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Capital City Food Tours defines Madison, one nosh at a time

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Brittany Hammer met us outside of The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, located downtown in Madison, Wisconsin. Hammer, owner and founder of Capital City Food Tours, was leading our group on her company’s popular Around the Square Tour. 

Side of fried cheese curds and a sample of beer at Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus in Madison, Wisconsin

Photo: Capital City Food Tours Side of fried cheese curds and a sample of beer, Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus, Madison, Wis.

“Food has the ability to define a city,” Hammer said. “Food tours offer a new and telling experience everywhere you go, and Madison is no exception.”

The Around the Square Tour is less than 2 miles in length with plenty of mini-pauses during the three-hour tour. Along the way, Hammer shared lighthearted anecdotes about the capital and information about its wealth of mid-19th-century architecture.

Hammer’s company offers two standard tours plus an option for a private excursion that can be customized for groups. Every scheduled stop includes genuine Midwestern hospitality mixed with locally sourced and prepped food.  

“Actually, we eat our way across town and (by doing so) support local restaurants,” Hammer said.

Stepping inside The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, we descended to the lower level, which is a favorite room for groups. Tables were set, and the wait staff readied. Our sample dish was being prepared — the Brat & Bacon Pretzel Burger.  Both the bun and mustard are made in-house; the meat is locally sourced. The flavors of the burger and the accompanying glass of beer set a high bar for the rest of the tour.

As we walked and listened, we made our way to Gotham NYC Bagels and Eats Restaurant, where a selection of hand-rolled, New York-style bagels and spreads awaited. There were both sweet (think cream cheese and fruit) and savory a la pastrami or lox with a thick schmear, plus a few words from a bagel maker.

We hit the sweet spot at Kilwins, a legendary fudge maker and chocolatier; Kilwins is on the opposite side of the Square from Gotham’s. A warm greeting from the manager and bite-size pieces of sea salt caramel fudge and peanut butter fudge did not disappoint. And the treats provided energy to get to our next stop, Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus. 

Located in a late 19th-century building complete with a pressed ceiling, Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus brews on-site and serves a Wisconsin-favorite side dish — deep-fried cheese curds. 

Leaving the tap haus, we spent a few minutes of free time exploring the Capitol’s rotunda before stopping for a group photo. Then, we headed toward DLUX.

Trendy DLUX is as famous for its burgers as its house-made milkshakes.  Hammer often steps up to help serve, which she did at DLUX, arriving at the table with a tray of peanut butter and pretzel milkshakes. The DLUX shakes were an excellent choice to end our tour on a crazy good note.

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Mary Lu Laffey, Contributor

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