Hitched to the back of a pickup truck, BJs Kolaches' navy-blue food cart sets up shop Monday–Friday in front of the UW's Wisconsin School of Business. Passersby step up to that cart to purchase kolache—Czech-inspired pastries stuffed with savory fillings such as spicy kielbasa or a vegetarian blend of artichoke and spinach. Patrons can round out meals with sides such as pasta salad, or opt for sweet kolache filled with chocolate cream cheese or apricot.
Fresh Madison Market’s myriad departments pack carts with fresh-baked goodies, organic produce, and high-quality meats and seafood. The store prides itself on its large selection of organic produce—it partners with area farmers whenever possible to carry local harvests. Load up on prepared meals at the sushi bar, or head to the meat and seafood counter, which packages ready-to-cook items such as stuffed chicken breast and shish kebob with easy directions for cooking at home. Giant cupcakes made at the in-house bakery provide tasty ammo for slingshots. Fresh Madison Market’s walk-in cooler deheats a plethora of low-temp libations, including Wisconsin craft beers.
Slide Food Cart parks in front of the University Bookstore Monday–Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to prepare gourmet sliders using ingredients from local spots like Weber's Bakery. Patrons can choose fillings such as mozzarella-stuffed meatballs with housemade marinara, buffalo chicken with blue cheese crumbles and carrot-celery tapenade, or slow-cooked beets with creamy dressing, and can pair meals with sides such as housemade potato chips with dip.
A University of Wisconsin institution, freshly renovated Wando’s tantalizes taste buds with a menu of meaty burgers and savory sandwiches. In between bites, draft beers, cocktails, and the watering hole's signature fishbowls wet whistles, and PBR table-toppers make refilling glasses as convenient as hiding behind the keg. The sports-centric bar solidifies its allegiance to the University of Wisconsin with red-and-white décor and by showering UW students with free bacon and unlimited oxygen on Tuesday nights.
Though inspired by the northern California cafés of the early 1980s, Espresso Royale fits right in with Michigan’s modern coffee drinkers—in 2012 readers of The Michigan Daily voted it Best Coffee Shop for the third year in a row. Their coffees include a house blend developed in 1987, which has since been joined by a chocolate-almond roast 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.
Behind State Street Brats' charming Old-World half-timbered façade, a convivial bar-and-grill atmosphere welcomes visitors to lively feastings of pub fare. With a special focus on sausages and cheesy meals, the menu celebrates the best-loved staples of Midwestern cuisine. Chefs serve up brats two traditional ways, with the Sheboygan-style white brat soaked in beer and red brats split open and grilled for a smoky flavor. Patrons can customize their orders at the condiment bar by slathering on a wide selection of toppings, such as tomatoes and sauerkraut, and picking the best flavor from a spread of local mustards, including Koops, Silver Spring, and Mustard Girl.
A two-time finalist for Madison Magazine’s Best Sports Bar, with a gold in 2011 and silver in 2012, State Street Brats relishes the company of happy regulars and avid sports fans there to catch games on the bar’s 25 TVs. Extensive cable and digital subscriptions keep crowds entertained with professional football and baseball or collegiate action. Four evenings a week, the second floor comes to life with a live DJ and a packed dance floor. Bartenders also keep fans on their toes with themed specials, such as Flip Night Tuesday, where patrons can flip a coin to determine how much their drinks cost.