John & Jenn jacket via Shopbop’s store, “Bop” // Aritzia tee // Zara jeans // DV Dolce Vita shoes // Mansur Gavriel bag // Ray-Ban sunglasses // Stella & Dot bracelet // all other jewelry by etc…
You may have noticed that I had fellow fashionistas Deja and Emily covering this past NYFW for me for Dear Andi and you may have also noticed a lot of my instagram posts about cheese curd and other notable Mid-Western things.
When I told people I was styling back to back photoshoots for Lands’ End over in Wisconsin for couple of weeks, they seemed to feel sorry for me for leaving the excitement in New York. Little did they know that I was having fun exploring my new home away from home, Madison—filled with history, artisanal food and some of the best shopping around.
Here’s what I found and should give you reason to check out this surprisingly hip and fashionable city:
1. The Farmers Market
Every early Saturday morning, the downtown square gets transformed into possibly the biggest farmers market I’ve ever seen with over 200 vendors surrounding the capitol building. I stocked up on a bag of fresh fruit for the week that beat any produce I’ve found in New York and sampled more cheese curd than I ever imagined. Most of the surrounding restaurants source from these nearby farms and the locals seemed to do all of their grocery shopping here.
2. The Wisconsin State Capitol Building
Modeled after the DC capitol, but 3 feet shorter, it’s a less hectic and beautiful way to take in all of downtown Madison. The interior’s ornate details are well-preserved and you can climb up to the top to observe a 360 view of the city (and pose casually in front of it like I did).
3. Biking/Walking/Running Along The Lakes
It’s not what you picture when you think of Wisconsin, huh? Insanely fit folk exercising along the water, but Madison was filled with some of the most athletic people, including those competing in the Iron Man competition while I was there.
Grab a B-Cycle from the city’s bike sharing program (similar to New York’s Citi Bike) and cruise along the city’s surrounding lakes.
4. Shop ‘Til You Drop (or spend all of your earnings)
When I wasn’t spending all of my earnings at the Lands’ End company store in Dodgeville, I had a little spree in Madison—especially at Shopbop‘s brick and mortar location, Bop, where you can score designer clothes that were used on their e-commerce site at a discounted prices. Also not to be missed were Iona, which carried some of my favorite indie designers like K/LLER, Catbird, Raquel Allegra and Timo Weiland, as well as the gorgeous men’s shop, Context, where I wanted everything for me, including a vintage shirt that I ended up buying.
5. Eat Your Way Through The City
Of my two weeks in this city, I spent most of my time there eating it seemed. You can’t blame me once you check out some of the best restaurants there, which rivaled some of the best in my own foodie neighborhood in Brooklyn. This is perhaps why all of the locals work out so much.
Merchant is my go-to spot (which locals told me is the most “Brooklyn-y” of all there) because you can’t go wrong with any of the food, the half priced bottles of wine on Wednesday nights and those fried cheese curds will win you over if nothing else.
Some of the locals raved that Grampa’s is the best pizza in the Mid-West and I scoffed, being a New Yorker I know my pizza, but they were right. It was better than most in New York even. The spicy pizza with honey is special and my favorite was a make-your-own version topped with truffle oil. Vegan and gluten-free options make this place one of everyone’s favorites.
Sardine (pictured above) was how brunch should be. Overlooking the lake, this fish-centric cuisine was is one of the top restaurants in Madison because of its culinary masterpieces made from locally sourced ingredients and its old school, well designed atmosphere in the raw space of historical Machinery Row.
Graze is like one of those Portlandia sketches where you can find out where every ingredient came from and the menu will direct you to one of the many local farms the restaurant sources from, it’s that local and fresh, down to even the beer menu.
Tornado Club is one of those spots that transforms you to another era as you sip on a martini at the bar (highly recommended) lined with wood paneled walls and cozy nail head adorned leather bar stools. If you’re a carnivore, the steaks are said to be a treat, but the wedge salad and fish dishes are also equally raved about.