Madison may be best known for its beer, but residents of Wisconsin’s capital also know it for another mood-altering drink: coffee. The city is one of the best places in the state for a cup of joe, with dozens of coffee shops serving beans from around the world. From student-friendly coffee dens to third-wave, single-origin-nerd coffee palaces, Madison has a shop (and a cup) for every palate. And as a Madison-based company with quite a few Badgers in our ranks, we should know. Here are four of our favorite spots to wake up in the morning… or the afternoon.
Located a block off the square, Bradbury’s is tiny — so tiny that most of the shop’s extra inventory has to be stored in a loft accessible only by ladder, high above the tables. But the miniscule store packs a punch, with some of the most talented baristas in the city slinging drinks and practicing their technique for national and international competitions. Bradbury’s was one of the first coffee shops in the city to serve Ruby Coffee, the buzzworthy roaster from nearby Amherst, Wisconsin, and their bean list is regularly one of the most interesting in the city, with single-origin beans from roasters like Sweet Bloom in Colorado and Heart in Portland. Plus, they have crepes, made to order. Go there — but good luck finding a seat, especially on the weekend.
Milwaukee-based Colectivo has three locations in Madison, but our favorite is the State Street spot. Located on the ground floor of The Hub, one of the newest and most luxurious places for student apartments in Madison, Colectivo turns out a crowd-pleasing assortment of coffee, baked goods, and sandwiches. The coffee is roasted in Milwaukee and runs the gamut from complex blends to exquisite single-origin beans. The food is affordable and tasty — try the breakfast biscuit. Best of all, service is quick and efficient, and there are plenty of tables for studying, reading, or just catching up with friends passing by on State.
Johnson Public House
Johnson Public House — or JPH, as it’s commonly known — is a central watering hole for many along the booming stretch of East Johnson between downtown and Tenney Lapham Park. The shop serves coffee brewed with its house-roasted KinKin coffee, as well as special guest selections from a variety of the country’s best roasters. The space is cozy and open, with local art on the walls and plenty of comfortable places to sit. Best of all, it’s next door to one of the best places to grab dinner in the city, the uber-popular (and delicious) Sal’s Tomato Pies.
Don’t come here if you want Wi-Fi. Don’t come here if you want super-sugary blended drinks. But do come here if you love an unpretentious cup of strong coffee, served in an art-deco environment that encourages conversation. Patrick Downey moved The Victory from Brooklyn to Madison six years ago and kept some of that city’s brash attitude — he loves to blast The Ramones at high volume and will kick you out for talking on your cellphone. But behind the confrontational exterior is a sweet, earnest dude who loves coffee and just wants his shop to be a place where the neighborhood comes together for a cup, a book, and maybe a selection from the small (but excellent) food menu, with pastries from Madison Sourdough Company.