Madison, WI Vegetarian restaurants

It was a good year for new restaurants. Here are our favorites.

By Grace Edquist

PHOTO BY MATTHEW ENGELHART

Elevated pub grub at Next Door Brewing on the east side.

The restaurant industry is tough. Tougher still is getting on your feet the first year in business. Despite the challenges, the year 2013 was a good one for new food, marked by new-to-Madison ethnic cuisine from Venezuela, the Philippines and Morocco and welcome additions to the microbrewery and barbeque scenes. We witnessed the opening of one of the most buzzed-about restaurants in years, and added another coffee and sandwich shop to the local lineup. While many restaurants came and went this year, the following twenty-one won us over, proving that no matter how high the restaurant-to-resident ratio grows in this food-loving city, there’s always room for one more.

2439 Atwood Ave., 729-3683
It may be a brewery, but Next Door’s food offerings deserve just as much credit as the suds. Most menu items are made in-house and sourced locally, right down to the sauce. It doesn’t hurt that chef Kevin Rikli has some serious street cred, having put in time at Captain Bill’s, Nostrano and most recently Tempest Oyster Bar. We recommend the yam crisps appetizer, a burger or the veggie tostadas. $

Novanta
8452 Old Sauk Rd., Middleton, 831-7740
Don’t be misled by the no-frills interior. This place has some seriously good Italian grub. Co-owned by Cafe Porta Alba owner Vince Pugliese and chef Nick Mattioli, Novanta churns out Neapolitan pizza, salads, pastas and paninis. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t hit up the fresh mozzarella bar. You get your choice of house-made Wisconsin cow, Italian buffalo or Italian smoked buffalo mozzarella, plus accouterments ranging from prosciutto to pesto and cherry tomatoes to spicy salami. $

PHOTO BY LAUREN RICHARDS

Pasta Nuovo
1900 Cayunga St., Ste. 101, Middleton, 821-4700
Out with Tutto and in with Nuovo—this new Italian bistro took the former’s Middleton digs this summer. With a warm but expansive interior, Pasta Nuovo is fitting for both date night and group outings. Traditional Italian fare gets a facelift with lighter entrées and modern presentation. Pay special attention to the wood-fired flatbreads and the special pasta dish of the night. Most items are made with local and, when possible, organic ingredients. $$

Paul’s Pel’meni
203 W. Gorham St., 354-1713
So simple but so good, the dumplings at Paul’s Pel’meni are the stuff of comfort. A second coming of the mid-2000s State Street restaurant called simply Pel’meni, this newly opened outpost offers just two kinds of Russian dumplings—potato and beef. Choose one or get a mix, but do yourself a favor and order “the works” on top. The blend of curry powder, cilantro and sweet chili sauce adds flavor and punch, but sour cream on the side provides cool respite. Let the pel’meni mania continue. $

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Q&A

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What are the best vegetarian restaurants in the US?

The best vegetarian restaurants in the US are somewhat a matter of opinion. Some of the top rated restaurants include Angelica Kitchen and Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles.