14 notable new restaurants, bars to add to your must-visit list
Over the past year, many new restaurants, bars and food businesses opened their doors.
Over the past year, many new restaurants, bars and food businesses opened their doors. Each adds unique flair to the local food scene. Here are a few — including a nationally recognized modern supper club, a conveyor belt sushi spot and a pizza restaurant that doubles as a neighborhood market — to add to your culinary rotation and keep a watchful eye on. Find even more opens here.
Blind Shot Social Club
This indoor golf, restaurant and social club is already the “next big thing” in Madison’s dining scene, combining an extensive list of nonalcoholic drinks, indoor golf and unique menu items. “There’s a whole world of new things to try,” says co-owner Michelle Duvall. “However you’re choosing to live your life when it comes to the beverages you want to consume, there will be something for you.” The club offers 13 cocktails, eight beers and six wines that are all nonalcoholic. While you play a game of simulated golf, be sure to peruse the food menu, which features some intriguing dishes. The deep-fried goat cheese balls breaded in panko and served with honey are an elevated cheese curd. Another special became so popular it was put on the main menu — the crispy Korean chicken sliders with alfalfa sprouts, kimchi and Sriracha. “We had hoped that we would come into the community and be a place that people like to go for the food and the beverage options and the ambience just as much, if not more so, as the golf offerings,” Duvall says. 177 S. Fair Oaks Ave., 608-230-5278, blindshotsocialclub.com
Branch + Daughter
Nothing is off the table when it comes to combinations at Branch + Daughter. First, a husband-and-wife team combined a neighborhood market with an artisan pizza shop. Then, they took their knack for great combos to the menu — creating dishes such as the New Haven Clam Pizza, which is bursting with Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, bacon, onions and garlic butter clams. “It’s fun to change things up and play with menu items,” Monique Branch says. “Also, sometimes you have to get people out of their comfort zone — otherwise they will never know what they are missing.” The specialty meat market also serves sandwiches, pizzas, small-batch goods, beer, wine and spirits. The Branches aim to create a sense of community and provide a storefront for vendors and farmers north of Madison. “What really brings your concept to life is the community [where] you choose to plant your roots,” she says. “We want people to feel like it’s a gathering spot in the neighborhood.” 6601 Traveler Trail, Windsor, 608-842-0139, branchanddaughter.com
The Harvey House
Since opening in July 2021, Shaina Robbins Papach and Joe Papach’s restaurant inside a historic train depot has garnered national attention for mastering a fine-dining experience that celebrates the Wisconsin supper club tradition. “The fact that people are in the space, enjoying the food, having a great time, creating memories with each other — it’s really what we find so exciting about food in the first place,” Robbins Papach says. The duo experiments with seasonal dishes, but The Harvey House keeps some house favorites on the menu. The most popular dish is the Superior walleye, a fillet layered with herbed fish mousse, topped with a thinly sliced piece of pumpernickel bread and served with herbed spaetzle, sauteed cabbage and horseradish sabayon. “The food community was extremely generous with us, and I think that that is something that we have tried to carry out through everything that we do at The Harvey House,” Robbins Papach says. 644 W. Washington Ave., 608-250-9578, theharveyhouse.com
Making pizza out of a wood-fired oven is the traditional way to create a rustic-style pie, but Homecoming in Spring Green takes it a step further by using an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven. “Cooking with wood and fire, in general, has some magic to it,” says co-owner Leah Spicer. “There are so many unpredictable variables with wood cooking that makes it fun to learn.” Kyle Beach and Leah Spicer took their community’s long-time favorite and weekly tradition of hosting pizza night — a concept initiated by Eric Ferguson, who owned Spring Green’s White School — and expanded on it. Now the duo has created a permanent casual fine dining experience with Homecoming, which is located inside the White School building. “Having a completely scratch kitchen requires skilled individuals who believe in your vision to execute,” Spicer says. “We have the privilege to operate a small business in the heart of an incredible production area, with access to beautiful, pasture-raised animals and incredible produce.” This spring, Beach and Spicer are looking to add some tiki drink options such as Toucan Sam, a cocktail made with rum, Campari, pineapple, lime and house-made falernum and infused with lemongrass and mint. 242 N. Lexington St., Spring Green, 608-459-5313, homecomingspringgreen.com
“I think for me, as a restaurant owner, I always believe it’s not just about food. It’s the whole experience,” says Tanya Zhykharevich, the co-owner of RED, a sushi restaurant on West Washington Avenue. She and Jack Yip are excited to bring another dining experience to Madison with the opening of Jacknife, a quick-service, high-quality sushi restaurant for families and young professionals. Zhykharevich says that when the pandemic struck, RED shifted to efficient service and takeout. “Opening a new business is always so scary, especially during the pandemic when everything is so uncertain. But during this last year and a half, what we’ve learned is you have to adapt,” she says. For her, that means giving people some convenient and healthy options. Sushi connoisseurs may get excited to hear Jacknife is planning new twists on the three most popular sushi varieties — tuna, salmon and yellowtail. “It’s one of those meals you crave, and it takes time to perfect sushi. It creates a special experience for people,” Zhykharevich says. Homemade dumplings, protein-packed salads and poke bowls will round out the menu. The interior, with an origami-like ceiling, is modern, bright and full of color — a reflection of the colorful sushi rolls. Jacknife is set to open at the end of March. 1046 E. Washington Ave., jacknife.co
Kettle Black Kitchen
Chef and owner Brian Hamilton has found his balance between casual and fine dining at Kettle Black Kitchen. Hamilton has also created a comfortable and intimate atmosphere at the restaurant, and his menu is simple yet ambitious — a careful selection of four main entrees to represent the best of French-inspired American cuisine. Start with the pate de campagne appetizer, a nod to his childhood memories of cooking with his grandmother. For a real glimpse of the talents Hamilton brings to the Madison culinary scene, try his hearty roasted Cornish hen, paired with rice stuffing and a beer gravy. The side dishes are just as compelling as the mains. The broccoli comes charred alongside the main entrees, served on charmingly mismatched floral plates. For a sweet treat to end the meal, order the trifle made with ice cream, cookies, candied nuts, salted caramel, fresh berries and whipped cream. 1835 Monroe St., 608-906-7007, kettleblackkitchen.com
The American Chinese restaurant Little Palace is anything but little — it can accommodate up to 80 people inside, and its founders have big dreams for the King Street space. Former Hạ Long Bay general manager Stephanie Le teamed up with her sister Jacqueline and Jacqueline’s fiancé, Phillip Lee, to open the restaurant, an homage to their aunt and Hạ Long Bay owner Jean Tran’s first restaurant, China Palace. “It is an honor to continue our family’s legacy in the restaurant industry and to carry on the entrepreneurial spirit that has held such a special and important place in our lives,” Le says. “Little Palace will be a place for people to make new memories and think fondly of the past, a space in which we will be able to share our favorite dishes with each other.” Try the hot and sour soup, Mongolian beef, sesame chicken, or any one of the restaurant’s “tiki-centric” drinks such as the mai tai, flaming volcano or Singapore sling. 225 King St., 608-229-6790, littlepalacemadison.com
Takara Sushi Station
Sushi lovers can stop at Takara Sushi Station, formerly Takara Japanese Restaurant, for an all-you-can-eat, conveyor-belt sushi experience. Before you start feasting, enjoy the harumaki fried spring rolls, the yakitori green chicken or any traditional appetizers, including edamame or shrimp tempura. Owner Jeannie Ni recommends the rainbow roll, which is a colorful mix of tuna, salmon, white fish, shrimp and tobiko. Other options include the toro negi roll (tuna belly and scallions) and shogun roll (eel, shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, tobiko and eel sauce). Watch the sushi platters make their way down the aisle and enjoy the show. For your last dish, grab the mochi ice cream. Takara Sushi Station is the first restaurant in Madison to serve sushi on a conveyor belt, a concept popular in larger cities. 696 S. Whitney Way, 608-270-1188, takaramenu.com
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In addition to all the city’s freshman restaurants, other new local spots are slinging drinks, brewing beer, hosting events and more.
Aftershock Classic Arcade Bar
It’s never too late to relive some childhood memories, and that’s exactly what Brad Van and Chris Welch intended to do with their opening of the vintage arcade bar Aftershock. Play games like Galaga, Chiller and Pac-Man or grab drinks at the bar, which is designed to look like the early home video game console Atari 2600. Van and Welch have created a living museum, with history and fun facts to share about each game. 1442 E. Washington Ave., @aftershockclassicarcade
The Botanist Social
This upscale, late-night restaurant and bar is an ideal spot for anyone looking to grab a few drinks and connect with friends. Cozy yet sophisticated, it feels like an evergreen wonderland with candles encircling the space and bottles of liquor lighting up the bar with an airy luminescence. Its popular forest mushroom flatbread, made with caramelized onions, fontina, white truffle oil and thyme, matches the bar’s natural aesthetic. The Botanist Social specializes in gin, with nearly 50 different varieties. 206 State St., thebotanistsocial.com
Patrick DePula opened Darkhorse ArtBar along with art curator and business partner Samuel Johnson in mid-October. They had a clear vision: A punk rock interior, printmaking pieces and graffiti splattered across some of the walls to make the space a “living gallery” where people can stop by for a drink and immerse themselves in art. The fully stocked bar adds to the local artwork. New artwork from locals will be on display each month, and there will be regular live music performances. 756 E. Washington Ave., darkhorsemadison.com
At Leopold’s, people come for the drinks and stay for the books, all of which are carefully curated and organized by country. “Espresso martinis are having a moment right now, and we make a superb rendition,” says Sam Brown, owner of Leopold’s. The drink is made with Saint George NOLA coffee liqueur, Wheatley vodka, locally roasted JBC espresso and Giffard vanilla liqueur. Leopold’s also sells about 75 different bottles of wine, and many have a recommended regional book pairing. 1301 Regent St., 608-256-7709, leopoldsmadison.com
Oz by Oz
Is it ounce by ounce? Oz as in the famous wizard? That’s for you to decide. “One thing is definitely true: We tap into all of the senses at Oz,” says co-owner Ryan Huber (who pronounces it both ways). “There are really amazing scents, lots of visual stimulation, all of the music is carefully curated and the cocktails are thoughtfully considered.” Huber recommends trying the Black Squirrel Old-Fashioned, made with house-toasted pecan bitters. He credits Oz by Oz’s rising visibility to his collaboration with co-owners Brian Bartles and Sam Parker, as well as the talented artists who display their work at the bar. 113 King St., ozby.oz
Starkweather Brewing Co.
What started as a friendship quickly brewed into a business partnership between Peter Schroder, Michael Chronister, Tom Gosse and Thomas McVary. Starkweather Brewing Co., which occupies the former Next Door Brewing Co. space, offers a wide selection of beers on 17 tap lines. Try any of the stouts, ales, lagers and rye beers brewed by brewmaster, Schroder. Starkweather plans to sell food, with opportunities to enjoy a nice brunch or dinner on weekends. “It’s going to be leaps and bounds ahead of what we’ve initially imagined,” McVary says. 2439 Atwood Ave., 608-467-6949, starkweatherbrewing.com
Gaby Vinick is a former intern at Madison Magazine.
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