Hoo’s up for another day in Madison? Green Owl & other delights

Green Owl - vegetarian restaurant in Madison, WisconsinFor our final day in Madison, we started with brunch at the Green Owl, the city’s lone vegetarian restaurant.  We’d heard the evening before at the Vegan Fest after-party that Green Owl has a separate brunch menu that includes such things as French toast bread pudding and biscuits and gravy.  We were intrigued.  Truth be told, this wouldn’t be our first jaunt to Green Owl.  This was to be our third visit… in one long weekend.  In our defense, the menu is quite varied, the outdoor seating is lovely, and there are loads of vegan options.  Plus, their owl design elements are downright adorable.

Here’s a rundown on some of the things we had over our days there.  Let’s start with dessert first…

A review of vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinFor dessert, all of the options were vegan.  We shared the banana cream pie and chocolate lava cake.  The banana and chocolate complemented each other beautifully, and each was lovely on its own as well.  The banana was creamy and light, while the chocolate was dense, rich, and melty.  It was just the way that you want a molten chocolate cake to be.

A review of vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinOne of the nights they had a vegetarian and vegan fish fry as the special.  I asked the server what was used to make the patties, and she said they were made in-house of tofu.  What really made the patties stand out was the tartar sauce that came with it.  It had a fresh pop of dill flavor that elevated the dish to something special.  It came with a salad, roasted potatoes, and coleslaw.

A review of vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinOnce upon a time I was totally in love with huevos rancheros on top of crisp corn tortillas that gave a delightful crunchy element to this soft and savory dish.  That’s what I had in mind for these Vegan Nuevos Rancheros, but the tortillas that came with the meal seemed to be flour (although it said corn on the menu).  This dish was more akin to an open-faced breakfast burrito.  That said, it was good and spicy, which can be a rarity on brunch menus.  It was topped with black beans, roasted jalapenos, vegan chorizo, Daiya cheddar cheese, non-dairy sour cream, scallions, and avocado.

A review of vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinMy husband had the tofu scramble.  He often jokes that he needs to carry tiny bottles of spices with him when he orders scrambles at restaurants, but luckily there was no need for surreptitious seasoning this time.  It was plenty spicy with sautéed red pepper, onions, mushrooms, and served with a side of rosemary-garlic red potatoes.

After brunch we stopped by the Willy Street Co-op to buy snacks for the road.  I’d heard a lot about this co-op, which has been around since the seventies, has two locations and is a local favorite.  They had a wide selection of produce, frozen goods, and specialty products.

A trip to the University of Wisconsin Arboretum + A review of vegetarian restaurant, The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinWe then set off for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.  It is a varied area with savanna, prairies, wetlands, and open water.  We spent a long time exploring their well-manicured horticultural gardens, where we saw some wild turkeys frolicking in the June sun.

My favorite section had a long bridge leading to a little wooden seating area.  Instead of hovering over a pond or lake, it was a sea of cotton candy-like plants.  They looked like a larger version of cattails that had exploded into plumes.  It was like Dr. Seuss meets a Japanese garden.

A review of Dobra Tea & The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinA review of Dobra Tea & The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinAfter walking for a couple of hours, we were in the mood for a nibble and tea. We ended up at Dobra Tea in the downtown area.  The ambience was quiet  and calming.  There was an elevated area with small pillows for sitting at low tables.  When you’re ready for service, you ring a little bell that’s left at the table.  It keeps the mood very serene.

A review of Dobra Tea & The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinA review of Dobra Tea & The Green Owl - Madison, WisconsinIn addition to a large assortment of tea, they had selection of small bites.  We shared a plate of hummus with vegetables, olives, and each had a salad.  If I were to rate the hummus, it would easily be in my top five favorites.  I’ve never taken the time to make Za’atar to season the top of my hummus, but it made it absolutely outstanding.  Those spices were the first pop on the tongue, bringing everything to life.  There are also locations of Dobra in Maine, North Carolina, and Vermont.

After a lively weekend in Madison, we said goodbye to this quirky and quaint college town.  I’m sure we’ll be back!

Miss a post on Madison?  Check out this one about our first day visiting the downtown area and our second day at the Mad City Vegan Fest.


  1. says

    Wow how did I gain weight just from looking at this food…now I’m going to have to run 1000 laps back and forth over that bridge, but what a beautiful “view from the bridge”. Arthur Miller would be proud.

    • Cadry says

      I know! It was an unusually indulgent weekend! I didn’t realize the results were contagious, though. My apologies! :)

  2. says

    You did manage to pack a lot into a weekend! I’m glad you found the arboretum and Dobra — I thought of Dobra after I’d already sent off the email. I’m partial to another tea house in my neighborhood called Macha Tea House where they serve wonderful rice and veggie bowls. And don’t feel bad about so many return trips to the Green Owl — we go there a lot when we’re in town. Did you get to the Terrace and the Pink Poodle? If you go back to Madison, there are tons more places to visit. :)

    • Cadry says

      The environment at Dobra was really lovely, and Colleen is a huge tea buff so it was a good fit. I’d love to try out Macha Tea House next time, though!

      We didn’t make it to the Terrace, but we did visit the Pink Poodle. I couldn’t believe how huge it was! It’s deceptive from the outside. It just keeps going and going. I can see how there would always be something new to find there.

      Thanks again for all of your suggestions! It seems that Madison is an endless fount of possibilities! :)

  3. says

    Don’t you love it when you find a restaurant with a plethora of vegan options? I don’t blame you for going there 3 times- I would have done the same. All the food looks so tasty, especially the molten lava cake. Good lord!

    I also loved that you were able to see wild turkeys, just doing their thing, at the arboretum. It’s always so refreshing and encouraging when you can see animals thriving in their natural habitat, rather that imprisoned.

    Thank you for sharing, Cadry- as always, your writing is a joy to read!

    • Cadry says

      Yes, I liked how much variety they had in their offerings with nightly specials and a separate brunch menu. One of the more rare finds is a restaurant that offers vegan brunch options, and so I always appreciate that.

      It is always a wonderful breath of fresh air to see animals in the wild, living their lives. We’ve been getting deer with tiny fawns in our yard recently, and I love watching them frolicking in tall grass, jumping through it happily. The only time that turns depressing is later in the year when we hear repeated gunshots being fired. We live near hunting grounds. :(

  4. says

    Mmmmmmmm….. I love the Green Owl. My daughter and I took a class with Cara and learned the secret of the banana cream pie AND tiramisu! Thanks again for making Madison shine!

    • Cadry says

      Neat! Ooh, will you share your secrets? I’d love that banana cream recipe! It has always been one of my favorite types of pies. I’m glad you think that I did Madison justice! :)

    • Cadry says

      The Nuevos Rancheros got my wheels spinning that I need to revisit making my own version at home. Corn tortillas, here I come!

  5. says

    Oh wow! Such amazing looking food! I’d love to try the vegan breaded fish with tartar sauce. Looks so yummy! I love when I go to an all veggie restaurant and I finally have options galore. Most restaurants only have one or two options. Although, for someone indecisive like me, sometimes less options is good too. *hah*

    • Cadry says

      You’re so right! After becoming accustomed to picking from the one or two options on a menu, it’s a treasured experience to have a whole menu from which to choose.

  6. says

    Wow, beautiful photos. A vegan fish fry is what I’ve been dreaming of ever since I’ve become vegan. Do you know if they make a vegan fish at all? I sure do miss fried catfish.

  7. says

    My sister and her significant other brought us t-shirts from the Green Owl last year and now that I see your food pictures I will wear it with pride. I need to get up to Madison and try it out for myself!

    • Cadry says

      How thoughtful of them! If the shirts are the same as the ones the staff members were wearing, they’re really cute! They’ve done a really nice job with the design and the way they’ve incorporated owls into their motif. Very cute!

      I hope you’re able to get up to Madison and try it for yourself!

  8. Anonymous says

    I’ve had the nuevos rancheros dish before and it definitely came with corn tortillas. Maybe you’re confused because you usually have crunchy corn ones? There are also soft corn tortillas, and the picture looks like that’s what you had…

    • Cadry says

      Thank you for your input! I’ve used soft corn tortillas many times before, in addition to the crunchy ones. Soft corn tortillas usually have a chewy, grainy quality to them. The tortillas at Green Owl that day were more pillowy and smooth, like a flour tortilla. It said corn tortillas on the menu, though, and so perhaps they have access to a smoother corn flour than I typically see.

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