Coffee With a Side of Culture

By Lily Mihelich | Photography by Hannah Edwards

Pictured: The crowd from a Mad City Story Slam at Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse

Madison is home to an abundance of coffee shops and live music — and when you combine those, it can make for an enjoyable afternoon or evening. Here are four coffee shops and locales that host live music and arts events.


Hanah Jon Taylor is a world-renowned flutist and saxophonist who just happens to live in Madison. He opened Café CODA in 2018, a gathering spot for local, regional and international musicians to perform. The cocktail bar hosts pianists, Latin and jazz groups, and more. Café regulars also love the tango, bachata and salsa classes.

Upcoming events include Rebulú Group Latin Dance Night (Feb. 9), the 50th Anniversary Celebration Tour of Kahil El’Zabar’s Legendary Ethnic Ensemble (Feb. 18) and The Chris Greene Quartet (Feb. 28).

Cargo Coffee East

Family-owned Cargo Coffee East has coffee, food and a focus on live music. Stop by for breakfast or lunch, a coffee beverage (like the Mocha Atomic Freeze) and beer and wine.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Cargo Coffee East transforms into a listening room, hosting local music acts. On Feb. 2, catch Midwestern musicians and songwriters The Trembling Giant and Christopher Kent. Thomas Heiber-Cobb and The Sharp Keys stop by on Feb. 3, and Chloe Louise and Ian Shaw will perform on Feb. 9. At the end of the month, The Farleys and MT and the Don’t Bees will play (Feb. 23).

Lakeside St. Coffee House

With a location overlooking the beautiful Lake Monona bay, Lakeside St. Coffee House is a homey, cozy spot. Owner Kate Burmeister’s business has blossomed into a destination with coffee, espresso, tea, specialty sodas, melts, sandwiches and a scrumptious breakfast menu.

The cafe also hosts live music on the weekends. In February catch Les Cordes en Blue (Feb. 9), Richard Wiegel (Feb. 10), Tumbledown Shack (Feb. 16) and an Irish Jam Session (Feb. 17). All shows start at 7 p.m.

Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse

This quirky little coffee shop on Willy Street opened in 1994 and is a neighborhood staple. Mother Fool’s serves vegan and gluten-free goodies and pours Colectivo coffee. The café also doesn’t use any dairy products in their coffee drinks, opting to use oat or soy milk.

View local artist’s work on a rotating basis here, and the café hosts poetry open-mic nights as well (visit their website for upcoming dates).

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