By Candice Wagener | Photo courtesy Mercies Coffee
With an abundance of independent coffee shops, Madison is a coffee-drinker’s paradise. Here’s a nod to some newer spots in town and some all-star favorites.
BANDIT TACOS & COFFEE
Tacos and coffee?! Heck yeah! The former Porter space has been reimagined by Gilbert Altschul and his team to become Bandit Tacos & Coffee, serving a nice selection of tacos — including multiple vegetarian options, like roasted Vitruvian Farms oyster mushrooms with chimichurri, pea shoots, queso fresco and salsa macha — plus tostadas, pozole and salad. Wash it down with booze or coffee. Go for the dirty horchata, a creamy non-alcoholic drink with a little punch of espresso. By the way, Bandit’s coffee partner, Counter Culture Coffee, helped divert 18,000 pounds of LDPE plastic from landfills and donated $42,000 to fund coffee seed projects in Guatemala, Peru and Ethiopia, among other places. Now, that’s feel-good coffee. bandit-tacos.com
Located just beyond the Meriter campus on Regent Street, Indie Coffee is a long-time favorite. You can’t beat their comfortable courtyard seating in the back, open year-round. They serve breakfast all day and their waffles earned celebrity status when they were featured on “Wake Up with Al Roker.” With eight different flavors, including their house original red and white and a gluten-free option, it’s easy to see why. Get caffeinated with a Mayan spiced mocha containing cinnamon and cayenne, a granita (think espresso slushie) or a basic Americano. indiecoffee.net/index.html
Located east of the interstate, just off Cottage Grove Road, Twisted Grounds is a very welcome addition to an area lacking in coffee options. Working with local partners JBC Coffee Roasters and Cadence Cold Brew, they offer hand-crafted favorites including the Dirty Zebra (chocolate chai, white chocolate, espresso) and the Witch’s Brew (matcha, lavender, white chocolate). Their loaded breakfast bowl is a standout with spinach, corn, caramelized onions, peppers, avocado, scrambled eggs and garlic aioli. Lunch options include chicken pesto panini, BBQ chicken grilled cheese, nachos, salads and more. With a good amount of comfy seats, tables and chairs, and picnic tables outside, it’s a good place to settle in. Also catch live music here Friday nights and Sunday mornings. twistedgrounds.com/home
Bike aficionados will appreciate the moniker, and coffee fans will appreciate the simple menu and locally-roasted Rusty Dog Coffee. Located inside Rocket Bicycle Studio in Verona, the spot is a favorite meetup for friends to convene over a beer, a cold brew or a big slice of quiche. Try their signature “From the Lab” drinks, like nitro crema cold brew (housemade cold brew, oat milk, demerara sugar). Just off the Military Ridge State Trail, this is a common refreshment stop for bikers. Don’t be surprised if you leave wanting one more. nplusonecafe.com
LIV’S DRINK EMPORIUM
If the name didn’t already give it away, Liv’s in Sun Prairie offers more than coffee. Notably, craft sodas with locally-sourced, fresh add-ins. Quirky, fun names will make you smile, like Berry Mangilow (Mountain Dew, mango puree, strawberry) and Lime in the Coconut (Pepsi or Coke with coconut cream and fresh lime). It’s a modern-day soda fountain that will delight parents and kids. A standard coffee menu and Japanese iced brew are available if soda isn’t your thing. There’s also a small food menu for those looking beyond beverages. livsdrinks.com
Sam Chehade has been running Michelangelo’s on State Street since 1997, a wholly respectable feat considering the transient nature of businesses downtown. The cafe uses fair-trade, socially-conscious coffee beans and specializes in small-batch brew. The picturesque brick facade leads into a homey interior, with plenty of space to study or hang out. They have an extensive list of mocha combinations, as well as a chai charger (double shot espresso, chai tea, steamed milk) and a red eye (16-ounce coffee with two espresso shots) for when focus is essential. Choose from a number of grilled panini sandwiches for a quick bite, or treat yourself with their ultimate chocolate cake. michelangeloscoffeehouse.com
Tucked behind East Towne, Mercies Coffee is on a mission to build up the community while advocating for the fight against sex trafficking in Dane County. An entire wall educates customers on the cause and organizations serving as valuable resources.
The vibe is calm, with a cozy purple couch, fireplace, and the words “you are loved” painted on the wall. Settle in with a cardamom rose latte or a London Fog (steamed milk, Earl Grey tea, housemade vanilla). A small selection of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, toasts and smoothies are available if you’re hungry. facebook.com/merciescoffee