It’s Saturday. Your alarm rings at 6:30 a.m. You’ve been waiting for this day all week. You jump out of bed, turn the bass up on your stereo and throw on your bibs. The neighbors are already out celebrating on their porch. What day is it? It’s market day. Time to turnip the beet.
As Badgers, we are known to appreciate traditions. We sing “Varsity” arm-in-arm, we “Jump Around,” we rub Abe’s toe for luck and eventually, take a seat upon his lap at the end of our time at the UW. Apart from the college campus, Madison is a city of traditions. One of the most notable has to be the Dane County Farmers’ Market, located on the Capitol Square. Every Saturday morning, vendors and farmers from every corner of the state and beyond set up their booths from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering the Madison community the best in produce, meat, cheese, bakery and more. It’s pretty unreal that this is all in our backyard. Whether you’re a seasoned market veteran or have never bought a vegetable that wasn’t prepackaged in your life (those mini bags of baby carrots, anybody?), everyone should make the trek towards Capitol Square one Saturday this fall. Who knows: It just may become one of your many Badger traditions.
Boo Bradley: Once you see ‘em, you can’t really miss them. A music duo normally set up at the base of State Street, Boo Bradley is as eclectic as they are talented. Their instruments go beyond the typical guitar and drum, towards the lesser-used kazoo and washer board. Boo Bradley always puts on a good show.
You’ll find performing artists sprinkled all around the square. Ranging from nine-year-old violinists to young-at-heart hippie drummers, the square is full of local talent on Saturday mornings.
Local artistic talent
Starting at the base of State Street and moving towards the outer edges of the square, the farmers’ market includes many art and craft vendors. The merchandise at these booths range in theme and price. There’s an artist who specializes in Western-style pottery, plenty of booths full of handmade jewelry, along with a ton of Madison-themed necessities. From bags to shirts to buttons to postcards and beyond, the Saturday market is bursting with Madison and Sconnie pride.
Pick up a reusable farmers’ market bag on your way through the booths to use for your purchases. Not only will you be stylin’, but everyone will know that you are legit about the market and are a force to be reckoned with. With a bag like that, no one will be trying to snag the last bunch of kale from you—and that’s a guarantee.
Get the greens
Interested in organic produce? Not sure what a funky looking fruit is called? Are you NOT a vegetable connoisseur? The Saturday market is your kind of haven. You’re more than able to chat with the farmer and ask them all the questions under the sun. They love to see people interested in their produce and will often have plenty of cooking tips for your purchases!
Here in Wisconsin, cheese deserves its own food category. We eat it with everything. We eat it with bread, vegetables, meat or even just more cheese. It should be no surprise that there is a cheese stand roughly every ten feet at the farmers’ market. Prices are good and samples are aplenty. Whether you prefer the curd, block, string or sliced variety of cheese, you’ll be able to find it all at the market. One stand on North Carroll St. offers the best Havarti cheese samples, and a booth towards King St. has notable baked bacon cheese samples; both are definitely worth bumping some elbows to make it towards the front of the stand for your morning dose of cheese. Take a stroll around the square, eat your weight in samples, and revel in the beauty of being a cheese-loving Sconnie.
Buy them for your friend, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your mom, your dog. Hey, buy them for yourself, there are no rules. The flower selection at the market is unreal—it’s tough to pick out the prettiest bouquet. The flowers will change with the season, so it’s always fun to see how the colors and types change throughout the duration of the farmers’ market. Scared of commitment? Definitely take a lap around the market before purchasing a bouquet; with so many options, you may just end up buying three if you don’t see all the possibilities first. And that would just be a travesty. Multiple beautiful bouquets of flowers, gross.
Stella’s hot and spicy cheese bread barely needs an
explanation—this heaven-sent carb is already infamous. Still warm from the oven, Stella’s hot and spicy cheese bread is a giant loaf of pull-apart carbs. It’s cheesy. It’s spicy. It’s flaky. It’s glorious. Grab one to share with your friends as you make a lap around the Square. Or don’t share; no one’s judging you for that.
The Stella’s cheese bread is definitely their most notable product, but it’s just one of many incredible bakery options. People say they go to farmers’ markets for produce, but we all know the real reason is to get a chocolate chip muffin the size of your face. From breads, to muffins, to scones, cookies and every pastry you can imagine, the market is your place to overload on carbs. For exercise purposes. Ya know, like carb overloading. That square isn’t going to walk itself. You’re just being a responsible athlete and taking care of yourself by eating 17 scones. It’s fine.
Graze’s magic coffee
Graze, a restaurant located on the outer portion of the Square, sets up a stand each weekend during the farmers’ market. The menu includes croissants, baguettes, cookies and coffee drinks; you can’t really go wrong. The shining star of the Graze stand, however, has to be their magic coffee. Magic coffee is an iced coffee drink, composed of half and half, espresso, coffee, brown sugar and cinnamon. Not only does it wake you up, it also bridges friendships and stops wars. I’ve heard a rumor that some people (not me, definitely not me, maybe me, definitely me) have gone back in line for magic coffee round two. Give it a shot and your life will never be the same.
The honey man has reached star status at the farmers’ market. An older gentleman who dresses in shades of yellow and dons his signature woven honey bee nest hat, he is your go-to stop for all things honey. He definitely stands out from the crowd, so you won’t pass his booth without noticing his unusual sense of style. Swing by, pick up some honey sticks, take a picture with this local celebrity, ask to try on the hat (no promises he will oblige, folks) and enjoy nature’s nectar of Wisconsin.
If you’re still hungry...
A few notable options include The Old Fashioned, Bradbury’s, Marigold’s, Graze and Coopers Tavern. Take a seat, keep the coffee refills coming, and enjoy all that a Saturday market in Madison has to offer.