Best Places to Live

Madison, WI

Population: 259,680
Photo: Zane B. Williams

Madison is one of the best food cities in America. Creating a stir in Madison's food scene, the Underground Food Collective recently opened the restaurant Forequarter. This collection of chefs doesn't take credit as individuals, but as a group, combining experiences and training to produce new flavor combinations. The collection shows the latest example of the kinds of food experiments that Madison residents enjoy sinking their teeth into.

Chefs like Tory Miller, who was named best of the Midwest in 2012 by the James Beard Foundation, Daniel Bonanno and John Gadau established the city's innovative approach to food. Their kitchens use traditional cooking techniques then add in dashes of foreign flavor and modern presentation.

Farm-to-table restaurants like Fresco and Nostrano have put down roots in Madison, which hosts the nation's largest producers-only farmers market, where around 170 vendors serve up to 200,000 people. The Willy Street Co-op keeps a 35-year tradition alive by selling natural, organic and locally prepared foods. More than a dozen annual events, including the World's Largest Brat Fest, Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest and the Herb Faire, unite the community in a salute to food.

Miller's restaurants L'Etoile and Graze use Old World cooking methods and seasonal ingredients to produce artisan cured meats, fruit preserves and pickled vegetables. One of several restaurants overlooking Lake Monona, Sardine, serves French-inspired bistro cuisine in a large-scale dining room. Farmhouse-style tables exemplify the simple yet elegant dishes coming from the kitchen of Chef Bonanno's restaurant, A Pig in a Fur Coat. Diners can indulge in savory items like duck fat fries, rabbit rillette, lamb carpaccio and hamachi collar.


See where Madison, WI ranked on these lists:

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