Cheeseheads. America's Dairyland. Artisan cheesemakers. Wisconsin is known for its dairy and Madison's restaurant and retail relationship with dairy delectables is an itinerary all on its own!
Wisconsin is the only state requiring a license to make cheese or butter—ensuring quality, taste and a true appreciation for dairy. Our stores, restaurants and festivals make Madison a perfect place to learn more about cheese varieties, pairings and styles.
Worth noting is the Dane County Farmers' Market, set up every Saturday on Madison's Capitol Square. The farmers' market is open April through November on Saturdays, and offers a variety of cheese through its many vendors. Stella's hot and spicy cheese bread boasts a true following, so be sure to try this Saturday-morning tradition! Another dairy event popular in Madison is the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest, which pairs local beer with cheeses and showcases Wisconsin's best.
Another great option is Ehlenbach's Cheese Chalet, where you can find more than 300 types of Wisconsin cheese. The chalet has been family-owned and operated for more than 49 years, and is located just ten miles north of Madison. While there, try the Tailgater Cheese Spread, cheese curds, or one of their many cheddars. Family-owned and operated for over 50 years, Bavaria Sausage also specializes in authentic Wisconsin cheeses, including fun shapes like Bucky the Badger and cows.
While in Madison, make sure you visit Fromagination, featuring locally produced, artisan cheese and perfect pairings. Employees are "downright evangelical about cheese and everything that goes with it." Many samples are available and their patio comes with a view of the State Capitol. Two other grocers in town, Metcalfe's Market and Willy St. Co-op, also promote local cheese and have knowledge of the industry. Metcalfe's cheese employees know specific details on the science and are always willing to give suggestions.
WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM!
Our cows are busy day and night making the milk that goes into our world-famous ice cream and dairy.
Make your way to The Nitty Gritty, The Official Birthday Place where you can sing their birthday song and enjoy the Birthday Bonanza, a monster-sized sundae you can share with your whole table!
The Babcock Hall Dairy Plant and Store has a rich history on the UW-Madison campus. Built in 1951, the plant is the oldest university dairy building in the United States and continues to educate food industry students. Try their award-winning ice cream or take home a "Badger Box" of cheese, featuring gouda, Monterey jack, Swiss, and cheddar.
Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream Co. features "genuine super-premium Wisconsin goodness" in more than 90 different flavors. If you want caffeine, try one of their Bang! flavors that add an extra punch. Just don't ask for nutritional information because Chocolate Shoppe employees will tell you to eat carrots!
MADISON'S GOUDA RESTAURANTS
Finding restaurants that serve local cheese is... not hard. Deep-fried cheese curds and Wisconsin beer cheese soup garnished with popcorn can be found at The Old Fashioned Tavern and Restaurant, and the Wisconsin meat and cheese plate at Graze changes daily. The name Tipsy Cow says it all! This downtown restaurant serves fried cheese curds (or goat cheese curds) and a grilled cheese made with a three-year Wisconsin cheddar.
At the upbeat and urban Marigold Kitchen, many of their breakfast, brunch and lunch menu items include local cheese, and Monty's Blue Plate Diner also supports local farms and producers by serving products from vendors including Sassy Cow Creamery and Farmer John's Cheese.
FUN ON THE FARM
For a closer view of everything dairy, head to Sassy Cow Creamery. Learn about life on a third-generation family dairy farm, and get closer than ever to some of Wisconsin’s sassiest cows. Explore the farm – from a state-of-the-art milking carousel and dairy barn – and taste premium milk or ice cream. Meet the sassy cows today.
DAIRY DONE RIGHT
To learn more about our cheesemakers, cheese varieties, and where to buy local products visit Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Wisconsin cheese and dairy products. Their web site features dairy maps, recipes, pairings, and even a page dedicated to macaroni and cheese! Another great resource is our Restaurants page, which can help you find that perfect restaurant or get the scoop on the best ice cream shop. Finally, to learn more about the cows that produce much of our local dairy, visit the World Dairy Expo, Madison's largest annual conference held annually in late September/early October.