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A Guide for Future Freshman – The Truth About Popular Madison Food Places

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

I tried the most popular food places in madison. Here’s the real truth. 

At the start of freshman year, I slowly came to hear about the best food places on campus. People would mention they liked to get dinner there or older girls would just recommend them to me. But nonetheless, they were all the rage. Never did I hear a single negative comment about them, until well into second semester. However, no matter how popular they may be, a lot of these places are not as good as everyone expresses them to be. So here is the ultimate guide to the most popular Madison food places and the truth about them. 

Ians Pizza

Ian’s pizza is quite possibly the most popular place in Madison. People get it for dinner, for lunch, or basically whenever they feel like pizza. And it’s even at many different club meetings. Now overall, looking at Ian’s it’s not bad pizza. It’s pretty good and features lots of different and unique flavors. However, people who claim that it’s the best pizza they’ve ever eaten in their life are definitely over exaggerating it. Yes, the pizza is good. And yes, the options are amazing as well. However, it’s nothing too special. I think that especially just their plain cheese is about as good as any other pizza. If anything, their cool flavors like spinach feta or barbecue chicken really do win the spot. Their crust is tasty as well. But, personally I find five dollars per slice of pizza pretty expensive (even though it is huge). And I do prefer Strada pizza in the union. My overall consensus, though: Ians is still pretty good, it’s just not as good as everyone explains it to be. 


Conrads is another fan favorite- the one second most popular possibly coming after Ians. However, between the two, personally I prefer Conrad’s. First off, the idea itself is very unique and something you really can’t get anywhere else. There’s a lot of different options to really favor any palate. I think that all of these options make it very universal as to whether it’s a good late night meal, lunch or dinner. And the actual ingredients that make it up are great as well. The wrap is always delicious and crispy, and as are their hash browns. I think when most people come to Madison they first focus on getting Ians, and then go to Conrad’s. But I think that Conrad’s truly takes the winner between the two. My consensus: Conrads over Ians.

The Nitty Gritty

The Nitty Gritty is another widely popular place. And in all honesty, I dont think it’s anything special. It’s a pretty normal American grill that has pretty high prices. I think what makes it special is the free birthday drink that you get on your birthday. This keeps people coming there and back. However, I think that if it’s not someone’s birthday, there’s no real reason to go here out of all the places in Madison. The food is good, but it’s standard American grill food. The prices are also a bit more on the expensive side, making it a tad bit unfortunate. My consensus: though not a bad place to eat, there are better.

Forage Kitchen

Forage is everyone’s favorite salad place. Now personally, I love salads, healthy food and anything and everything like that. But, I don’t like Forage. In my opinion it’s overpriced, and though, yes, the food is good, it’s not worth the 15 dollars you spend on it. Especially since you can easily make it yourself. Now yes, it is nice to have a healthier option on State Street. However, I think that there really is no good real reason to spend so much money on such a small salad. The quantity of food for price does not line up. This truly does lead it to be much more overhyped than it should be. It’s one of those things that is good, but not that good. And after having it once, I really don’t need to get it again. My consensus: Forage is not as great as everyone states. 

Short Stack Eatery

Short Stack is everyone’s favorite pancake place. I waited to try it for so long, but in all honesty, it truly is delicious. I think the one con with it could be the prices, as it is a bit expensive. However, the prices do coincide with most brunch places in Madison. The lines in the mornings also seem very unbearable, especially in the winter. And depending on how much you like it, it may or may not be worth it. However, they are open all day and never crowded after a regular brunch/lunch time. So I do recommend going later in the day. Pancakes and everything else on their menus are delicious. And even their short stack size fills you up. Personally, I love the sweet potato oatmeal pancakes, but you really can’t go wrong with anything. Short stack can be as hyped up as it wants to be, as it will always live up to its hype. Plus, another pro too is how cute the interior is and how sweet all of the workers are. My consensus here is I would recommend Short Stack. It’s so good, and probably the best place on this list. 

Sushi Express

Sushi express is a cheap sushi restaurant, also worth the hype. The choices of sushi that you have are absolutely amazing. The prices are also amazing. I love local handmade sushi, nothing super special or extreme, and Sushi Express is exactly that. It, again, truly does live up to its hype as anything can. It’s such an easy place to try different and new types of sushi. Or get a quick and cheap bite to eat. And no matter what the moment is, you really can’t go wrong with sushi. Plus it’s so close to campus it’s perfect. My consecus is: if you’re craving sushi, Sushi Express is always the move.

Bassett Street Brunch Club

So to be completely honest I haven’t had Basset yet. Though I’ve heard it is amazing, I’ve never had the energy to wait in the super long line. And I’ve never had the ability or desire to go at three P.M.. So, though it probably is amazing, it’s really the line that takes away from it. But, just looking at the menu does make me drool. So, my consensus is I have no clue. But, I am hoping that it is delicious and to try it one day. If I ever get the motivation to wait in the line…

Now, personally I see these seven places as the top seven places everyone loves in Madison. There are also more that everyone knows about (ex: Eno Vino), but realistically those places are not a part of anyone’s daily routine as they truly do not fit the college student budget. And, though some of these are really great places, others are overhyped. However, everyone does have their own tastes, preferences and likes something over others. I think especially for incoming freshmen at Madison, it truly is important to go around and try them yourself. Make your own impression, so you know which you love, especially as a new student there will be so many things to try. So take my view, or not, or try it yourself, to see which of these popular Madison eats are overhyped, and which are not. 

Andrea Brehovska

Wisconsin '25

Hey! I am a psychology major with a digital studies and textile and designs certificate at the University of Wisconsin! I am originally from Prague, Czech Republic, but I grew up in the Bay Area, California! I love to travel, explore, and fashion. And my favorite colors are yellow and red!