Best of Madison 2012: Food & Drink

Gold for Best Restaurant 2012-Nostrano

Gold for Best Restaurant 2012-Nostrano


>>Best Restaurant

GOLD: Nostrano | To fully capture Nostrano at its best, one must get out to the farm. Owners Tim and Elizabeth Dahl match each square inch of restaurant space with the same amount of garden space on Madison’s west side. Much of the menu stems from the dishes Tim himself likes to eat. “I cook what I’m hungry for,” he says flipping through a rustic Italian cookbook. “I want to eat that.” Flips a page. “That looks awesome.” It seems local diners share Tim’s tastes.

Click here to view a photo slideshow of Nostrano.

SILVER: The Old Fashioned

BRONZE: Sardine

>>New Restaurant

GOLD: Merchant | Merchant is at its best right after the sun sets and the last rays of orange light intersect the golden glow of hanging lanterns, exposed bulbs and dim flicker of the tabletop candles. It’s lively but not overcrowded. The sound of booze and ice emulsifying in shakers accents the conversation. Notes of fresh herbs and citrus tantalizingly mate with aromas of grilled burgers, steaks and roast chicken. The whole place—down to the food, the wallpaper and the exposed cement floor—feels rustic and nostalgic. 

Click here to watch a video of Merchant.

SILVER: Buck & Honey’s



GOLD: Marigold Kitchen

SILVER: Mickies Dairy Bar | Imagine a restaurant where grandmothers, businesspeople, college athletes and preteens order the breakfast: three generous portions of cheese-topped scrambled eggs atop a bed of “yanks,” all smothered in gravy. The famous Scrambler is the dish that has brough generations to Mickies Dairy Bar since 1946. “People come here to go back in time,” co-owner Janet Thongnuam says above the laughs and clatter filling the place on a Friday morning. “It’s a place of memories.” It’s also a family affair, says Thongnuam, pointing out two of her kids working behind the counter. “And my husband’s in the kitchen.”

BRONZE: Original Pancake House

>>Neighborhood Bar

GOLD: Weary Traveler Freehouse

SILVER: Blue Moon Bar & Grill

BRONZE: Harmony Bar & Grill | The Harmony is a neighborhood joint that lives and breaths its surrounding community. It’s a fan favorite whenever the Badgers, Brewers or Packers are vying for a title and at its best during happy hour and into the evening, when regulars, softball leagues, families and friends table up around great bar food and local brews. 

Click here to view a photo slideshow of Harmony Bar.


GOLDGreenbush Bakery |;At its prime time, around 5 or 6 p.m., when all the donuts have been baked and are neatly arranged on display, Greenbush Bakery is “a donut paradise,” says general manager and baker Nels Labansky. Take a tour from donut production to consumption at this year’s best bakery.

Click here to view a photo slideshow of Greenbush Bakery.

SILVER: La Baguette

BRONZE: Lanes Bakery & Gift Shop

>>Craft Brew

GOLD: Spotted Cow (New Glarus)

SILVER: Hopalicious (Ale Asylum) | A rush of luscious citrus aromas floods the nostrils. Lips meet the glass and pure hop flavors layered with citrus overtake the mouth. Another sip and yet no bitterness lingers. This is how Otto Dilba, co-founder of Ale Asylum Brewery, describes the first sip of a Hopalicious, but he won’t tell you that. "We want people to experience Ale Asylum for themselves,” he says. “We try never to tell people what they should think.” Well, the people have spoken, and they’ve voted Hopalicious silver for best craft brew. Even before this American Pale Ale hit the shelves, brewmaster Dean Coffey knew he he had something special. Now it’s the craft brewery’s flagship beer, making up sixty percent of Ale Asylum’s beer sales. It is clear this beer has a permanent spot on taps around Wisconsin. Hopalicious is the beer that Ale Asylum wants to be interesting for the connoisseur and easy for the novice. “We’ve got beers that are real heavy, bitter bombs, but Hopalicious is not meant to be that beer,” Dilba says. When is Hopalicious at its best? The moment you finish it and still crave another.

BRONZE: Warped Speed Scotch Ale (Lake Louie)

best ice cream in madison>>Ice Cream/Custard

GOLD: Babcock Hall Dairy Store

SILVER: Chocolate Shoppe

BRONZE: Culver’s


GOLD: Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry

SILVER: Nitty Gritty

BRONZE: The Old Fashioned


GOLD: Jolly Bob’s

SILVER: David’s

BRONZE: Jamerica

>>Outdoor Dining

GOLD: Great Dane

SILVER: Paisan’s

BRONZE: Otto’s


GOLD: Sushi Muramoto

SILVER: Restaurant Muramoto

BRONZE: Ginza of Tokyo


GOLD: Lombardino’s

SILVER: Paisan’s

BRONZE: Greenbush Bar

>>Greasy Spoon

GOLD: Mickies Dairy Bar

SILVER: Cottage Cafe

BRONZE: The Curve


GOLD: Maharaja

SILVER: Swagat India

BRONZE: Taste Of India

>>Fish Fry

GOLD: The Avenue Bar

SILVER: Quivey’s Grove

BRONZE: The Old Fashioned


GOLD: Imperial Garden–West

SILVER: Chang Jiang



GOLD: Smoky Jon’s #1 BBQ

SILVER: Brickhouse BBQ

BRONZE: Fat Jacks Barbecue

>>Upscale Dining

GOLD: L’Etoile

SILVER: Tornado SteakHouse

BRONZE: Johnny Delmonico’s

>>Lake View

GOLD: Paisan’s

SILVER: Sardine

BRONZE: The Admiralty Dining Room 

>>Best Ambience

GOLD: Eno Vino Wine Bar Bistro

SILVER: Quivey’s Grove

BRONZE: Weary Traveler Free House


GOLD: Sushi Muramoto

SILVER: Restaurant Muramoto

BRONZE: Ginza of Tokyo


GOLD: Great Dane

SILVER: Sardine

BRONZE: The Old Fashioned


GOLD: Ella’s Deli

SILVER: Culver’s

BRONZE: Roman Candle


GOLD: Bunky’s Café

SILVER: Otto’s

BRONZE: Mediterranean Café


GOLD: Glass Nickel Pizza Co.

SILVER: Ian’s Pizza by the Slice

BRONZE: Roman Candle Pizzeria


GOLD: Pasqual’s

SILVER: Laredo’s

BRONZE: Eldorado Grill


GOLD: Ocean Grill (now closed)

SILVER: The Blue Marlin

BRONZE: Captain Bill’s


GOLD: Great Dane

SILVER: Ale Asylum

BRONZE: Vintage Brewing Co.

>>Southeast Asian

GOLD: Sa Bai Thong

SILVER: Lao Laan Xang

BRONZE: Bandung

>>Ethnic Grocery Store

GOLD: Fraboni’s

SILVER: Asian Midway Foods

BRONZE: Yue-Wah Oriental Foods

>>Specialty Food Store

GOLD: Brennan’s Market

SILVER: Willy Street Coop

BRONZE: Fraboni’s

>>Supper Club

GOLD: The Old Fashioned

SILVER: Tornado Steak House

BRONZE: Smoky’s Club

>>New Orleans/Cajun

GOLD: Louisianne’s Etc

SILVER: New Orleans Take Out

BRONZE: Liliana’s


GOLD: Himal Chuli

SILVER: Chautara

BRONZE: Taste of Tibet


GOLD: Jacobson Bros. Quality Meats and Deli

SILVER: Ken’s Meats & Deli

BRONZE: Knoche’s Butcher Shop

>>Sports Bar

GOLD: Nitty Gritty

SILVER: State Street Brats

BRONZE: Babes Restaurant & Cocktails


GOLD: Carr Valley Cheese Company

SILVER: Hook’s Cheese Company

BRONZE: Cedar Grove Cheese


GOLD: Ocean Grill (now closed)

SILVER: The Blue Marlin

BRONZE: Captain Bill’s

>>Grocery Store

GOLD: Metcalfe’s Market

SILVER: Woodman’s Food Market

BRONZE: Willy Street Co-op


GOLD: Tornado Steak House

SILVER: Johnny Delmonico’s

BRONZE: Smoky’s Club

>>Deli/Sandwich Shop

GOLD: Fraboni’s

SILVER: Ella’s Deli

BRONZE: Gino’s Italian Deli


GOLD: Barriques

SILVER: Ancora Coffee Roasters

BRONZE: Java Cat

>>Chocolate/Candy Shop

GOLD: Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier

SILVER: Candinas Chocolatier

BRONZE: DB Infusion Chocolates


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