The Obvious: Micky’s Dairy Bar
The clear winner in breakfast has to be Micky’s Dairy Bar, the most well-liked breakfast place in town, known for its milkshakes and its ‘trapped in the past’ atmosphere. At the intersection of Regent and Monroe, this diner is right by the stadium, and so it will be packed like a sardine can on Football Saturdays. The meals run under $10 a person, including the amazing milkshake. But, don’t forget cash because this place has yet to upgrade to a credit card machine. That’s because, it has yet to upgrade anything.
The biggest draw to this diner is not the food, it’s the atmosphere. The façade, the menu above the bar, even the paint job, they all look like they are original to the 1950’s. They don’t even take cards. When you walk in, you might even wonder if they had purposely made it look aged, but you’d be wrong. The diner has been kept to look the same since the current owner bought it. To this day, there have been few additions, such as an ATM. People don’t seem to mind.
The (Close) Runner Up: Monty’s Blue Plate Diner
If you are looking for something a little less crowded, you probably aren’t going to find it here. Monty’s tends to be just like Micky’s, but without the dated decor. The biggest difference between the two is location. Monty’s is right across the street from the Barrymore theatre in the Atwood neighborhood. Although it is very accessible, as it is on a major bike path and bus route, many people never make it to this part of town.
Though this place is known for breakfast, there is one thing that keeps people coming back, mostly for dinner. That’s the Meatloaf of the Gods. There is quite possibly no better meatloaf on earth. But, don’t tell your mother that. She will definitely be jealous.
The Newcomer: Short Stack Eats
Located on State Street at the intersection of Johnson and Henry, is the brand new Short Stack Eats. This modern looking breakfast café brings two new things to the array of Madison breakfast hotspots. Open from 7am on Thursdays to 11pm on Sundays, this State Street breakfast place is open ALL weekend. That’s right! All weekend! Look out Ian’s Pizza. There is some big late night food competition in town.
But, regardless of the day, the other thing that this breakfast place does is a blind special. If you can put your food anxiety aside and wait for the surprise, the chef will make you the weekly special of his choosing. These specials for only $6.95 aren’t even on the regular menu. When I went for the first time, my blind special was Piña Colada Pancakes. Pineapples, strawberries, and coconut in a pancake, topped with their amazing whipped-cream like butter. They were by far the best pancakes I’ve ever had.
The Unheard-of: The Curve
If you are looking for something a little more ‘off the beaten path’, then you have to try The Curve. This divey, cash only, old-school diner is located right across the street from the St. Mary’s parking garage on Park, and is just a block away from a beautiful walk on Lake Monona. Here, the breakfast is cheap, and the coffee is bottomless.
Though this place doesn’t have the food that many other breakfast places have, it is cheap, and it has character. In fact, on some mornings, The Curve looks like it could be a remake of the sitcom Cheers in a breakfast diner. Almost everyone who goes to this place seems to have been here at least ten times before. The waitress, who is the only waitress, is familiar with them all, and even jokes to them about their food. The last time I was there, she joked to a customer about having scraped his butter off his plate. “Eat your butter,” she said in a geographically indistinct fake accent. The whole table laughed. Later she came back to offer the table water. When they expressed a desire for it, she told them the lake was out back. You just don’t get waitresses with that kind of humor anywhere else.
The Alternative: Indie Coffee
The last breakfast to make it to the list is the famous Indie Coffee waffle located near the intersection of Mils and Regent. When entering, you might not think that there is quality breakfast served at this coffee shop, but you’d be wrong. While they don’t have much else for a real cooked breakfast, they have a variety of delectable waffles. There is whipped cream, berries, chocolate and more. Come on Waffle Wednesdays and get a dollar off your waffle when you also buy a drink. As a coffee drinker, that sounds like a free dollar to me.
The atmosphere of this building seems to change with the seasons. In the winter, it is so cozy and warm that the windows fog from the heat. You have to rub the glass to see the winter wonderland outside. Then, once summer comes, the patio out back offers an even more intimate atmosphere. Still, if all of that doesn’t get you, this coffee shop also holds regular concerts, including a regular, must-see bluegrass series.