Editor’s note: The best is BACK

Our last Best of Madison issue was sent to the printer on March 8, 2020 — six days later, the world shut down.
best spelled out with signs
Photo by Andrea Behling

Our last Best of Madison issue was sent to the printer on March 8, 2020 — six days later, the world shut down.

At that time, we were thinking the bad timing might not make it a lost cause, because obviously this would blow over after sheltering in place for two weeks and we could get back to celebrating our 2020 winners.

But after those two weeks turned into months, I started doubting whether we’d have another Best of Madison issue ever again. How could we spotlight the best supper clubs, farmers’ markets, performance venues or hotels when our lives had become so different in the absence of these experiences?

Fast forward to February and April 2021, when I was floored by the record-number of nominations (160,679) and final votes (481,378) that our 2021 readers’ poll received. It was clear our participants were ready to resume the yearly tradition of naming what makes this city so great.

Yet for me, it’s only been in the past week that I’ve regained an eagerness to experience everything Madison has to offer. It started with one of the very few in-person interviews I’ve done since early 2020. I met with astrophysicist, historian and author Jim Lattis at the Washburn Observatory for an upcoming story, and I finally felt my sense of adventure reignite while peering through a massive telescope for the first time.

A few days later, I met up with an industry friend at a new coffee shop, Broken Board Coffee, and ordered a drink I’ve never had before — an espresso lemonade. That experience certainly felt different from the last time I tried a trendy drink — I nearly sprained my wrist whisking up a very “meh” Dalgona coffee while at home in quarantine.

After my coffee date that same day, associate editor Maggie Ginsberg burst into my office returning from an interview she said was emotional, awe-inspiring and a really, really good story. I instantly recognized her excitement — I’ve felt the same way after an interview that opens a door to something I had never known or understood before.

And just this morning — before sitting down to write this column — I joined Maggie and our other associate editor, Maija Inveiss, downtown to meet the magazine’s editorial intern, Gaby Vinick. Gaby was hired when we were all still working from home, so this first in-person meeting allowed us to get to know her better than the handful of Zoom calls and Slack conversations have allowed. Gaby shared that later that day she was hosting her grandparents in town from Washington, D.C. She hadn’t seen them since December and planned to take them to the newly opened Leopold’s Books + Bar + Caffè, as well as the Wisconsin Union Terrace. (Because can you really give guests the full Madison experience and not take them to the terrace?)

It’s wild to think all of these moments over the past few days would have felt alien a year ago today. But we’re back, baby. As is the Best of Madison with its 471 winners that bring this city to life. After the week I’ve had, the timing feels right. The best, even.