The Best Pre-Show and Post-Show Spots in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, is one of the Midwest’s great college towns, a hub for sports and culture that caters to entertainment fans of all kinds. Whether you’re into checking out tunes at a club or theater, or taking in University of Wisconsin–Madison sporting events, the city also suffers no shortage of delicious bars and restaurants for both pre- and post-show gatherings.


Bars & Restaurants Near Kohl Center

The Kohl Center itself boasts an array of tasty food options, including local favorites such as Wisconsin-style mac & cheese and Babcock ice cream. However, since the 17,000-seat-plus venue is located on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, there are plenty of delicious options nearby for pre- and post-game dining. 

  • Head a block north of the venue to find the Madison outpost of The Nitty Gritty (223 N. Frances St.). While the beloved restaurant’s birthday celebrations are legendary — patrons get a free drink in a festive mug and a balloon, among other things — the spot also prides itself on offering a huge menu featuring hearty bar food made with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Go one more block north and you’ll discover a cluster of good eateries, highlighted by another Madison food tradition, Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry (317 N. Frances St.). Indulge in their mouthwatering burger menu, ever-rotating menu of craft beers and sweets such as fudge-bottom pie. 
  • Fans can grab no-frills bar food and drinks at Vintage Spirits & Grill (529 University Ave.), which has a weekday happy hour and an extensive beer and cocktail list, and late-night nosh at Ian’s Pizza by the Slice (319 N. Frances St.).


Bars & Restaurants Near The Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center

The Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center offers showgoers plenty of drinks and concessions options, although you’ll have to drive a bit to catch a non-arena meal at either one of the nearby area hotels, or at restaurants located north of the venue.

  • Splurge on a feast at the nearly century-old Wonder Bar Steakhouse (222 E. Olin Ave.), which boasts a throwback menu full of steaks, seafood and old-fashioned cocktails, as well as an impressive wine list with bottles at all price points.
  • Anyone craving authentic Mexican food should make a pre-event beeline for Taqueria Guadalajara (1033 S. Park St.) and its menu full of filling tacos, burritos and tortas.
  • Asian food fans are also in luck, as there are also several casual spaces to grab a meal, including the Chinese-focused Jade Garden (1109 S. Park St.) and Double 10 Mini Hot Pot (1272 S Park St.), and the Japanese restaurant Ramen Station (1124 S. Park St.).


Bars & Restaurants Near The Sylvee

The Sylvee, a music hall-style venue that opened in 2018, is located downtown on the same street as plenty of bars and eateries.

  • Located a stone’s throw from the venue is Tangent (803 E. Washington Ave.), a restaurant helmed by the folks behind the beloved local beer outpost Vintage Brewing Company. Tangent offers a hearty mix of salads, sandwiches and seafood.
  • Head about a block away and you’ll find the Bos Meadery Tasting Room (849 E. Washington Ave.), where you can unwind with the aid of their many house-made libations.  
  • Just as close is the Robinia Courtyard (829 E. Washington Ave.) which features several eateries in one cozy location, complete with idyllic outdoor seating.
  • Grab a pre-show drink at The Black Locust Cafe, a sleek and airy café serving beer, coffee and kombucha at night, or MadisonTap, which proudly serves beer sourced only from the Badger state.
  • About a block away in the other direction from the Sylvee is another cluster of places to grab a drink and bite to eat, including The Brink Lounge (701 E. Washington Ave.), which boasts a wine- and pizza-heavy menu, and the Brass Ring Bar & Restaurant (701 E. Washington Ave.), which serves up casual bar food.


Bars & Restaurants Near Orpheum Theater

The historic Orpheum Theater — a former vaudeville and movie theater that offers snacks such as pizza, popcorn and candy — is located in a bustling downtown area with plenty of dining and drinking options.

  • Those looking for a decent meal at reasonable prices need only visit Nick’s Restaurant and Lounge (226 State St.), a family-owned joint opened in 1959 that specializes in diner food with a heavy Greek influence. For an even quicker bite, there’s the nearby carb-lover’s heaven Noodles & Co. (232 State St.).
  • Having a pre-show beer (or a nightcap) at the venerable Paul’s Club (204 State St.) is an experience, as the low-key, no-frills joint is known for its unusual decor: a live tree.
  • Cask & Ale (212 State St.), a whiskey lounge with more than 300 options and interesting craft beer, is another solid choice for a drink.
  • Head west on State Street away from the Orpheum, and you’ll immediately come across an impressive slate of eateries focused on global cuisines, including the veggie-friendly Nepalese restaurant Himal Chuli (318 State St.), as well as Taiwan Little Eats (320 State St.) and Crandall’s Peruvian Bistro (334 State St.)

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