Checking Out the Local Food and Drink Scene
Feb 28, 2013
01:48 PM
The Chow Down

New Start-up Connects Food Lovers to Four Local Restaurants in One Night

New Start-up Connects Food Lovers to Four Local Restaurants in One Night

With so many amazing restaurants in Madison—and new joints popping up throughout the city on a regular basis—choosing where to eat can leave us feeling overwhelmed, like we’ve missed something. After taking a few notes from progressive dinners and the good old bar crawl, the nationwide start-up company Dishcrawl has a solution.

New to Madison, Dishcrawl is a social way to explore establishments that are off the beaten path. Throughout the course of an evening, Dishcrawlers travel to four different restaurants within walking distance of one another, sampling one dish at each place and visiting with the chefs and owners. It’s the perfect way to check out the local dining spots you’ve had your eye on for months but haven’t yet had the chance to try (come on, I know you have such a list).

The first Madison Dishcrawl is planned for March 20 and will focus on restaurants just east of downtown, starting with appetizers at New Orleans-homage The Bayou. The three remaining restaurants will be announced as the event, which is limited to forty participants, draws near. A $45 ticket includes food throughout the night. Drinks are purchased separately.

Zachary Barnes, who heads up the Madison Dishcrawl, says this first event will be all about “promoting the small, unique restaurants in Madison” and celebrating the culinary transition from winter to spring, as the crawl purposefully takes place on the spring equinox.

Barnes thinks this kind of an event will succeed here in Madison because of the neighborhood-based food communities that are already in place. Walking from one restaurant to another for each course offers a new approach to hyper-local dining.

“It energizes you and makes you see your community in a different way,” he says.

Future Dishcrawl events in Madison will take place in other neighborhoods. Barnes is looking at South Madison and Willy Street as particular areas of interest. He hopes to eventually have a Dishcrawl event in Madison once a month. 

Dishcrawl also presents a huge opportunity for the restaurants involved. In addition to gaining many first-time customers the night of the event, Barnes says that many attendees historically return to the establishments they experienced on their tour-de-food, as they develop a positive connection with both the food and the people at each restaurant throughout the evening.

“We’re doing this at the best places we can offer, and inside those places the best food we can offer,” says Barnes.

Barnes has had experience with food since a young age. He has been involved with similar food crawls in both Eau Claire, where he was a student and worked with AmeriCorps, and in Minneapolis, where his dad is a chef and leads food tours. He has also worked with Crossroads Community Farm in Cross Plains.

He believes that food has the ability to draw people to different cultures and understand each other better, which he hopes to accomplish through local Dishcrawl events.

“It’s a connector tool,” he says.

A few tickets are still available for the March 20 Dishcrawl. Go to for details.

Photo courtesy of Dishcrawl.

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