Each year, I always look forward to my family visiting me at school. There is nothing I love more than showing my parents around my favorite place, spending quality time with them, and giving them a sneak peak into my everyday life. And while it is always a joy having my family meet my friends and taking them to my favorite Madison spots, we most importantly get to eat the best meals.

However, this often creates added stress because restaurants book up on family weekends before you know it, leading to the inevitable scramble of finding somewhere else to eat besides Rare Steakhouse or Red.

To help you feel more prepared for the next time your family or friends come to visit, here is a guide to a few more must-try restaurants if you can’t get a reservation anywhere!

1. Bartaco

First up is my favorite, Bartaco. Bartaco is located in the Hilldale Mall and is a great sit-down restaurant with upscale, Mexican/American street food. While the restaurant does not take reservations, you can add yourself to the daily online waitlist to be seated. Not only do they have great service and friendly staff, that are extremely accommodating, but they have some of the most delicious drinks and food as well.

Sophia Cohen

My personal favorite menu items are the guac + chips, spiced chicken verde tacos, and the Bartaco margarita (get it spicy)! This eclectic and modern restaurant is not likely to disappoint with its great atmosphere and coastal vibe.

464 N Midvale Blvd, Madison, WI

2. Ha Long Bay

For those who don’t know, Ha Long Bay is a Vietnamese and Thai Restaurant located in Madison. This restaurant is often overlooked when people think of family weekend, but Ha Long Bay’s extensive menu has something for everyone, ranging from Vegetable Egg Rolls to Sesame Chicken to Pad See Eew.

 If you give them a call with a few days’ notice, they’ll likely be able to accommodate you and your party. Whenever my friends and I are in the mood to go out for a more casual dinner, Ha Long Bay is always our first choice!

1353 Williamson St., Madison, WI

3. Takumi

As a sushi lover, I always look forward to dining at Takumi. Not only does the restaurant have amazing sushi, but they also have a hibachi option. The restaurant offers a private hibachi dining room as well, for those looking to dine with a larger party.

Jamie Vacca

Takumi’s food has consistently been amazing and there are still so many special rolls I want to try. My favorites are the Kiss of Fire Roll and the Spicy Girl Roll. With its fresh fish, delicious hibachi and an enjoyable atmosphere, Takumi is a must!

Click on the post above to read more about Takumi and check out @spoon_wisco!

4222 E Towne Blvd, Madison, WI

4. Ian's Pizza

If you live in Madison, you have surely heard of the iconic Ian’s Pizza, which has two of its locations near campus. Although it is no fancy meal, their build your own salads and creative pizza slices hit the spot every time. I always recommend the Drunken Ravioli Pizza, but of course there is also their signature Mac n’ Cheese slice.

Ashley Sonnenberg

Whenever my family is in town, and we can’t decide where to eat, Ian’s is our first choice. Both locations have tables to sit at and are the ideal spots for a quick bite or takeout.

100 State St, Madison, WI

319 N Frances St, Madison, WI
5. Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.

Great Dane is a chain with restaurants throughout Wisconsin, the closest one being in the Hilldale Mall. Their pub food is delicious, and their casual dining atmosphere will surely satisfy you and your family. The restaurant does take reservations, though it is not required to get a spot!

Ashley Sonnenberg

After a game day, nothing sounds more appetizing than a giant pretzel, boneless wings, the ginger soy glazed salmon salad, and my favorite, the Mediterranean falafel bowl. There is almost always an option for everyone at the table, with the large variety of items they offer!

357 Price Pl, Madison, WI

6. Dotty Dumpling's Dowry 

And finally, if you are looking to indulge in the best bar food and hamburgers around, look no further than Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry. Dotty’s doesn’t take reservations, but it is undoubtedly one of my favorite restaurants in Madison. The absolute must-haves on the menu are the fried pickles, cheese curds, and mac and cheese wedges.

Whether you are looking to dine in or takeout with visitors on a busy weekend, keep these restaurants in the back of your mind to avoid the inevitable horrors when common restaurants get booked up!

317 N Frances St, Madison, WI