Late Night Menus in Madison

A new take on the midnight snack, Madison’s late night menus are sure to make your stomach growl.

By Lauren Anders | Photos by Devin Kelly

One might think that the only restaurants that are open on a late Friday or Saturday night would be the stereotypical pizza places. For college kids, this means sitting on the floors of our tiled dorms or slightly uncomfortable futons, grabbing a piece of pizza while mastering the art of texting and eating.

Although pizza is always there to “hit the spot” for our late night cravings, are we only eating it because it’s available?  What if there was a way to have quality food and a fun atmosphere for a great price; at any time in Madison? Your prayers have been answered.

Recently many restaurants have started featuring late night menus; just because the dinner menu is no longer available doesn’t necessarily mean the kitchen is closed. I decided to try late night eats out for myself and went to Tornado Steakhouse, which sits just south of the Capitol building. 

Walking in, the wood paneling, ceiling beams, and painted words of wisdom were all carried throughout the dining room and bar. Along with an old-timey interior, the restaurant serves a traditional steakhouse menu. I was amazed to notice the array of diners and not one phone out during a meal. The only “emojis” visible were the legitimate facial expressions on people’s faces, simply enjoying each other’s company. This might sound old-school but as someone who values face-to-face conversation, I knew this was going to be an experience.  

The late night menu is open from 10pm to 1am and it does not disappoint. I sat down with General Manager, Dale Bartnick of Tornado Steakhouse to understand the creativity behind the late night menu.

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“Lots of our guests asked for us to stay open later. Our thinking behind our late night menu was to continue, keeping things light but making you full,” Bartnick said.

Dishes like the Steak Sandwich, Sirloin Steak and Coquille St. Jacques are their biggest hits.

“We have something for everyone. Whether a UW student or a Madison local, there is something for everyone at a cheaper price and much better than the cold pizza many people tend to settle with.”

Of course, I had to see for what all the rave was about. I decided to try the Steak Sandwich — a beef tenderloin served au jus with sauteéd onion & horseradish cream. The steak was tender and juicy, the onions were sweet to balance out the little kick of horseradish, and the fresh bun made each bite better than the last. Also, for a substantial portion, it was $9.00 – I was tempted to order two more for the ride home. What set the bar even higher on this meal was the service and the atmosphere, nothing but friendly and attentive. Service makes a restaurant go from great to exceptional. Although the food might be spectacular, the service is what makes your experience memorable.

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“You aren’t going to be stuffing your face from 10pm to 1am with this much class anywhere else,” said a customer.

If you’re looking for some other late night menus across Madison, here are a couple for you to write down for your culinary bucket list:

  1. Forequarter:  A trendy restaurant featuring seasonal menus. Late night menus are Friday and Saturday from 10pm to 1am and has Cheeseburgers, to Tacos, and even Vegetable Crudité.
  2. Tavernakaya: This late night menu is available on Fridays and Saturdays from 10pm to 1am. Some featured items are Pork Buns, Spicy Tuna Pizza, and Tempura Cheese Curds. Their “tapas” style (little plates to share) gives off their upscale but casual Asian restaurant vibe.
  3. Tempest Oyster Bar: If you’re craving seafood, you’ll be sure to check out this sleek, stylish restaurant with live music on weekends.The late night menu has some of the old school classics: Shrimp or Oyster Po’boy, Oysters Rockefeller, and finger foods such as Shrimp Cocktail or just some classic fries.  

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