Downtown Madison is bubbling with amazing places to eat. While experienced Badgers already know this, we’ll be joined by about 6,500 new students this fall, many of whom have yet to explore Madison’s expansive food scene. 

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to consider “downtown” Madison as Capital Square, State Street, Monroe Street, Willy Street, and the Hilldale area. These areas are within walking distance to campus or are just a quick bus ride away, and chances are you’ve stumbled past one of these on your way to Target or the Willy Street Co-Op.

Monroe Street recently opened Everly where Bluephies used to live (RIP), the Square has staples like New York style Gotham Bagels, and Willy Street is home to the best burgers at The Weary Traveler Freehouse. If you haven’t made your way to those fine establishments, you now have three new to-dos for this weekend!

But if you’re in the mood to venture a little further outside the downtown circle, here are three more places that are worth the scenic drive:

Talen Elizabeth/The Badger Herald

Anointed One | 515 Junction Rd Madison, WI 53717 |

Head’s Up: Closed Monday’s

There is only one place in Madison I really call a “soul food” restaurant, and that’s Anointed One. Somehow, we have a handful of places to satisfy a creole fix, and definitely plenty of restaurants who boast “the best fried chicken” — yet no establishment has a menu fully committed to soul food.

Bless the sweet, sweet women who take care of me when I’m at AO. If you’re in while it’s tame, the staff will probably hand you the remote and tell you to change Netflix to whatever you please.

“It’s home, here.”

Excuse me while I wipe these tears away.

Talen Elizabeth/The Badger Herald

Anointed One has daily specials that range from fried pork chops to their specialty gumbo that’s only around for so long before it’s sold out. Their list of sides is even longer than their stacked sandwich list. Man ‘n cheese, greens, candied yams… SPAGHETTI! You know you’re in a proper spot when spaghetti is listed as a side — insider secret.

This is the type of food that makes you close your eyes after taking a bite and slow your chewing down to half-speed. The rib tips have texture to them without being tough and the fried pork chops are still juicy. My friends all make fun of how I clean chicken bones, but I promise you’ll be doing the same with these.

As for my favorite sides, it’s probably a tie between the candied yams and the green beans. The yams are silky sweet and the beans have awesome flavor. They aren’t mushy — I hate mushy green beans.

So if you’re in the mood for some traditional, all the carbs, all the calories soul food, it’s time to head over to the west side of Madison. Be prepared to feel completely stuffed after a meal here.

BRB. Going back for banana pudding now that I have room…

Talen Elizabeth/The Badger Herald

Nau-Ti-Gal | 5360 Westport Road Madison, WI 53704 |

Head’s Up: Long wait to sit outside

Wrap around porch, boats docked on the inlet, and brightly colored red, blue and green chairs make you feel like you’re about to be in the “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” music video. The two things you need to know about this place are they make great clam chowder, and it might be a while until you get a table outside. Both are worth the wait.

So once you’re settled out on the porch, grab yourself a lemonade (with whiskey if you’re of age), and order the ‘Basa Bites’ to start. Basa is a catfish from Vietnam that Nau-Ti-Gal slices into strips and lightly deep fried. Squeeze a little lemon and enjoy the tartar. They’re thin strips that are thick enough to pick up tartar sauce, and still thin enough to fall apart in fishy goodness in your mouth. The chowder has huge pieces of clam, potato, and bacon. What isn’t there to love about that?

Come for the chowder, stay for the view.

Talen Elizabeth/The Badger Herald

Liliana’s Restaurant | 2951 Triverton Pike Drive Fitchburg, WI  53711 |

Head’s Up: Kind of a classy joint

Remember how I said there were a couple places to get your creole fix? This is definitely one of them. Shrimp and grits, jambalaya, po’boys and some seriously great étouffée.

But let’s start at the very beginning. Cornbread.

If you like your cornbread sweet like I do, you’ll love the sticky sweet crust they have on theirs. It’s fluffy and flaky — it doesn’t get much better than that.

The hardest part about going to Liliana’s is deciding between jambalaya or étouffée. The difference between the two is pretty simple. Étouffée is more or less a sauce served over rice, whereas in jambalaya the rice incorporated. I usually go with the étouffée at Liliana’s because it’s a bit spicier. If you don’t like your dinner staring back at you, make sure to ask them to keep the whole crawfish toppers off your plate. And if you love yourself, you’ll order the beignets: deep-fried dough dusted with powdered sugar.

Seriously, étouffée and a round of beignets are the only sweet and savory mix you’ll ever need in your life.