Best Coffee Shops in Madison: 8 Local Stops to Keep You Warm
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Best Coffee Shops in Madison: 8 Local Stops to Keep You Warm

Stay caffeinated this winter in these cozy spots!

Are you searching for a cozy new coffee shop this season? There’s plenty to explore besides a cappuccino or cup of jo’. Here are eight local stops serving up coffee in Madison, WI. These stops are sure to keep you warm, and caffeinated, this winter!

Whether you drink coffee, espresso, tea, or just want some hot cocoa, Madison Eats is here to help you find that perfect sip. We’ve also brewed up some tips if caffeine doesn’t java with you and included our food recommendations, too! 

Here are eight of the best coffee shops in Madison that you need to try (listed in alphabetical order).

1. BRADBURY’S

Bradbury’s is located just off the capitol square on the corner of N Hamilton Street in a small, triangular-shaped glass room. While their kitchen and menu are petite, Bradbury’s aims to make everything they do offer really well. If you want something simple, they have brewed coffee, espresso, and cold brews. If you want something more creamy with beautiful latte foam art, try one of their bar drinks. Bradbury’s only uses organic fair-trade coffee beans and milk from Sassy Cow, an award-winning farmstead creamery here in Wisconsin. If you want any additional sweeteners, you can select from four different syrups or make it a miel (honey and cinnamon). 

If you’re looking for something more filling, Bradbury’s makes their own muffins, scones, and crepes in house. They offer sweet and savory options, with rotating specials throughout the changing seasons. From the honey, yogurt, and rhubarb crepe in the summertime to the potato, romesco, parm, and egg crepe in the fall, all their flavors are absolutely magnifique!

Bradbury’s simple, artisanal menu pairs well with its minimalist hipster aesthetic, making you feel like a sophisticated adult once you sit down.

Non-coffee beverages: Bradbury’s has herbal teas and sparkling tea by Rishi, a tea and botanic operation based in Milwaukee that specializes in botanical direct trade and sources from artisan growers. If you don’t like tea, you can order a chai latte, golden milk, or classic hot chocolate. 

2. Crescendo Espresso Bar

Crescendo first opened in 2013 on the quaint street of Monroe. Their first bar closed in July 2022, but you can still visit their location at Hilldale Mall. Much like its name, which is a music term that means to gradually increase intensity, Crescendo aims to increase your energy through the harmony of great coffee and music. 

The bar serves espresso, coffee, tea, pastries, toast with delicious toppings, sandwiches, and burritos. Try the honey butter toast for something sweet or the treehugger sandwich for something savory. Crescendo also has fabulous rotating seasonal menu items, which makes you want to keep coming back to check out the new flavors. The Chaider 4Ever is chai tea concentrate and apple cider, the definition of fall!

Whether you’re looking for somewhere to work or need a quick grab’n go pick-me-up, Crescendo will make your heart (and taste buds) sing.

Non-coffee beverages: Crescendo has tea from ChaCha Tea Company, a fair trade tea company here in Madison. Hot chocolate, chai lattes, matcha lattes, and steamers are also available, offering over a dozen different syrups as an optional add-in.

3. Finca Coffee

Finca Coffee is a Latinx-owned coffee shop owned by Silas and Marleni Valle. The Valle family wanted to bring a taste of El Salvador to the Madison community, so in 2019, they opened Finca Coffee in a retail space just off the Beltline on Rimrock Road. Finca means “farm” in Spanish, which is what they refer to the coffee plantations in El Salvador. The Valle family wanted their coffee shop to represent the local Salvadoran coffee farmers they purchase their coffee beans from. 

Coffee is shipped from El Salvador every three weeks to ensure freshness. When you’re actually tasting the flavor, you’ll notice the flavor is more naturally sweet than the standard American coffee. You can try it in a latte, cortado, cappuccino, and more! If you really want to try something grand, order their Gail Ambrosius Mocha which uses specialty chocolate from the Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier here in Madison.

As for the food, Finca kept the menu simple. They serve tacos, burritos, Mexican quesadillas, Salvadoran quesadillas (a sweet butter cake), and their pupusas which are a common street food in El Salvador and one of Finca’s house specialties. Pupusas are grilled flatbread tortillas filled with your choice of pork, beans, or cheese. Ingredients are purchased at local Latinx and Hispanic grocery stores and food is made in-house daily, following recipes from Marleni’s mother. Finca is a warm and inviting atmosphere that reminds you of family, from the Salvadoran menu to the artwork on the walls which feature work by famous Salvadoran artist Fernando Llort. Visit Finca for fresh ingredients and an inviting atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re hanging out in a family home.

Non-coffee beverages: Finca has hot chocolate, chai lattes, Rishi teas, Italian sodas, and steamers with optional flavored syrups.

4. FORWard craft and coffee

Forward Craft and Coffee is a new neighborhood bar that opened in June 2022 on Atwood Ave on the near east side of Madison. Named after the Wisconsin state motto “Forward,” the owners wanted something that was synonymous with both the state and its surrounding community. Forward supports local businesses, decorating its interior with local artwork and serving food from the Atwood neighborhood including The Harmony Bar & Grill, Stalzy’s Deli, Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, Glass Nickel Pizza, Nutkrack, and Level 5 Donuts. 

What makes Forward unique is that they serve both coffee and craft beers. Their coffee bar is open all day and their most popular item is their cold brew flight, which consists of the four 5 oz cold brews on tap that week. Forward sources its cold brew from Pilcrow Coffee in Milwaukee, which treats its cold brew the same as breweries treat beer. The drinks are unconventional and featured flavors in the past include Count Chocula, Peanut Butter Puffs, Thai Iced and Root Beer Float. 

Forward carries the state motto with pride, as there’s something here for everyone.

Non-coffee beverages: As indicated in their name, Forward also serves over 20 craft beers on tap that are constantly rotating. They also offer a wide variety of non-alcoholic options in their cooler as well.

5. INDIE coffee

Indie Coffee is another classic coffee shop located on the first floor of a small building on Regent Street. Living up to its name, Indie strives to be anything but mainstream. Indie movie posters adorn the walls and staff try to have Indie music playing while patrons sit and enjoy their delicious menu.

Indie has over ten different coffee-based drinks on their menu, in addition to their rotating seasonal drinks like the Nutty Professor and Mayan Spiced Mocha. Their kitchen whips up incredible house made pastries and has an all-day breakfast and lunch menu featuring seven waffles and eleven sandwich melts. Their Red + White Waffle was featured on “Wake up with Al Roker” in 2015.

Indie’s menu and atmosphere proves that it’s anything but normal. They have an outside patio opened up year-round, so go check it out before it starts to snow!

Non-coffee beverages: For all the tea connoisseurs out there, Indie has over 40 different black, green, and herbal loose leaf teas in different sizes. They also have hot chocolate, chai lattes, steamers, Italian sodas, and fruit smoothies.

6. LEDGER

Ledger is a small coffee shop located in the historic Garver Feed Mill, a large factory built in 1905 that now operates as a modern food and wellness center for locals and visitors to enjoy. Owner Richard Wirsta refers to Ledger as a “micro-roastery,” playing off the word microbrewery. Ledger prepares their small batch coffee using back-to-basic production methods, requiring them to have direct contact with every step of the grinding and roasting process.

The drink menu includes all your classic coffee shop favorites, whether you’re looking for a latte or classic macchiato. For add-ins, they have different syrup selections, including a seasonal fall spice almond available right now, and local honey. Ledger looks to local partners for baked goods. Treats include vegan baked goods from Heirloom Bakery, specialty cookies from ORIGIN Breads, and vegan donuts from Level 5 Donuts.

If you go to Ledger, you know they will take good care of you and your caffeinated needs. 

Non-coffee beverages: Ledger has chai lattes, Rishi teas, and NessAlla Kombucha. NessAlla started in Madison and they brew their craft kombucha in-house at Garver Feed Mill. They produce a lot of fun flavors, including berry sangria and tropical colada.

7. michaelangelo’s

114 State Street is the location of the historic Lamb Building, which was designed in the classic Queen Anne style in 1905. The Lamb Building has been home to different retailers including a men’s clothing store, bank, and most recently, Michelangelo’s Coffee House. Thanks to the history of the building, the atmosphere of Michelangelo’s gives you classic, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop vibes. And yes, there is a replica of “The Creation of Adam” painting hanging on the wall, one of the real Michelangelo’s most notable works. The restaurant name was inspired by Italian coffee shops and the concept to create a similar experience here in Madison.

Michelangelo’s is dedicated to supporting small coffee farmers, serving only organic fair-trade coffee from Equal Exchange and Café Social. They have a huge menu of specialty coffee drinks with fun year-round flavors as well as seasonal offerings. Espresso is made classically, from the grind to the preparation. In fact, the coffee machines still operate to that of a classic Italian coffee shop!

A lot of the food menu was designed by the owner and his wife, so you’ll definitely want to check out their options. Michelangelo’s serves panini grilled sandwiches and seasonal soups. They also have an amazing dessert and baked goods selection, which just stares you in the face as you wait in line. For all our chocoholics out there, Michelangelo’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake is to die for!

Michelangelo’s strives to create a fantastic customer experience where all are welcome. The staff are friendly, the drink and food selections are extensive, the seating is cozy, and the location is prime. You’ll truly have a hard time leaving!

Non-coffee beverages: Michelangelo’s has hot chocolate, chai lattes, teas, smoothies, and the “#1 Best Root Beer in America” by Sprecher –a brewing company in Milwaukee that also makes award-winning craft sodas.

8. rotunda cafe

Like Michelangelo’s, Rotunda Café also has the pleasure of sitting in a historic building. Built on the Atwood-Schenk Corner in 1923, this Georgian Revival building was home to multiple different banks. It became a new branch for the Monona Bank in 2014 and in 2020, they renovated the entire to offer reservable work spaces, podcasting studios, conference rooms, and a coffee shop.

Rotunda serves coffee sourced by Rusty Dog Coffee, a local Madisonian roaster. Pastries are also sourced locally by Batch Bakehouse and Madison Sourdough. They have a great breakfast and lunch menu, but their most notable item to try is their pelmeni. 

Pelmeni is Russian for potato dumpling. The owner, Paul Schwoerer, worked at a pelmeni food truck as an adolescent, and decided to turn it into a business later in life. Paul’s pelmeni are filled with ground beef and/or potatoes and topped with butter, curry powder, sweet chili, sauce, or cilantro and a side of sour cream. These little pillows are the definition of comfort food and something very unique to both the coffee shop and the city.

Non-coffee beverages: Rotunda also has smoothies, hot chocolate, and teas.

There are a lot of unique and incredible coffee shops in Madison, but these are just eight of our favorites that we enjoy due to their unique menus, partnerships with other local businesses, and appreciation for the art and craft of coffee-making.

So, what are you waiting for? The perfect cup awaits you and we cannot wait to hear what you think. Share your pictures with us by tagging Madison Eats on Instagram and FacebookThanks a latte for reading!

Published on Oct 30 2022

Last Updated on Oct 31 2022

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