By Kevin Revolinski | Photography by Hillary SchaveOnce a mainstay for folks looking for a quick, affordable meal before work, diners remain reliable, serving up delicious meals in a neighborly atmosphere. Grab a booth with friends or find an open stool for counter service and enjoy these six Madison-area favorites.

Note: most of these restaurants only serve breakfast and/or lunch, and some are cash only. Check websites for hours of operation.

C’S RESTAURANT & BAKERY

This Middleton café has been making its own baked goods for nearly 40 years in addition to slinging breakfast daily. C’s complements the usual eggs, omelets, skillets and pancakes with specialties such as the smokehouse breakfast wrap with pulled pork, eggs, onions and tomatoes, served with salsa and cheddar hash browns. They’ve also got four styles of eggs Benedict, and cinnamon roll waffles.

Pick up a freshly-baked Danish, scone, elephant ear, loaf of bread or pie on your way out. csrestaurant.com

WILLALBY’S CAFE

This unpretentious Willy Street spot has a few rows of cozy booths and a dozen fixed stools at the counter. A menu of generously-portioned omelets, skillets and platters includes vegan options, such as biscuits and mushroom gravy. The huge buttermilk pancakes hang over plate edges and have fruit add-ons — banana-walnut is a hot option. Sip a cup of Madison- roasted Just Coffee with your meal. Cash only. facebook.com/willalbyscafe

MICKIES DAIRY BAR

Founded in 1946, the iconic campus- area diner is famed for its malts and shakes, served with that little bit extra in a metal cup on the side. The scramble is a mound of food — eggs plus your choice of breakfast meat (or two veggies) with cheddar and gravy — on top of a mound of yanks, which are fried potatoes.

Lunch items include burgers, open- face sandwiches and a tuna melt with copious amounts of cheese. Traditionalists will appreciate the pork chops, liver and onions, or steak and eggs. With Camp Randall across the street, it’s not a bad start to a Badger game day if you can get in. Cash only. mickiesdairybar.com

FAIR OAKS DINER

The neon sign above the door commands you: EAT. Collectibles from the 1950s scattered around this place lend it a homey, lived-in feel. Fair Oaks’ breakfast menu is solid — eggs, omelets, skillets, pancakes — but the daily specials are worth watching. It may be a spicy skillet, soup of the day, sweet treat or alternative toppings for your French toast. Burgers and sand- wiches round off the lunch options. In season, there are a few seats on the sidewalk and patio. Cash only. facebook.com/eatfoaks

OGDEN’S NORTH STREET DINER

Opened in 2017 in the Eken Park neighborhood, this diner has quickly become a fixture. Many regulars bike or stroll up from nearby and one might wait outside for a spot in the outdoor patio to open up, and it’s worth it. Eggs are local and cage-free, and specials include quiche of the day. Lunch offers a buildable burger, meatloaf and the Owen Miles Proulx — ham, provolone, mayo, red pepper jelly and potato chips on sourdough. Enjoy a cup of Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee with your meal.

THE CURVE

Named for its location just north of the bend in South Park Street, The Curve is the definition of the beloved “greasy spoon.” Nothing is wasted on décor; all of the heart goes into the hearty food. Hefty omelets, served with toast and American fries, compete in size with sprawling pancakes. The house-made corned beef and hash is a specialty, and while most come for breakfast, lunch items include burgers, cold or grilled sandwiches, and soup of the day. Cash only.


This article was originally published in February 2024 on our sister publication, BRAVA Magazine. To find more things to do in the Madison area, visit bravamagazine.com.

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