UW-Madison commencement is this weekend. While you’re stressing over how to decorate your mortarboard, don’t neglect your parents who traveled here for the ceremony. The very least you can do is take them out to eat. There’s a restaurant to fit every parent’s style, so use this handy guide to make a recommendation.
If your parents are Deadheads or are planning a big trip to India when they retire, chances are they probably already know what momo are. Take them to Himal Chuli for Nepalese cuisine like lamb sikar, daal and roti, and the aforementioned momo dumplings with tomato and cilantro aachar for dipping.
Honorable mention: Willy Street Co-op. Your peace and love parents won’t mind taking food to go for eating where the gods intended: outdoors.
Meat and potatoes parents
To experience meat in surprising new ways, try A Pig in a Fur Coat. It’s impossible to resist the poutine made with duck fat fries, cheese curds and foie gras. Lamb carpaccio with corn shoots and salsa verde is a delicious variation on the classic beef version of the dish. And porchetta will satisfy any pork aficionado.
Honorable mention: Rare Steakhouse. Because your Iowa-born parents will never, ever turn down a 22-ounce dry-aged ribeye.
Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry has been grilling up burgers at various locations near campus since 1974, so chances are your parents loved it too. There’s even an alumni burger on the menu with cheddar, onion and creamy steak sauce that you know your dad will get a kick out of ordering.
Honorable mention: Mickie’s Dairy Bar. If we have to explain this one, how did you even get through school here?
Parents who want the full Wisconsin experience
You can pretend you’re up north while still having a view of the Capitol at The Old Fashioned. Your not-from-here parents will definitely want to experience an old fashioned (or four), some fried cheese curds, and a brat. Grab the No. 6 lazy susan for cheese, sausage, pickles and more cheese.
Honorable mention: Tornado Steak House. It’s hard to beat a classic Wisconsin supper club.
The view from The Madison Blind, the rooftop restaurant on the Graduate hotel, inspires everyone to whip out their camera (cell phone or otherwise). Plus, huge windows offer plenty of natural light for great food photos. A new, casual menu is small but full of classics like shrimp cocktail, spicy crispy chicken sandwich with kimchi, and a New York strip steak with duck fat fried fingerling potatoes.
Honorable mention: Fresco. Sitting on top of MMoCA, the urban view of State St. and the Orpheum Theater sign is lovely.
Special diet parents
If your parents are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or any combination thereof, head to Everly. The menu is littered with shorthand signaling special diet accommodations, including plenty of options that are vegan and gluten sensitive, like a So-Cal grain bowl with quinoa, oats, kale, sprouts and avocado.
Honorable mention: Green Owl Cafe. This vegetarian and vegan restaurant goes way beyond the typical Indian food with dishes like vegan schnitzel and pasta alfredo.
A step above the familiar east coast red sauce joint, Osteria Papavero is one of the best Italian restaurants in Madison. Order the verdure antipasti, which comes with three rotating vegetable selections, like tomato braised okra. Any pasta with seafood is a sure bet, like egg tagliatelle with blue crab, tomatoes, chile and cream.
Honorable mention: Gotham Bagels. No New Yorker can resist a hand rolled bagel with honey and tart cherry cream cheese.
Parents who just want you to be happy
If you’ve got the kind of parents who force you to choose a spot without any kind of input, then Ian’s Pizza it is. Because if you’re moving back home 300 miles away, you’re going to want one last taste of smokey the bandit or mac and cheese. It’s not fancy, but sharing your late-night happy place with your parents might be kind of fun.
Honorable mention: State Street Brats. Similarly, you’re going to crave those red brats every time you watch a Badger game on TV now.
If money is no object, then congratulations, you’re dining at L’Etoile. You can order a la carte, but you might as well go for broke and order the (well worth it) seven-course tasting menu instead. You’ll get gorgeous food, impeccable service and the chance to brag to everyone at home that you’ve eaten at the best restaurant in Madison.
Honorable mention: There is none. Real baller parents will accept no substitute to L’Etoile. Hopefully you made reservations already.