Madison doesn’t have a lot of Southern-inspired restaurants. You’re more apt to find cheese curds here than chittlins; pretzels more than pimento cheese; hopped-up beer over sides of hoppin’ john.
Yes, there’s Cracker Barrel, Popeye’s, and Chick-fil-A, but, thankfully, there are a handful of local restaurants in the area serving up good ol’ fashioned soul food, barbecue, and New Orleans favorites.
House of Flavas, 4903 Commercial Ave., Madison
Tucked inside an east side gas station is a Chicago-infused soul food restaurant. Owned by Jodie Jefferson, the fried chicken and fried fish meals are bestsellers.
Classic dish: Catfish dinner
New twist: Swamp punch
Marie’s Soul Food, 1637 Monroe St., Madison
“We’ll make you feel like family,” its slogan says, and the family will not go hungry. With pork rib meals, baked chicken, collard greens, and more, the eatery has been dishing comfort food since 2018.
Classic dish: Baked macaroni and cheese
New twist: A late night menu on Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
North of the Bayou, 802 Atlas Ave., Madison
With a goal to “bring the world together,” the family-owned Cajun restaurant serves up all the classics in its spacious location.
Classic dish: Étouffée
New twist: Jambalaya chimichanga
Primal ‘Cue, 836 Grove St., Sun Prairie
Primed to heat up Madison’s barbecue scene, Sun Prairie’s new Primal ‘Cue has got juicy brisket and fall-off-the-bone ribs.
Classic dish: St. Louis-style ribs
New twist: Bourbon apples
Rue Bourre, 4692 Cottage Grove Rd., Madison
Madison’s newest entry to the Cajun food scene opened in late October. Owner Rebekah Ulrich, who grew up in NOLA, learned to cook from her mother.
Classic dish: Shrimp and grits
New twist: Voodoo egg rolls
Smoky Jon’s, 236 Packers Ave., Madison
It’s been in Madison for over 40 years, winning numerous world and national barbecue championships. The establishment has brisket, hot links, ribs, and paper towels to clean your fingers.
Classic dish: Smoked chopped pork shoulder dinner
New twist: Sugar fried biscuits