Though inspired by the northern California cafés of the early 1980s, Espresso Royale fits right in with Michigan’s modern coffee drinkers—in 2014 readers of The Michigan Daily voted it Best Coffee Shop for the fifth year in a row. Their coffees include a house blend developed in 1987, which has since been joined by a seasonally appropriate autumn spice blend and a southern Italian-style espresso called Napoli. Royale's customers also clamor to the counter for favorites such as raspberry mochas, mint hot chocolates, and ginger dragon, a tea layered with fresh lemon and steeped ginger root that can be served iced or heated by a dragon named Ginger.
Baristas at Steep and Brew froth milk from the local Sassy Cow Family Creamery for lattes made with organic, eco-friendly, fair trade Café Fair coffees. Additionally, they steep loose-leaf tea from their collection of over 25 different flavors also available for purchase in bulk.
Amid a casual ambience, Ironworks Cafe slakes stomach suspirations with breakfast and lunch menus founded on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Breakfast-farers halt hunger with classic dishes, such as eggs benedict with ham served with your choice of side salad, fresh fruit, or potatoes ($8); or an Ironworks skillet stuffed with roasted potatoes, savory sausage, peppers, and onions, blanketed with pepperjack cheese and over-easy eggs ($8). For lunch, quiet midday stomach rumblings with a savory sandwich, such as the swiss-chard and oyster-mushroom melt ($8.50), or order your inner-brontosaurus a large spinach salad tossed with chevre, cucumbers, and toasted nuts in a berry vinaigrette ($5.75).
Crema Cafe offers a full espresso menu, real fruit smoothies, homemade bakery items, and breakfast and lunch dishes that incorporate local and organic produce, such as New Century organic eggs. A buttermilk waffle comes with real maple syrup ($5), whereas the Killer Scramble shoots tongues with bullets of smoked salmon, leeks, and goat cheese ($7.75). The balsamic beef sandwich trusses up Lange’s organic roast beef, sweet balsamic onions, and white cheddar in addition to greens and mayo on whole-grain bread ($8.25), whereas the blue-bird sandwich harmonizes natural chicken salad with a barbershop quartet of dried blueberries, walnuts, white cheddar, and greens on a baguette ($7.75). Crema Cafe also offers a health-oriented kids' menu.
One of the best BLTs in Madison doesn't have bacon on it. Dubbed the TLT, Jennie Capellaro's meat-free version swaps out the pork for strips of tempeh, a type of cultured soy. The sandwich's smoky flavor won over the critics of 77 Square, claiming Best BLT honors in 2010. PETA named it one of the country's best vegan BLTs in 2012. And in 2013, it was named "Favorite Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurant" by The Daily Page.
Jennie and her team at The Green Owl Cafe strive to similarly surprise their diners by coaxing out unexpected flavors from their vegetarian and vegan dishes. Championing freshness, they prefer to work with local suppliers, such as Blue Skies Berry Farm and Sprouting Acres. They also throw monthly raw nights, treating guests to prix fixe dinners comprised of all raw courses. Jennie matches her menu's celebration of nature with a rustic, wood-paneled interior and an outdoor patio where diners can catch the free vitamin-D capsules regularly tossed down by the sun.
Owner Lance Ratze named Yola’s Café for his Grandma Yola, a sensational cook who hoped to own a cafe but passed away before realizing her dream. She did come close, though. In addition to filling her kitchen with restaurant equipment, she piled her basement's ping-pong table high with roast beef, waffles, and pies so as to serve as many people as possible.
Today, Yola's aims to recreate its namesake's hospitality by filling stomachs with baked goods. By lunch, artisans dole out sandwiches, salads, and soups to sate midday cravings. As they dine, grownups peruse a rotating selection of local artwork, while kids play with the cafe's toys, board games, and an old tin can.