One of the joys of living in Madison has been eating. Eating well is easy here, even on a grad student budget (with the occasional splurge of course). Whenever we have visitors in town, we take pride in escorting them from one great meal to another. I’ve decided to start a “Madison Eats & Treats” series in order to share some of my favorite dining experiences with you all. Let’s begin with brunch:
- Madison Sourdough: My morning meal here on Saturday inspired me to finally write this post. Buttermilk sourdough French toast with fruit compote and maple sweet cream. This may have been the best French toast I’ve ever had because of the perfect balance in textures and flavors. From their scrumptious bread to the rhubarb compote…and the maple sweet cream?? The answer to my prayers! I love fruit on French toast and whipped cream, but sometimes I need a little something that the bread will absorb better and I find that maple syrup tends to be too sweet and overpowering in these cases. So their maple sweet cream was a dream come true, not as fluffy as whipped cream, and with just the perfect hint of maple sweetness to it! Also, their new patio looks great and offers even more seating.
- Sophia’s Bakery & Cafe: Only open on Saturdays and Sundays, Sophia’s was one of our first loves in Madison, found by chance because the apartment we lived in our first year was right around the corner. The menu changes by season, and the line out the door is TOTALLY worth it for their delicious omelets and perfect pastries. Order at the counter, then pick your coffee mug and fill ‘er up while waiting for a seat in this cozy space (or grab one of the folding tables outside). A couple of the tables are large enough for community seating. Enjoy the quirky and charming decor: a spoon curtain of sorts above the counter, assorted china and cake stands, sometimes available for purchase. At the end of your meal, return to the counter to pay. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it. A true gem and unforgettable brunch.
- Manna Cafe: Tucked into an inconspicuous shopping complex on Sherman Ave., this warm and inviting cafe has my favorite muffin in town (the sunrise muffin). Their quiche is outstanding. I’m always a fan of their lox and shmear. Their morning buns and Collins House oatmeal pancakes are among my husband’s favorite breakfast items in Madison. Plenty of a seating and a fireplace to warm yourself/read by during the colder months!
- 4 & 20: A new and welcome addition to the Madison brunch scene, this little bakery is on East Johnson across from East High School and tucked behind Milio’s. Wonderful baked goods of the morning and dessert varieties (scones, muffins, homemade pop-tarts, homemade oreo-type cookie/cakes, pies, etc.), and a great little breakfast menu. I’ve been on a strawberry and orange scone streak, myself. A random tidbit worth noting, they have the question & answer cards to the game TriBond out for patrons to play with — I hadn’t thought about Tribond since middle school when I was obsessed with it, and they definitely score points for the game’s inclusion!
- Lazy Jane’s Cafe: A true Madison experience, you haven’t been initiated into the Madison brunch world until you’ve heard name bellowed over a 10 or 15-second time span — try that, it’s long, and that’s for 2 syllable names — while sitting on the second floor of Lazy’s. Their scones belong in their own class: beware of addiction! The SCC (eggs with scallions and cream cheese) and BLTP (BLT with red bell Pepper) are two of our favorite dishes. Upstairs they have a kid and family-friendly space in addition to more tables.
- Crema Cafe: Located on Monona Drive, Crema also makes the cut to rank among my favorite brunch spots. Their ham & jam sandwich (fried egg, berkshire ham, tomato jam, red onion, and goat cheese on whole wheat bread) is perhaps my favorite egg sandwich around town. They’re also noteworthy for serving smoothies. In my pregnant state, I drink fruit and yogurt smoothies almost every day (made at home most of the time by my loving husband). But for whatever reason, few brunch spots seem to offer these delectable beverages! Plus, I fell in love with their lemon ricotta pancakes, a special one day that I hope they’ll offer more frequently.
What’s amazing is that there are so many fabulous brunches beyond this list to be had in Madison. What are some of your favorite brunch spots and memorable meals? Do share as we can all benefit!