The menu at Pancake Cafe is impressive—almost as impressive as their nine straight awards for Best Breakfast in Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison. For breakfast, the staff serves home-style meals such as oven-baked omelets or house-made biscuits and gravy. The eatery’s namesake comes in unexpected varieties, including an award-winning apple pancake that’s baked for 20 minutes with fresh fruit, baker’s sugar, and Sinkiang cinnamon glaze. Pancake Cafe also whips up gluten-free versions and an old-fashioned potato pancake capped with applesauce or sour cream. They even squeeze fresh orange juice by wringing out a traffic cone as aggressively as possible. At lunch, servers put the waffles down for a nap and begin presenting plates of white-albacore tuna melts, Angus burgers, and Chicago-style italian beef sandwiches.
If it weren’t for father-son duo Alan and Chuck Bush, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop might’ve closed its doors permanently in 2003. Instead, the two bought the restaurant from its then-owner, transforming the flagship Fort Worth location from faltering to bustling. They slowly started to franchise locations across the country, and, now, 42 restaurants dot seven states. Each one serves up a menu of Baja-style Mexican food, including jumbo burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas.
Copper Gable Cafe's cooks sate daylight diners with fresh-baked goods and savory, meaty fare. The breakfast menu brims with egg-based eats, ranging from a standard egg sandwich ($4.25) to a tummy-settling Hangover burrito packed with eggs, cheese, seasoned potatoes, breakfast meats, salsa, and two additional hours of sleep ($5.92). A variety of fresh-baked bagels ($0.80–$1.20), croissants ($1.50), and muffins ($2) pair with fresh-brewed cups of Alterra-brand coffee ($1.55–$1.95). The crafty nutrition wranglers also lasso lunch eats into wraps and paninis ($5–$6) and the build-your-own salads allow artistic expression in a medium tastier than acrylics ($4.50–$6).
Formerly Moe’s Tavern, Diego’s Mexican Bistro updated its multilevel downtown location with a new chef and a new menu of traditional Mexican favorites that focuses on simple, fresh, flavorful ingredients and combinations. The meat, for example, avoids standard preparations: Guests can choose to pack smothered chimichangas or cornmeal-dough huaraches with chipotle roast chicken, Michoacán-style roast pork, or housemade mexican chorizo. The chef’s recipes also include mole—a gluten-free poblano sauce used to douse a vegetarian or chicken dish or a stumped game-show contestant, and customers can wash it all down with a bloody mary.
These changes are the result of giving the people what they want. “We’ve received a lot of feedback from customers who want quality Mexican food downtown," Mohammed Barketallah, owner of Diego’s and the former Frida Mexican Grill, told Madison.com. "So we’re bringing the most popular dishes from Frida’s while enhancing the entire menu.” Along with the menu updates, the decor also underwent some touchups. Frida’s iconic murals were unpacked along Diego’s sprawling, castle-esque space of exposed brick and skinny dining balconies. Flat-screen TVs and a pool table keep the restaurant lively during sports action, and an outdoor patio is tucked under the towering trees and lampposts that line State Street.
Cilantro Bar and Grill’s Rick Bayless–trained chefs forge contemporary cuisine using fresh produce, locally sourced meats, and recipes culled from the families of owners Armando Cristobal and his sister and brother-in-law, Sylvia and Gonzalo de Santiago. The kitchen builds meals from scratch at brunch, lunch, and dinner, sating appetites after brisk strolls around the Capitol or romantic narwhal rides across Lake Mendota. Orange walls complement the colors of game hen en escabeche, whose mashed sweet potatoes balance the savory flavors of an achiote garlic marinade, whereas stained-glass fixtures mimic the vibrant hues of cabernet sangria, hibiscus iced tea, and mango-cilantro margaritas. Diners can sample the cuisine of four different regions of Mexico by ordering the tamales surtidos, a sampler of four cornhusks stuffed with steamed corn masa flour. Cilantro also serves seven types of Mexican beer for guests to sip or toss at supporting actors during rehearsals for upcoming daytime TV roles.
All of Badgerland Bowling Centers' six locations have a lot in common. At each location, groups hurtle colorful balls down slick, glossy lanes, refueling at an onsite restaurant between matches. All of the alleys host birthday, work, and fundraising parties and tournaments such as the Badgerland Bowling 300 Club—which has doled out more than $35,000 in cash prizes since 2002—and the Badgerland Open, which welcomed 113 competitors in 2011, one of whom snagged a grand prize of $500 and 1,000 bragging rights.
But like sextuplets working undercover for the CIA, each center also maintains a unique identity. At Badger Bowl in Madison, live musicfloods the lanes on weekends, and dancers jump and jive on West Coast Swing nights on Wednesday. Nearby at Dream Lanes, laser and disco lights slice through fog amid thundering music during Ultra Bowling every Friday and Saturday evening.