Great Restaurants in Madison: June 2024
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Where We’ve Been Eating: June 2024

So many Madison restaurants, so little time! In the June 2024 edition of Where We’ve Been Eating, our food tour guides explored three Isthmus restaurants that have been on our lists for too long. Be sure to come back later for more new restaurants — and consider booking a food tour with your family and friends to go deeper on Madison food and history!

Touch of Ukraine

2438 Winnebago Street, Madison, Wisconsin

Touch of Ukraine has been on our radar since they opened in 2023. Two of the three restaurant partners are refugees escaping the Russia-Ukraine war. The third, who was a lawyer in Ukraine, moved to Madison just before the Russian invasion.

We expected a small restaurant and were surprised to see how much space they had. But the star of the show was the Pelmeni, an eastern European dumpling. We ordered Pelmeni with ground beef and pork and asked if they could put fried onions on top as they do with the Varenyky — they happily obliged.

We also ordered the Ukrainian delicacy pork — a pan-seared pork loin topped with marinated onions and cheddar cheese. Additionally, the Holubsti — Ukrainian stuffed cabbage rolls with ground beef, carrots, and tomatoes — were filling and delicious.

For dessert, we had to get the Napoleon cake! It’s puff pastry filled with vanilla custard and whipped cream and topped with blueberries.

With an excellent eastside location, a wide variety of Ukrainian delicacies, and owners worth supporting, this could be your next dinner spot off Atwood Avenue.

Paradise Lounge

119 W Main Street, Madison

Paradise Lounge is the last of a dying breed — a dive bar near the Capitol Square. With the recent closing of the Silver Dollar on a nearby block, Paradise Lounge is keeping the dive bar vibe strong in the shadows of the Capitol. 

Paradise provides the usual dive bar fare: cold beer, happy hour specials, and a simple, delicious food menu. We tried the cheeseburger with grilled onions, pickles, and cheddar. The burger was a perfect medium and the cheese was so drippy and melty that it paired perfectly with the grilled onions. Served with pickles on the side, it was a great stop to get a bite and a cold drink.

The bartender was also our cook — and the dishwasher — and the barback. It felt like he was going a million miles an hour trying to serve everyone requesting their Wisconsin beer and brandy old fashioneds — impressive! 

In terms of atmosphere, Paradise has darts, pool tables, and TVs with sports games. There were several groups there gathering, laughing, and playing pool. They even had Hamm’s and PBR on tap! Respect (and protect) this endangered species of Madison restaurants and take a trip to Paradise.

Little Tibet

827 E. Johnson Street, Madison

Walking into this intimate space initially reminded us of walking into a tranquil spa. There were hints of incense in the air and familiar, calming music playing in the background. The space was cozy, intimate seating with some booths up front and tables in back. A couple of the tables in back allowed you to sit cross-legged on pillows.

But we don’t come for the seating. We enjoyed the mango lassi in a chilled metal cup, the bhajiya (mixed veggies fried and coated in tamarind sauce), and the momos, the signature dumplings of Tibet and Nepal that are steamed and paired with bold, flavorful sauces. 

Next up, we tried the chicken stir-fry noodles (noodles made in house!) as well as the lamb curry — a beautiful, herbaceous dish with a lingering, spicy kick. If you haven’t already, it’s time to check this Johnson St. gem off your restaurant to-do list.

Explore More with a Guided Food Tour

Looking for more great food experiences in Madison? It’s time to book a food tour with one of our experienced guides. You’ll explore a diverse array of foods during your tour, gain a deeper understanding of historic Madison neighborhoods, and even receive some expert guide recommendations for future dining. We’d love to see you on a tour — book now!