It’s common knowledge that dorm food is less than ideal. Gone are the days where your mom casually prepares Ina Garten’s lemon arugula spaghetti or your dad decides to fire up the grill for old time’s sake.

While the concept of a dining hall may seem shiny and new, there’s only so many times one can eat a luke-warm quesadilla while skipping their afternoon psychology lecture. There are moments of culinary respite, however, and those, my freshman friends, are parent visits.

Here’s a list of my favorite restaurants I’ve taken my parents to thus far in my college career. Enjoy and happy eating — paid for by the ‘rents of course!

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 The Weary Traveler

Location: 1201 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703

Cost: $$

Nestled on a corner of Willy Street, the atmosphere of this vintage-inspired, elevated-pub will have your parents convinced that you either cherish a good book or you’re secretly dating your French Lit TA. I would highly recommend Bob’s Bad Breath Burger, but if your midnight meet-up with said TA takes a potent turn because of it, don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Great Dane

Location: 123 E Doty St, Madison, WI 53703

Cost: $$

Lovingly referred to as “The Dane” by my dad, The Great Dane has become a family staple. Boasting two locations, one downtown and one at Hilldale Mall, The Great Dane is a crowd pleaser with its family-friendly menu and variety of craft brews. Get a table in the beer garden and pretend dark beers actually taste good — you’ll have a ball.

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Location: 121 S Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703

Cost: $$

When I asked my parents if they had any recommendations for this article, my dad replied with one word — “Merchant.” This farm-to-table gastropub could not be more chic with its seasonal menu and craft cocktails. The Burrata Board pairs perfectly with the “Thank you so much for dinner!” text you’ll send mom and pop three hours afterwards from the sweatiest frat basement you’ve ever seen.


Location: 222 W Gorham St, Madison, WI 53703

Cost: $$

Boasting a Bible-length beer menu, HopCats’ neon graffiti adorned walls catch your eye before settling in for the night. The menu’s tightly scrawled feline artwork mingles among the juicy burgers, pasta and aptly named crack fries. Take advantage of the free drink samples before making a decision because you’re a college kid, it’s what we do.

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 Cafe Hollander

Location: 701 Hilldale Way, Madison, WI 53705

Cost: $$

From Belgian beers to frites and waffles, Cafe Hollander offers a wide range of menu items that are sure to impress. Paired with the beautiful atmosphere, Cafe Hollander is hard to beat. My dad met my boyfriend for the first time at Cafe Hollander over a loaf of coconut banana bread and the classic story of how I wasn’t allowed to get my license until I was 17. If the restaurant’s open concept doesn’t make you fall in love, it is quite literally right next to Target. Can you say treat yourself?!

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Bassett Street Brunch Club

Location: 444 W Johnson St, Madison, WI 53703

Cost: $$

Located a hop, skip and painfully hungover jump from Sellery and Witte, Bassett Street Brunch Club offers classic brunch dishes with a modern twist. With a wide selection of coffee and boozy breakfast drinks, Brunch Club is the perfect place to meet up with your parents after a night of debauchery and freshman regret.

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald

Mickies Dairy Bar

Location: 1511 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711

Cost: $

Across the street from Camp Randall, Mickies Dairy Bar is Madison’s game day institution. Be ready to stand in line because this old fashioned, cash-only diner bustles with the best of them. Mid-20th century menus splatter across the diner’s walls and, worry not, this place will not break the bank thanks to low prices and massive portions. Mickies’ pancakes are big enough to fill any Badger football player and, if you’re feeling ambitious, try the scrambler.

Marissa Haegele/The Badger Herald