The Daily Cardinal 2015 Reader's Choice Awards
“Jump Around” or beers on the Terrace? Plaza Tavern or Paul’s Club? J.J. Watt or Frank Kaminsky? Gettin’ it on in the Memorial Library cages or on top of Bascom Hill? You got to decide in the latest edition of The Daily Cardinal’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
Best Late-Night Restaurant & Best Pizza: Ian's Pizza
With a wide array of flavors and generous serving sizes, it’s hard to argue with Ian’s Pizza’s appeal. A mainstay of the student dining/bar food scene since 2001, Ian’s has become a veritable institution with its famously off-beat pizzas and late hours. After all, who wouldn’t want a slice of mac ‘n’ cheese pizza at one thirty in the morning when you’re poring over your organic chemistry homework? (Or pouring up some C2H6O?) With locations on State and Frances Streets, Ian’s is suited to meet your needs no matter whether you’re on campus or off. Veteran tip: explore their veggie/vegan options and keep an eye out for the weekly/monthly specials.
Runners-up: Greenbush Bakery, Glass Nickel Pizza Co. (respectively)
Best Coffee Shop: Indie Coffee
Nestled amid the bustle of Regent Street, Indie Coffee serves as a haven for coffee lovers and solace seekers alike. Indie is an ideal watering hole for many reasons: the wide array of album covers that adorn the walls; the extensive menu of funky hot beverages; the laid-back jams that always pump through the shop’s speakers—I could go on and on. But what sets the cozy coffee shop apart from all others are the waffles. Nothing makes a better study (or procrastination) companion than a warm, syrupy waffle, topped with ingredients like chocolate chips, strawberries or even maybe peanut butter and jelly. Take note, people: on your next study day, make Indie Coffee your destination.
Runner-up: Colectivo on the Square
Best Brunch Spot: Mickies Dairy Bar
A breakfast at Mickies Dairy Bar is a breakfast for champions, or so local Madison legend goes. This Monroe Street establishment is renowned for its strong brunch game. Mickies offers everything from pancakes to sandwiches to the classic “Scrambler”—a delicious concoction of eggs, potatoes, cheese and an ingredient of your choice. With roots going back to the early 1900s, the tradition of going to Mickies for breakfast, whether you’re hungover with your friends or trying to impress your parents, will always have a place as a Madison food group.
Runner-up: Short Stack Eatery
Best Burger: Dotty Dumpling's Dowry
Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry hosts a slew of original burgers ranging from the tame California Burger with guacamole, bacon, provolone cheese and sprouts, to the quirky Green & Gold Burger with cheddar cheese, deep-fried pickles and bacon mayonnaise. If these original choices weren’t enough, burger enthusiasts can build their own burger masterpiece. The topping choices include a variety of cheeses, vegetables, traditional and specialty sauces, and of course, bacon. If you are not in the mood for a beef burger, Dotty’s also has a variety of chicken, veggie, vegan, bison, lamb and turkey burgers that will tickle your fancy.
Runner-up: The Nitty Gritty
Best Mexican Restaurant: Los Gemelos
I love my friends as much as the next person. But when three of them have birthdays within a two-week period of each other, I find myself looking for good food at a cheap price. I like to think it was fate that led my friends and me to Los Gemelos on a cold and windy day this winter, located just off State Street on West Gilman. The warm atmosphere rid us of the Wisconsin cold, and its menu is longer than any course syllabus. From the $2 tacos to tortas the size of Bucky Badger’s head, Los Gemelos promises an enjoyable lunch, dinner or late-night snack for all college students.
Runner-up: Casa de Lara
Best Chinese Food: Asian Kitchen
There’s a lot of competition around Madison when it comes to Chinese food, but what sets Asian Kitchen apart are its food simply tastes good and its ability to maintain prices low enough that they actually kind of make you worry. The lunch special, sold until 4 p.m., gives you a full entrée, rice, soup and an egg roll or crab rangoon, all for less than seven dollars. They serve pretty much any Chinese dish you could expect and the combination of quality and quantity of food makes it one of the best values in Madison.
Runner-up: Fugu Asian Fusion
Most-Missed Restaurant: Diego's Mexican Bistro
The nights got a little darker and colder the moment I heard Margarita Tuesdays—the one real and true thing about summer—were coming to an end. With the close of Diego’s Mexican Bistro, sunshine and 99-cent Mexican libations somehow became impossibly further away on that frigid January evening. And, though I have since been working on coming to terms with the closure, it would be a lie to say I’m not still a little in denial about the end of Madison’s cheapest, slushiest lime-and-tequila concoctions set to the background of stereotypical Mexican music and colorful plastic pennants. Perhaps in my effort to remember the best of times, I am overlooking the oftentimes mediocre service, the impossibility to get a table after 9 p.m. and the futile attempts to brand the second night of the work week as “Taco Tuesdays” while selling unexceptional tacos for $2 apiece. But that’s not why we went, anyway. Estarás en mi corazón, siempre.
Best Food Cart: Banzo
Banzo is my place. I adore it with my whole heart. I first tried Banzo one Friday afternoon last spring, and my life was never the same after that visit: The hummus is out of this world. The falafel is crunchy and perfectly seasoned. Banzo is never greasy; one can definitely be convinced that its entirely nutritious, and so ordering two sides of falafel would be doing their body a favor. I speak from experience. I frequently order the F-Bomb platter, but really, folks, anything you order from Banzo’s food cart is pure Mediterranean magic.
Runner-up: Fresh Cool Drinks
Best Smoke Shop: The Pipefitter
Dedicated smokers, jokers and midnight tokers would be wise to not (puff, puff) pass up The Pipefitter. It’s virtually guaranteed that this State Street establishment has the accessories you’ll need to savor your favorite tobacco and herbal indulgences, from mermaid-shaped pipes to hand-blown glass bongs to a cornucopia of shisha flavors. If you’re not a smoker, though, no worries—stop by the Pipefitter for Badger/Madison gear, psychedelic pendants, costumes, incense and strange and silly gifts like toilet shot glasses, an inflatable unicorn horn for your cat and “Maybe You Touched Your Genitals” liquid soap.
Runner-up: Smokes on State
Best Marching Band Song: "Varsity"
“U-rah-rah! Wisconsin!” These are the lyrics with the ability to make you simultaneously smile, cry and feel goosebumps crawl up your body. “Varsity” was composed in 1898 and has become a beloved tradition at the university. Whether you hear it in Camp Randall, the Kohl Center or one of the unions, it brings all Badgers, both old and new, together to express love for their alma mater. It is the song that you hear at your freshmen orientation and the song you hear at graduation, and reminds everyone of the unique experiences they had in this great city.
Runner-up: “If You Want To Be A Badger”
Best Study Spot: Memorial Union
Ice cream, coffee, beer and Wisconsin spirit while you study—Memorial Union is the best. Downstairs, the cozy Rathskeller tables (and fireplaces!) are ideal, or there’s the Paul Bunyan room, which is a quieter and just as rustic. Head upstair to the Main Lounge, complete with a grand piano and a view of the—wait, why did I not mention the Terrace first? The Terrace is so unique in that it is one of the few places I can think of in this modern world where people come just to sit, talk and be together. If you can’t find a friend, bring a book.
Runners-up: Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID), Wisconsin Historical Society Library (tied)
Best Madison Landlord: JSM Properties
You’ve probably heard fewer bad things about JSM Properties than all the other landlords in Madison, and it’s for good reason: JSM rents a selection of houses near the downtown and State Street areas, but are best known for their budget-friendly, townhouse-style apartments in the Spring and Regent Street area. Most of their units are spacious, especially relative to price. As a property manager JSM is prompt, accessible and friendly. For every holiday you’ll find a bag of candy stuck to your door, and if they do send a guy to repair your sink at 8 a.m. on a Friday, his cute Scottish accent will make up for it.
Runner-up: Steve Brown Apartments
Best Dance Bar: Wando's
There’s almost always a line to get up to the third floor of Wando’s, but for good reason: it’s home to the city’s best dance floor, complete with all of the obnoxiously flashing lights, roaring techno music and Top 40 remixes a normal human being can reasonably handle at one time. It’s a club-y experience without a cover charge, more than often than not ending up on the “hot mess” side of the Madison nightlife spectrum. Grab a fishbowl to glug while you wait in line, and by the time you’re done with the drink you’ll be ready to pop, lock and/or drop it with the best of ‘em.
Runner-up: State Street Brats
Best Sports Bar: State Street Brats
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil: those practices are what the three wise statued monkeys are abnegating outside State Street Brats. They do it so we don’t have to, especially during football season. If you’re looking for a place to let the maledictions stream against this Big Ten team or that, or an acceptable venue to celebrate/commiserate, look no further than Brats. With two floors worth of fun and some severely good sausages, Brats has been a go-to for Wisconsin sports for years, through any ups and downs. An alumni hotspot as well, Brats is still a veritable tradition.
Runner-up: Chasers Bar & Grill
Best Hipster Bar & Best Drink Special: Plaza Tavern
Nestled between a southeast Asian eatery and a public defender office, the Plaza Tavern has been a staple of downtown Madison nightlife for decades. Wisconsinites and Madisonians who have frequented this bar for years are the true hipsters, and all those who wait in line to taste the sweet life-giving nectar of $2.50 Long Island Iced Teas are just wannabes—consumers yearning to drink with the pool-hall champions that politely ask you to get out of their way when trying to line up a shot.
Runners-up: City Bar, Madhatters and Vintage Spirts & Grill (tied) (respectively)
Favorite Former Badger Athlete: Frank Kaminsky
“The Tank” hasn’t even officially rolled out of Madison yet, but we can confidently say he’s already made a lasting mark on the city and the university. We can say enough about Kaminsky’s accomplishments on the court—sweeping every national player of the year award, leading Wisconsin to two Final Fours and efficiently laying waste to defenses from every level of the court. But the reason he took this category in a landslide is what he represents to fans: that goofy-looking white guy who went from having two power five scholarship offers out of high school to being a possible NBA lottery pick. His story validates every tenet Wisconsin basketball fans hold dear.
Runner-up: Russell Wilson
Best UW Tradition: Beer on the Terrace
There is a legend that Charlotte Peabody, daughter of Arthur Peabody (the designer of Memorial Union) received a vision of the Terrace in a dream. A goddess rose from the heart of Lake Mendota, trailing starbursts in her wake, which scintillated against the surface of the waters. In her hands she clutched wheat, barley, hops, which she laid dripping before Charlotte on the verdurous shore. With nary a scintilla of doubt when she awoke, she brought before her father her plans for the Terrace. Whether there is any credence to this legend, we nonetheless honor it in our own way: with brimming mugs, reclining in the seats of sunshine.
Runner-up: Jump Around
Best Wisconsin Brewery: New Glarus Brewing Co.
When thinking of beer in Wisconsin, what comes to mind? Grabbing pitchers on the Memorial Union Terrace or patronizing one of the many local bars may surface. But for many Badgers, the iconic image of a Spotted Cow comes up. New Glarus Brewing Co., started by Deborah Carey in 1993, has worked its way to a permanent spot in Badgers’ hearts with its crisp and tasty beers that we have come to associate with all things Wisconsin. They’ve got something for everyone, from the lighter Spotted Cow and Moon Man to darker options like Two Women. What better way to celebrate a Badger win or the end of a semester than by grabbing your favorite New Glarus beer?
Runner-up: Ale Asylum
Best UW Sex Fantasy: Memorial Library Cages
Are libraries inherently sexy? Yes. That makes the glamour of the Memorial Library cages all the more understandable. For some people they seem to nurture more than scholastic imagination, which is to say some are interested in boning up on more than Freud or seventeenth-century Slavic literature. Whether you can get away with it though is a different matter. Who knows? Graduate students get locked carrels while the rest of us get the lockless boxes. Lockless equals luckless? Irrespective of whether you see them as a study haven or a potential erotic atelier, the Memorial cages more than fit the shape of your weird, allusive imagination.
Runner-up: Picnic Point
—Sean ReichardSubscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter