Four Artful Summer Itineraries

By Jessica Steinhoff | Photography by Shalicia Johnson

A Musical Odyssey

Greet the day with a hot cortado and a pesto-laced Treehugger sandwich at Crescendo Espresso Bar on Monroe Street. Co-owned by local musician Cait Sirianni, it’s also a fun place to catch an acoustic show. After your meal, zip across the street for crate-digging at Strictly Discs, whose selection of vinyl is a bona fide treasure trove.

For afternoon sustenance, visit the Surco food cart on Library Mall, which serves a host of Peruvian delights. Try the aji de gallina, pulled chicken in aji amarillo pepper sauce with jasmine rice, boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs and passion fruit dressing. Then imbibe the brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda at “Hamilton,” which will turn Overture Hall’s stage into a living history lesson about beating the odds and questioning the hierarchies that shape our society (Aug. 9-21).

Afterward, check out The Bur Oak on Winnebago Street, which offers live music nearly every night of the week. Highlights from the summer concert calendar include innovative synth-jazz duo Anteloper (July 13) and singer-songwriter Michael McDermott (July 15). If you’re eager to catch a particular show, be sure to get your tickets in advance. Feeling peckish? Order a platter of Lao snacks from Ahan, the venue’s excellent in-house restaurant.

An Art Adventure

Start your morning on State Street with a Cool Jamaican, a refreshing iced coffee with a hint of maple syrup. MOKA serves them at its University Book Store location. Then stroll to “Suspended Landscapes: Thread Drawings by Amanda McCavour” at the Chazen Museum of Art (through Sept.11). Large-scale depictions of Wisconsin plants embroider the walls of the Elvehjem Building’s Paige Court in this site-specific installation the museum commissioned for its 50th anniversary.

Next head to Overture Center to admire the new Community Photo Mosaic in the hallway near the Rotunda Lobby. Photos converge to create large pictures illustrating the range of arts attractions the venue offers. Then visit Overture’s Gallery I to view “Iridescent Windows,” an exhibition featuring two artists’ journeys inward (through Sept. 4). Lelia Byron’s paintings explore the fascinating world of dream fragments, while Luisa Fernanda García-Gómez’s colliding patterned prints reflect conflicting expectations for herself and society.

Swing by Milwaukee Street’s Communication for the group art show “Communication: Meaningful Connections,” which examines the ways we forge bonds with others (through Aug. 21), and then build beautiful tacos at Enrique’s Market on Northport Drive. Next stop is Lakeview Library for “Painting Is for Everyone,” a free class helmed by local mural artist Mike Lroy (select Thursdays, see

Finish your day at Dark Horse, a bar and gallery offering Sal’s tomato pies, craft beers and sometimes performance art.

A Date with Creative Movement

Kick off your morning with a yoga class on the outdoor deck at Monona’s Grand Crossing Park (Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m.). It’s part of the city’s new Wellness on the Water series, which runs through September. After yoga, make a beeline for Crema Cafe, which serves brunch every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The blueberry oatcakes with vanilla butter, almonds and maple syrup are a sweet and satisfying start to the day.

Next venture to the Capitol Square to take in the Wisconsin Historical Museum’s “Native Nations and Tribes” exhibit. It’s an engaging look at the dance, art, music and storytelling traditions of Wisconsin’s Native Americans, especially those of the Ho-Chunk people. Then stop at Barriques on West Washington for some wine-browsing and an iced SPORTea, an energizing elixir infused with Siberian ginseng, ginger, potassium and vitamin C.

As you sip your beverage, decide how you’d like to conclude your day. Your first choice is to shimmy ’til the sun sets at Dane Dances! on the Monona Terrace rooftop (Fridays in August, 6-9:30 p.m.). This free, family-friendly series features local bands and DJs. Want to take your moves to new heights? Choose the Intro to Aerial Arts class at Madison Circus Space (Sundays, 10 a.m.; Thursdays, 5 p.m.; Fridays, 5:30 p.m.). Learn to use a dance trapeze, aerial silks or an aerial sling, each of which enables different types of creative movement in the air. The class is open to all fitness levels and body types, and it’s geared toward beginners.

A Culinary Excursion

Celebrate the transformative power of a great meal, starting with a trip to Marigold Kitchen on the Capitol Square. Give your breakfast a Latin spin by ordering the savory braised-chicken chilaquiles and a sweet Cafe Cubano. After breakfast, search for the perfect kitchen accouterments at Orange Tree Imports on Monroe Street, which carries Wisconsin-shaped cheese boards, coasters that feature Madison’s lakes and lots of other goodies. Then find the perfect oil and vinegar for your next salad at Vom Fass on University Avenue. Choices include rosemary extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar.

Next up is a cooking class at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church with chef Joel Olson of Hemmachef. This summer he’s offering classes on international noodles (Aug. 4, 5:30 p.m.), French vegetarian cuisine (Aug. 9, 5:30 p.m.) and more (see to register). Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or a complete novice, this is a terrific opportunity to hone your culinary skills, try some unfamiliar ingredients and connect with people you could invite to a dinner party.

Put a cherry on your day with dinner at Mint Mark — if you can get a reservation. Helmed by veterans of Robin Room and Johnson Public House, this Winnebago Street restaurant is known for inspired dishes that showcase seasonal Wisconsin ingredients. Bold palates are rewarded with fare such as the gnocchi with rapini, black garlic, preserved lemon and cocoa. Another stellar establishment is A Pig in a Fur Coat on Willy Street, where James Beard Award nominee Dan Bonanno channels his love of Mediterranean cuisine into a fine-dining menu that’s both accessible and adventurous. A recent menu included risotto flavored with asparagus, ramps, mushrooms and rebel miel cheese, as well as pheasant confit with cannellini beans, cabbage, cotechino and tomatoes. Bon appétit!

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