2014 Readers' Choice Awards

Image By: Tommy Yonash and Haley Henschel

We asked. You voted. We present to you the 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards Winners. From food carts to drink specials and sushi to sex spots, it doesn’t get better than this. Thanks, readers, for speaking up! 

Best Mexican Food: Los Gemelos

Los Gemelos will never disappoint you. Whether  you just want a gordita late at night or a burrito meal that will feed you three times, you won’t go wrong. It doesn’t have the glitz of other spots but it doesn’t need it when you’re getting some of the most authentic Mexican food you could find in the region. Your money goes a long way too. Try some of their dishes you won’t find in typical Americanized Mexican restaurants like pastor tacos, sopes or bistec encebollado. Thirsty? Get the classic horchata or a Mexican beer. But even after all that, what keeps many coming back is the service that makes you feel at home. Gracias Diana! 244 W. Gilman. 

Best Sushi: Osaka House

Osaka House is one of downtown Madison’s finest Japanese restaurants. With a comprehensive menu that ranges from unique specialty roles to a hearty hibachi dish, Osaka has meals to satiate a wide range of tastes. The restaurant also has a prime location, sitting in the heart of downtown Madison on State Street. One of the only drawbacks of the restaurant is the service, as it sometimes can take a while after ordering to receive your meal. However, Osaka makes up for this with its second floor that serves as a Sake Bar. On any given weekend night you can make your way up to the bar for a wide selection of drinks accompanied by booming pop music. If you are looking for great food, good drinks and have an hour or so for dinner, Osaka House is the place for you.


Best Wisconsin Brewery: New Glarus Brewing Company

Last year, the New Glarus Brewing Company celebrated its 20th anniversary, an occasion well merited. When you think craft brewing in Wisconsin, you think New Glarus. Founded by brewing enthusiasts Dan and Deborah Carey in 1993, the company has come to occupy a prominent part of Wisconsin’s quaffing culture. Their brewery is also a treat, should you find yourself down in New Glarus, Wis. Made to look like a Bavarian village, the facility is welcoming to both residents and visitors.New Glarus offers a variety of beers that range from simple brews to more complex concoctions. Along with a roster of year-round beers, the brewery also offers a host of seasonal brews and specialty beers. To spare you, dear reader, from wracking your brains on the multitude of options, here is a list of the best year-round, seasonal and specialty beers offered by New Glarus.

Best Year-Rounds: Spotted Cow is far and away New Glarus’ most popular beer, a cloudy farmhouse ale whose fullness belies its light golden color, and is one of New Glarus’ easiest beers. For people interested in hoppier beers, Moon Man offers itself as an exemplary, flavorful session beer.

Best Seasonals: Since we’re still in the middle of winter, why not pick up something filling and hearty, like the Snowshoe Red Ale or the heavenly Coffee Stout? As the snow thaws, keep an eye out for summer sippers like Hometown Blonde and Dancing Man Wheat. And as fall rolls around, be sure to keep an eye out for the Staghorn Octoberfest.

Best Specialty Beers: New Glarus is adept at making fruit beers, which they sell by the (750 ml) bottle. Year-round highlights include Belgian Red Cherry beer and Rasberry Tart. And be sure to keep an eye out for when they roll out their special Serendipity and Strawberry Rhubarb beers.

Best UW Sex Fantasy: Memorial Library Cages

Who doesn’t love sexual intercourse in one of the most desolate, cold, debilitating and utterly silent spots on all of campus? Ooh baby, ooh baby. But really, those who have tried the Memorial Library cages, we commend you! For those willing to try it, we salute you! If you can actually have pleasurable sex in this spot, you’re probably meant for each other. We just feel bad for whatever unlucky student occupies the spot next. No one likes starting off their study sesh with a desk covered in cum. That’s just the worst. 

Best Unsanctioned UW Social Media Account: The Badger Harold

Not to be confused with another media establishment, The Badger Harold, (yes, Harold, like, Harry,) runs a somewhat underrated Twitter account, sharing the top news headlines of the day, such as “Voter Advocacy Groups Concerned About Influence Of Super PAC’s in Today’s Associated Students of Madison Elections,” or “Wrestling Tournament Concludes, City of Madison Given All Clear To Come Out From Hiding.” It’s smart, witty and subtle, which is a breath of fresh air in the UW social media world. Keep up the funny, whatever your real name is. Follow him @The BadgerHarold on Twitter and turn the page for a question and answer with the guy himself. 


Best Dive Bar: Tiki Shack

Drumroll please. The winner of the Best Dive Bar award goes to... the one place you can get 2-4-1 everything tropical...Tiki Shack! It’s a bit grungy and sticky but that’s kind of the schtick. It’s a party in (Honolulu/St. Kitts/The Bahamas) every night. A nice little  dream to enjoy. The kitsch will keep you coming back. A lot of Cardinal staff members seem to  enjoy Tiki Shack too, but most don’t quite remember what it’s like...126 State St. 


Best City Park: Vilas Park

Vilas Park is quite worth the walk. It’s located on the north shore of Lake Wingra next to Henry Vilas Zoo and is one of Madison’s oldest parks. It features beaches, many fishing sites, two piers and a bike path. In the warmer months, kids choose between two playgrounds near a grassy area ideal for picnics, softball games, keg ball and general frolicking. During the winter, intrepid park-goers can skate on the frozen lagoon or start a pick-up ice hockey game on one of the rinks. Vilas Park also has a bridge excellent for staring off into the distance, contemplating life and feeding the ducks. Life is simple, here. Your worries will escape you. 


Best Hipster Bar and Best Drink Special: Plaza Tavern

We thought that our staff liked  Plaza Taverna little too much but it turns out you all do too. Winning “best hipster bar” as well as “best drink special” it’s impossible to beat their $2 Long Islands on Thursdays. If you’re not a Long Island fan (what’s wrong with you?), they also have $3.00 craft pints Thursdays as well. We suppose these two awards do go hand-in-hand, by the Black Keys on the jukebox and the alternative hairstyles on Thursday nights. Heck, you go to Plaza on Thursdays because all the other specials just don’t understand your outstanding uniqueness. What came first—the $2 Long Island? Or the hipster? It’s a mystery to us, and the evolution of this could warrant a Ph.D thesis. If you’re actually a hipster though you probably go on Wednesdays... 319 N. Henry St. 


Best Dance Spot and Best Sconnie Bar: State Street Brats

Congrats, State Street Brats—You’ve won for Best Dance Spot and Best Sconnie Bar. Your double-win shows you are the best of both worlds. During daylight, your Wisconsin-y decor, brats and burgers, Wisco taps and ceramic cows should make any sconnie feel at home. At night, Brats’ upstairs transforms into party-central. Good jamz, good space, good crowdz. Maybe the only place you can dance like you’re from Wisco and it’s all good. 5-for-5 and Flip Nights are pretty rad, too.  603 State St. 


Prettiest Building on Bascom Hill: Science Hall

Golly gee, Science Hall, you sure are beautiful. Although you make us burn as many calories getting to your first floor as climbing the entirety of Bascom Hill, it’s all worth it. Science Hall, you’re the real deal. Your continuous round arches, grand stairwell and red brick masonry make you a unique beauty on campus. Wow, this is starting to sound like a porno. Or maybe just a PG-rated love poem? But really, your beauty is not just superficial, your waters run deep. You have ghosts that meander around inside from the time you had people playing with cadavers, and you curiously are the only building with a period at the end of your name. What other stories hide inside you? I hope Bascom Hall isn’t jealous, but let’s face it, it’s about time you got the attention you deserve. 

Best Coffee Shop: Indie Coffee

Once upon a time, in the magical land of delicious coffees, there stood the modest Indie Coffee. Well-equipped with scents to make your mouth salivate from the waffles to the caffeine-indulgent coffee, Indie Coffee is the coffee shop equivalent of that cool hipster kid you make fun of but really wish you were. As you become enveloped by the cozy,atmosphere, you may hear the strum of a guitar and some sweet crooning. For yes, there is indeed live music on occasion. All in all, Indie Coffee is an obscure and wonderful place. If you have the chance, you should absolutely stop in at least for an enormous cuppa joe. But remember, I knew about it before you. #hipsterista. 1225 Regent Street. 


Best Marching Band Chant: "If You Want to be a Badger"

“If You Want to be a Badger, just come along with me/By the bright, shining light of, the light of the moon/If you want to be a badger,  just come along with me/By the bright shining light, of… the motherfucking moon!” Need we say more?

Favorite Paul: Paul's Club

The slickest bar on State Street, Paul’s Club beat out the other Pauls, (Paul’s Pel’meni, Paul’s Books and Mayor Paul Soglin), to win the “Favorite Paul” award. Known in particular for the mummified tree that spans the ceiling, the loungy atmosphere that feels a bit Manhattany, and the creative shots like the 7-1-5, this place is coveted. If you’re not 21, don’t even try. Paul’s, with one of the more distinctive identities, is one of those Capitol Square bars that just happens to be on State instead. A quick nod to the losers of this category: in our opinion, this was one of the most competitive categories of this Readers’ Choice. Pel’meni and Books are also some of the finest establishments in the city. And hey, Soglin has been our mayor for a lifetime. Maybe the secret to success is being named Paul. 204 State St. 


Best Now Professional Badger Player: Russell Wilson

In 2011, the Badgers prayers had been answered. After looking for a quarterback to lead the Badgers, a play-making Russell Wilson with one year of eligibility remaining came from North Carolina State. Wilson passed for 33 touchdowns, good for fifth all-time at UW. He earned first-team All-Big Ten and led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl after becoming Big Ten champions. He went on to be drafted 75th overall in the 2012 National Football League Draft and was named starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. In his first year, he led his team to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs and was named Rookie of the Year. Then, on Feb. 2, 2014 Wilson earned a Super Bowl ring after dominating the Denver Broncos. Also, Wilson has recently spent time playing baseball with the Texas Rangers.


Most Missed: Dobra Tea

Dobra Tea served exotic loose-leaf tea—with  giant pots of water  people could drink while relaxing on the shop’s big, comfy cushions in a space that just wasn’t as loud and bustling as its neighbors. But alas, part of the tragedy of Dobra is the fact the stuff that made it awesome is probably what put it out of business. Nonetheless, here’s to hoping former Dobra owner Adam Ernst wants to open another shop soon. In the meantime, tea drinkers can consider checking out Matcha Tea House on Monroe, Jade Mountain on East Johnson and the Steepery on State. RIP, Dobra, and RIP to the others we have lost— The Play Circle, Logan’s, Mad Dog’s, Buraka, Taco Bell... the list goes on...

Best Food Cart: Banzo

Madisonians love food carts. They’re a daily staple on Library Mall during the spring, summer and fall. However, it appears that Madisonians especially love one food cart above the rest. There were 21 options for Madison’s best food cart on the Readers’ Choice survey but Banzo was readers’ favorite by a landslide, receiving nearly one-fourth of the votes. This is not because the rest of the food carts suck (most of them are really good), it’s just that Banzo is really, really awesome. While its menu may be small, the options are pretty dang tasty. Customers order in two steps, first choosing what they want (including chicken, kabobs and falafel) and then how they want it (maybe on a pita, a platter or with hummus). To be honest though, most people come for the falafel. The falafel is freaking awesome—fresh, moist, flavorful and green. If there had been a falafel option on survey, Banzo would’ve probably won that too.

Get your falafel prepared with The Platter option, which includes homemade chips, hummus, pita and salad, for the best (and tastiest) value. If you have been going through Banzo withdrawal during this too-cold winter, make the trek to Banzo’s restaurant on Sherman Avenue . They deliver too! And seriously, try the falafel!

Best Smoke Shop: Pipefitter

Established in 1972, Pipefitter, one of the oldest businesses on State,  is the place to go to get all your smoking accessories ( for tobacco, of course). Also, if you ever really need anything you absolutely do not need, Pipefitter will have it for you. From shot glasses that look like prescription bottles, to a card deck about farts, to about 40 moustache-related products, this store is a treasure chest. Oh, and beautifully hand-blown pipes. What is marijuana? 520 State St. 


Best Cheap Chinese Food: Asian Kitchen

Asian Kitchen, we mean cheap as a compliment, we promise. Asian Kitchen is tasty and affordable. It satisfies that craving without biting into too much of our wallets. Although eating a meal at the restaurant itself is sort of an odd experience, (we didn’t know that color of yellow existed...) who has ever not ordered their cheap Chinese to-go? It’s a go-to to-go for our staff. Some of our favorites include Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Pepper Steak with Onions  and General Tso Tofu. What’s your favorite? 449 State St. 

Best Brunch Spot: Mickies Dairy Bar

There’s nothing quite like the classic breakfast for brunch. Who needs gruyere when you can get a giant stack of pancakes or scrambler to feed you for the entire week. And that’s just one reason why Mickies Dairy Bar won Best Brunch Spot. Sweet tooth? Go for a shake or malt. When inside it’s as if the year is 1959. Just don’t get confused by the 1950s menu—if you ask for liver sausage for 0.45 cents you will probably get some stares. On weekends go as early as possible—6 a.m. early, or else be prepared to wait your turn.  1151 Monroe St. 

Best UW Tradition: Beer on The Memorial Union Terrace

Asian Kitchen, we mean cheap as a compliment, we promise. Asian Kitchen is tasty and affordable. It satisfies that craving without biting into too much of our wallets. Although eating a meal at the restaurant itself is sort of an odd experience, (we didn’t know that color of yellow existed...) who has ever not ordered their cheap Chinese to-go? It’s a go-to to-go for our staff. Some of our favorites include Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Pepper Steak with Onions  and General Tso Tofu. What’s your favorite? 449 State St. 

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