Chicago is great. Everyone told me it would be… “Oh you’ll love it.” “There’s so much to do!” “Chicago is SO great.” And it is. It’s got a lot going for it that I love–an unparalleled midwestern food scene, incredible people, and an undeniably alluring gritty underbelly. That said, having just left for the first time since making the initial move, I have realized this…
Chicago is no Madison, Wisconsin.
And how could it be? Madison is an inexplicable combination of things that just make it AWESOME. First of all, I walked around outside last night and felt SAFE. Isolated evidence to the contrary, I actually can stroll around Madison and be fairly certain that I won’t be accidentally clipped with stray gunfire.
But what really makes Madison great isn’t the side effects of a relatively small city. As I type, I’m sitting at The Fountain, slurping on a Bloody Mary (which came complete with full dressings–sausage, cheese, pepperoncini, pickle spear, and a fat olive–as well as a beer chaser of my choice) and chowing on some better than average sweet potato fries. This place is dingy. Neon lights grace the bar. One lady is wearing sweat pants. Definitely nothing like a Chicago bar.
This bar is characteristically Wisconsin, and not just because of the mixed decor and the relaxed clientele. The bacon on my BLT came from a local meat company and my fries were made in-house. Over three quarters of the beers on tap were brewed within 100 miles of here… and they don’t cost an arm and a leg. The menu actually lists over a dozen Wisconsin farms from which The Fountain sources almost all of their food.
This classic Wisco-combo–quality, and local products at a good price without any ounce of pretension–is a true rarity beyond our borders. In Wisconsin, promoting the local goods isn’t an exception and it isn’t necessarily press-worthy, partly because all the awesome food and drink made in Wisconsin makes doing so super easy. For this reliable, unpretentious awesomeness, Madison, I salute you.