison, Wisconsin, to focus on nine newish restaurants that have been getting some serious buzz. Once again, Isthmus food and beer writer Kyle Nabilcy is on hand to offer up his picks for the hottest openings of the past 12 months.

“After a few years of concept-heavy openings, Madison’s restaurant vibe in the last year or so has been decidedly comfort-centric,” says Nabilcy. Among his picks, a shared-table beer hall (Longtable), a woodsy burger shack (Camp Trippalindee), and night market hawker fare (Taiwan Little Eats).

Without further ado, and presented in geographic order, the Eater Heatmap to Madison:

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Longtable Beer Cafe

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Madison is a beer town, and the owners of Brasserie V on the near-west side have capitalized on that thirst a second time with Longtable, a casual “beer cafe” in neighboring Middleton. Longtable features enough communal seating to please a Norse god, scores of bottled beers, and a well-curated tap list. Snacky dishes serve that communal spirit, as do generously portioned shareable meat and cheese boards.

Cheese and charcuterie board
Photo: Longtable Beer Cafe / Facebook

Camp Trippalindee

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Camp Trippalindee, seated atop the University of Wisconsin-adjacent Graduate Hotel, is built on a question it’s hard to believe anyone was asking: “Can we base a restaurant on a combination of northwoods cabin life and a semi-obscure Rodney Dangerfield reference?” With spot-on decor, a fast-food-ish menu, and outdoor fire bowls over which you can cook s’mores, the unexpected answer is “yes.”

Fried chicken sandwich
Photo: Camp Trippalindee / Facebook

Taiwan Little Eats

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The difficulty in establishing a street-food scene in pedestrian-friendly downtown Madison has long been a puzzle. Taiwan Little Eats is the newest to make the attempt, and so far the crowds are showing up at this State Street storefront. Come for the various bite-sized fried things, bubble teas, and richly flavorful meats over rice; stay for the chicken cutlet as big as a baseball mitt.

Salty and sweet popcorn chicken
Photo: Taiwan Little Eats / Facebook

Canteen

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A new wave of taco culture in Madison, kicked off in 2015 by El Grito (a previous Heatmap shout-out), continues to swell thanks to two downtown taquerias. The first, operated by local behemoth Food Fight Restaurant Group, is Canteen. Calling more or less directly on traditional Mexican flavor profiles, Canteen offers a wide array of tacos and other staples of Mexican-American dining, plus perhaps the coldest frozen margarita in town.

BelAir Cantina Madison

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The second new taqueria near the Capitol Square is a Milwaukee import, but Bel Air Cantina knew the time was right to make its Madison debut. Bel Air’s vibe is Cal-Mex, with Korean beef, fried avocado, and of course a fish taco or two. Bel Air can also claim victory in the downtown taco happy hour arms race, thanks to a selection of $2 tacos on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Working Draft Beer Company

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Madison’s healthy east side brewing scene finally crosses back over the Yahara River with Working Draft Beer Company’s brand-new brewery and taproom. Working Draft breathes new life into the production space that once housed the Just Coffee Cooperative, and will not only serve its lineup full of hazy, hop-forward beers, but also a food menu from James Beard semifinalist Dan Fox’s Fox Heritage Farms.

A variety of beer
Photo: Working Draft Beer / Facebook

State Line Distillery

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With one partner holding a degree from the distilling program at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, and the other formerly the production manager at Few Spirits in Evanston, Illinois, State Line Distillery has a fine resume indeed. It’s created a tasting room with rich wood tones and an industrial feel that suits the still-very-industrial neighborhood. The cocktails feature culinary technique and custom ice, with visiting food carts to take the edge off.

Mint Mark

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What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but the likelihood of a new restaurant opening in 2018 to the same hype and praise of Mint Mark is pretty slim. It’s an all-star executive lineup, with lineage back to Madison’s Robin Room and Johnson Public House, as well as Chicago’s NoMI and the Bristol. Chef Sean Pharr crafts mostly small plates, with traditional presentation but creative techniques. He also whips up a mean Friday fish fry, so don’t think this isn’t still Wisconsin.

Beef heart bolognese
Photo: Mint Mark / Facebook

Ogden's North Street Diner

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There is nothing flashy, nothing haute about Ogden’s North Street Diner. It is cute, it is tidy, but it is ultimately neither more nor less than a neighborhood diner. But it’s such a perfect neighborhood diner, complete with charming decor, short hours, and a chalkboard full of wacky specials. Fans of the beloved Lazy Jane’s Cafe & Bakery will appreciate the history the owners of Ogden’s have with that kitchen, but Ogden’s is doing its own thing for its own crowd.

Mocha almond chip pancake
Photo: Ogden’s North Street Diner / Facebook

Funk Factory Geuzeria

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Funk Factory’s spontaneously-fermented wild ales have been around for a couple of years now, but 2017 was when — and yes this is his real name — Levi Funk’s geuzeria went from “itinerant blender with big plans” to “this is an actual taproom.” A sort of baby lambic style called Meerts is the de facto house brew, joined by fruity, tart, and complex sours emanating from Funk Factory’s barrel stock throughout the year.

Funk Factory Guezeria
Funk Factory Guezeria/Facebook

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Longtable Beer Cafe

Cheese and charcuterie board
Photo: Longtable Beer Cafe / Facebook

Madison is a beer town, and the owners of Brasserie V on the near-west side have capitalized on that thirst a second time with Longtable, a casual “beer cafe” in neighboring Middleton. Longtable features enough communal seating to please a Norse god, scores of bottled beers, and a well-curated tap list. Snacky dishes serve that communal spirit, as do generously portioned shareable meat and cheese boards.

Cheese and charcuterie board
Photo: Longtable Beer Cafe / Facebook

Camp Trippalindee

Fried chicken sandwich
Photo: Camp Trippalindee / Facebook

Camp Trippalindee, seated atop the University of Wisconsin-adjacent Graduate Hotel, is built on a question it’s hard to believe anyone was asking: “Can we base a restaurant on a combination of northwoods cabin life and a semi-obscure Rodney Dangerfield reference?” With spot-on decor, a fast-food-ish menu, and outdoor fire bowls over which you can cook s’mores, the unexpected answer is “yes.”

Fried chicken sandwich
Photo: Camp Trippalindee / Facebook

Taiwan Little Eats

Salty and sweet popcorn chicken
Photo: Taiwan Little Eats / Facebook

The difficulty in establishing a street-food scene in pedestrian-friendly downtown Madison has long been a puzzle. Taiwan Little Eats is the newest to make the attempt, and so far the crowds are showing up at this State Street storefront. Come for the various bite-sized fried things, bubble teas, and richly flavorful meats over rice; stay for the chicken cutlet as big as a baseball mitt.

Salty and sweet popcorn chicken
Photo: Taiwan Little Eats / Facebook

Canteen

A new wave of taco culture in Madison, kicked off in 2015 by El Grito (a previous Heatmap shout-out), continues to swell thanks to two downtown taquerias. The first, operated by local behemoth Food Fight Restaurant Group, is Canteen. Calling more or less directly on traditional Mexican flavor profiles, Canteen offers a wide array of tacos and other staples of Mexican-American dining, plus perhaps the coldest frozen margarita in town.

BelAir Cantina Madison

The second new taqueria near the Capitol Square is a Milwaukee import, but Bel Air Cantina knew the time was right to make its Madison debut. Bel Air’s vibe is Cal-Mex, with Korean beef, fried avocado, and of course a fish taco or two. Bel Air can also claim victory in the downtown taco happy hour arms race, thanks to a selection of $2 tacos on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Working Draft Beer Company

A variety of beer
Photo: Working Draft Beer / Facebook

Madison’s healthy east side brewing scene finally crosses back over the Yahara River with Working Draft Beer Company’s brand-new brewery and taproom. Working Draft breathes new life into the production space that once housed the Just Coffee Cooperative, and will not only serve its lineup full of hazy, hop-forward beers, but also a food menu from James Beard semifinalist Dan Fox’s Fox Heritage Farms.

A variety of beer
Photo: Working Draft Beer / Facebook

State Line Distillery

With one partner holding a degree from the distilling program at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, and the other formerly the production manager at Few Spirits in Evanston, Illinois, State Line Distillery has a fine resume indeed. It’s created a tasting room with rich wood tones and an industrial feel that suits the still-very-industrial neighborhood. The cocktails feature culinary technique and custom ice, with visiting food carts to take the edge off.

Mint Mark

Beef heart bolognese
Photo: Mint Mark / Facebook

What the future holds is anyone’s guess, but the likelihood of a new restaurant opening in 2018 to the same hype and praise of Mint Mark is pretty slim. It’s an all-star executive lineup, with lineage back to Madison’s Robin Room and Johnson Public House, as well as Chicago’s NoMI and the Bristol. Chef Sean Pharr crafts mostly small plates, with traditional presentation but creative techniques. He also whips up a mean Friday fish fry, so don’t think this isn’t still Wisconsin.

Beef heart bolognese
Photo: Mint Mark / Facebook

Ogden's North Street Diner

Mocha almond chip pancake
Photo: Ogden’s North Street Diner / Facebook

There is nothing flashy, nothing haute about Ogden’s North Street Diner. It is cute, it is tidy, but it is ultimately neither more nor less than a neighborhood diner. But it’s such a perfect neighborhood diner, complete with charming decor, short hours, and a chalkboard full of wacky specials. Fans of the beloved Lazy Jane’s Cafe & Bakery will appreciate the history the owners of Ogden’s have with that kitchen, but Ogden’s is doing its own thing for its own crowd.

Mocha almond chip pancake
Photo: Ogden’s North Street Diner / Facebook

Funk Factory Geuzeria

Funk Factory Guezeria
Funk Factory Guezeria/Facebook

Funk Factory’s spontaneously-fermented wild ales have been around for a couple of years now, but 2017 was when — and yes this is his real name — Levi Funk’s geuzeria went from “itinerant blender with big plans” to “this is an actual taproom.” A sort of baby lambic style called Meerts is the de facto house brew, joined by fruity, tart, and complex sours emanating from Funk Factory’s barrel stock throughout the year.

Funk Factory Guezeria
Funk Factory Guezeria/Facebook

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