Food-conscious consumers consistently find themselves with a wide range of dining
options in Madison, according to Livability, which ranked they city as the fifth-best for “foodies.”
According to Livability’s “Top Ten Foodie Cities 2013: A Second Helping,” Madison has all the elements that attract those with a curiosity for food, from innovative
chefs at many popular farm-to-table Madison restaurants to easy access to fresh,
locally-grown ingredients in most of the grocery stores in the area.
Diane Morganthaler, vice president of marketing at Greater Madison
Convention & Visitors Bureau, said people are caring more about where their food is coming from.
“I think we’re pretty aware of where our food comes from, and I think
something we’re really proud [of] is that a lot of it comes from around Madison,” she said.
She said encouraging local producers is another way city residents can support the
local economy, and people take that very seriously, as well.
Livability credits Madison for access to farm-to-table restaurants, such as
Fresco and Nostrano. Madison also hosts the nation’s largest
producers-only farmer’s market, where around 170 vendors serve up to 200,000
people, according to Livability. The Willy Street Co-op is another asset to Madison’s attraction for foodies, the ranking said.
The city is also home to a wide range of popular food events, including the World’s
Largest Brat Fest, Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest and the Herb Fair, Livability said.
Madison’s ranking as No. 5 in the United States comes behind cities such as Decatur, Ga.,
and Berkeley, Calif.
Morganthaler said the foodie movement differs from region to region, with many communities having traditional local foods. She said when someone goes to Boston, they have lobster; if they go to New Orleans, they probably eat gumbo.
“We’re not that
kind of a market,” she said. “I think we’re really a melting pot of all the groups that have moved
into our Midwest area, and we just have so many options available to us.”
Cheri Schweitzer, a restaurant consultant for Credible Consulting, works with
many local Madison restaurants and is familiar with the food culture.
She said Madison is a university town full of entrepreneurs and people with
entrepreneurial spirit. Those people are naturally adventurous, so they want
adventurous food as well, she said.
According to Schweitzer, the food movement in Madison is not confined to
locally-grown vegetables. Many local restaurants that she works with obtain their
meat from within 100 miles, she said.
She used Dan Fox as an example, founder of SloPig,
who raises his own pigs and sells them locally.
Schweitzer said even beer and soda are produced in Madison
on a small, local scale. Micro-distilleries are prevalent throughout Madison, she said.
With a food movement that has so much momentum in progress, Schweitzer said possible future achievements for food in Madison include bringing the foodie movement to children.
“One thing that needs to happen is all the things that are getting put on the
adult menu need to be put on the kids menu,” she said. “That’s not happening; you still see
chicken nuggets served in schools.”
The movement for farm-to-cafeteria table may be next, she said.