Graze and Nostrano Bring More Local Food to the Madison Restaurant Scene

I'll admit that I haven’t been cooking at home much recently. In the past, I blamed this sad occurrence on my busy school or work schedule; I can’t say the same this time. The culprit, you ask? Several new restaurants have popped up in Madison over the past month -- and each of them is boasting a (mostly) locally-sourced menu. Believe me, if you tasted the food, you wouldn’t be cooking at home either! 

I strongly encourage Madison visitors -- in town for this weekend’s Wisconsin Cheese Festival, our last outdoors Dane County Farmer’s Market, or REAP’s Pie Palooza, maybe? -- to visit two of my favorite new restaurants: Graze and Nostrano.


Graze, opened by the renowned owners of L’Etoile restaurant, Tori and Tracy Miller, is a gastropub that takes a new twist on everybody’s favorite comfort foods. Located in the all-glass US Bank Building on the Capitol Square, the restaurant offers a wonderful view at night. The owners encourage customers to make an evening out of “grazing” on a variety of tasty and inventive snacks.

A few friends and I started the evening off by sitting at the bar for a while, washing an appetizer or two down with on one of Wisconsin’s finest beers and Graze’s specialty cocktails. (Hint: Warped Speed Scotch Ale by Lake Louie, Moon Man by New Glarus Brewing Company and the Point Comfort Manhattan are quite nice!) We had absolutely GIGANTIC fried cheese curds featuring Sassy Cow cheese, a vodka batter, and house-made ranch dressing that were, by far, the best I’ve have ever tasted (and you better believe I’ve tried my fair share of cheese curds growing up in Wisconsin).

The main courses were delicious as well. I munched on the Moules Frites and sampled the Pub Burger, Croque Madame (absolutely sinful!), and the Fried Chicken and Waffles with spiced butter.   Even after a week of consideration, I still can’t pick a favorite. I left Graze with a very happy, and very full, stomach.


Nostrano, which means “ours” in Italian, offers a more upscale -- and equally delicious -- dining experience. Tim and Elizabeth Dahl, two pastry chefs previously living in Chicago, opened the restaurant in the beginning of October, creating homemade dishes that feature ingredients grown in the garden at Tim’s parents' business nearby.

As a self-proclaimed dessert-lover, my expectations for Nostrano’s opening was high. With only seven appetizers and eight entrees on the menu, I had a surprisingly difficult time choosing my meal, as everything sounded divine. I settled on a hearty and comforting bowl of Whole Wheat Pappardelle with lamb ragú, harissa, preserved meyer lemon and mint. The dish could have been a bit warmer (a minor error for a brand new restaurant), but the flavors were spot on, especially with the bite from the preserved lemon.

But the star of the meal was the dessert. Like the dinner menu, the desserts are seasonal -- right now they celebrate fall flavors. With options like chestnut crepes, milk chocolate cream with a pumpkin sponge, and salted caramel gelato, I couldn't have made a bad choice. My date and I opted for the Finanziera, which includes a brown butter cake, roasted pears, hickory nuts and maple gelato. It was, in a word, heavenly -- a review I don’t often give restaurant desserts. 

1 S. Pinckney Street

Madison, WI 53703

Monday-Thursday: 11am-9pm

Friday: 9:30am-Midnight
Saturday: 9:30am-Midnight

Sunday: 9:30am-2:30pm

111 S. Hamilton Street
Madison, WI 53703

Monday-Wednesday: 5pm-9pm
Thursday-Saturday: 5pm-10pm


Katy Radtke is a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Growing up in a foodie family spurred her love for cooking (and eating!) tasty food, while her time in Madison has prompted her deep passion for the sustainable and local food movement. When Katy isn’t baking up one of her famous pies, she enjoys doing yoga, perusing one of Madison’s many farmer’s markets, drinking tea at the coffee shop around the corner, and traveling. You can see more of Katy’s work on her blog, A Blissful Bite.