Find Flavor in a Flash

Three lunch spots offer speediness without sacrificing flavor

Sep 20, 2012

The Atlantic’s dining guru Tyler Cowen, author of “Six Rules for Dining Out,” doubles as a well-versed economist. By his calculations, the more restaurants spend on rent, the less cash available for food. Our equation is a little more simple-minded: A long lunch break means you’re stuck in the office later in the evening. In such lessons of economics and elementary math, quick eats and food trucks are your strongest assets.

Ian’s Pizza

After scouring the country for six months, the Food Network chose Ian’s Pizza as the best pizza place in Wisconsin, singling out their cheesiest slice. The mac n’ cheese pizza has stuck as a staple flavor since its debut as a special in the restaurant’s second week of operation back in 2001. It features crème fraiche, macaroni noodles, mozzarella cheese and Wisconsin cheddar.

Customers can depend on Ian’s to have such flavors year-round, but a variety of monthly specials are available as well. October’s flavors include salad, burrito, bacon cheeseburger and the El Mexicano, a rendition of nachos. November is a little heavier, featuring the Thanksgiving Slice—with green bean casserole sauce, turkey, stuffing and cranberries topped with fried onions. Other November specials include the homey chicken mashed potato, chicken pot pie and loaded drunken ravioli.

Whole “pizzas by the pie” can be ordered (by phone or online) for delivery from the State Street location, or pop in for a quick bite at either of the two downtown locations.

100 State St., 257-9248. 319 N. Frances St., 257-9248.


Serving local and worldly goods alike, Fromagination melds the green-footprint initiative with Parisian cobblestone and Spanish plazas. 

Hearty sandwiches, accompanied by Door County chips, make for a perfectly filling lunch. The finishing touch, a square of locally made chocolate, is a reminder of the shop’s prime location on the Capitol Square, just a short jaunt away from downtown workplaces. 

Though stopping in for lunch is effortless, the preparation is far from a cinch. “We look at sandwiches not as just basic, but all ingredients have to harmonize together,” says owner Ken Monteleone. To that end, each one is served on unique bread, the chicken is house-roasted and some sandwiches feature sauces made in the shop’s kitchen.

Monteleone suggests their signature sandwich, a Thanksgiving lovers’ dream. It combines Nueske’s smoked turkey, lettuce, quince and apple-cranberry relish and Brie on a wheat sunflower roll. “I think it really works well and showcases what we call the perfect companions,” he says.

 The recipes hail from Monteleone’s comprehensive travel experiences, as well as staffers’ input. Dishes also change with the seasons; fall, for instance, highlights orchard apples and goat cheeses.

Sandwiches are made fresh throughout the day. Other lunch options include salads and cheese boxes. For speedier service, call ahead or order catering directly to the office.

12 S. Carroll St., 255-7167,

Food Trucks

Quenching your hunger (and thirst) for cultural cuisine is well within reach at Library Mall, where State Street meets the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The mall delivers a culinary tour around the world, all within a block, with Jamaican, Thai, Peruvian, Indonesian, Mexican, Chinese, Costa Rican are African traditions represented. Most vendors stay open April through November. Here, a few standouts.

• Two-for-five-dollar empanadas at Caracas Empanadas prove filling and flavorful. 

The Dandelion is a goldmine for vegetarians and vegans. Found near the University Club, it features tofu dishes and homemade wraps

Luamprabang tempts fruit-loving foodies with mango tofu curry, mango sticky rice and the staple papaya salad.

• On Tuesdays and Fridays, don’t miss the jerk tofu dish at Taste of Jamaica in front of Memorial Library.

• Quench your thirst at Thai-riffic with a traditional Thai iced-tea, a potent yet sweet black tea.


Next rule: Seek Real Recommendations

Back to Six Secrets to Dining Out in Madison

Brianna Wilson is a former editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

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