Bloom Bake Shop

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake

Name: Bloom Bake Shop

Location: 1851 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711 (the first one opened in Middleton, located at 1834 Parmenter St, Middleton, WI 53562)

Ambience: Chic

Price: $-$$

Best Dish: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake

Gourmet bakeries tend to fall on the pricier side, but I fall in the category that is willing to pay way too much for my food. Admittedly, this place initially seems a little too pricey to be worth it — at $3.50 a cupcake, it is a lot of money for a sweet treat. Bloom has everything from whoopie pies to brownies, but my personal favorites are their cupcakes and donuts. They also have savories and coffee, but I haven’t tried them. That being said, this place is definitely worth it, if only for a once in a while, especially if you are gluten free or vegan.

My friend and I got three cupcakes and a donut. The cupcakes were lemon vanilla, chocolate raspberry rose, and chocolate peanut butter, the donut was sweet potato. I’ll admit that I was pretty hesitant about the sweet potato donut, but I was very pleasantly proved wrong. The donut was crisp on the outside, with a dusting of cinnamon sugar and soft and tender on the inside. The sweet potato flavor was not overwhelming at all — it hung out in the background, adding a mysterious layer of flavor. Honestly, if I had not known, I probably wouldn’t have even guessed that it was sweet potato.

Their cupcakes are also delicious. The chocolate raspberry rose cupcake was a little on the dry side, and I could have used some more raspberry jam filling. The lemon vanilla had a nice tang, but the chocolate peanut butter took the (cup)cake. Generously filled with rich ganache and topped with a creamy peanut butter frosting, the hint of saltiness from the peanut butter perfectly offsets the sweetness from the ganache. The cupcake was moist, and melted in my mouth when I took a bite — and actually had the perfect ratio of frosting to cupcake.

Bloom deserves a visit, even if it’s only for one of their delicious chocolate peanut butter cupcakes or unique sweet potato donuts. Adorably decorated in baby blue and white tile, it’s a great place for a Saturday morning brunch — even if your wallet will shed a tear at the thought of spending $3.50 on a cupcake.

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Hurts Donuts

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The Homer Simpson Donut

Name: Hurts Donuts

Location: 2831 Parmenter St, Middleton, WI 53562

Ambience: Casual

Price: $-$$

Best Dish: Nutella Donut

Madison has seen a lot of new donut places, and one I have been meaning to go to since they opened up late last year is Hurts Donuts. Out in the suburb of Middleton, Hurts is open 24 hours and has plenty of unique flavors, making them a good place to go to for a late-night craving.

Hurts Donuts has a lot of flavors — among them are German Chocolate, the “Cereal” Killer, salted caramel, the Homer Simpson donut, and the nutella donut. We bought half a dozen, which cost around $10. One of my main issues with Hurts was that their donuts were simply too sweet. There was nothing to counteract the overwhelming sweetness in my mouth, and having something tangy to cut through would have really helped. The donuts were also on the denser side, and I personally am more of a fan of the lighter ones. The one donut I really enjoyed was the Nutella donut, which was light and dusted with cinnamon sugar. The fluffiness was perfect on this one, and despite the thick dollop of Nutella in the center, it wasn’t weighed down by it. My other favorite was the salted caramel, which had a good amount of saltiness to balance out the richness of the caramel. I could not say the same for the other flavors, which tended to have too much going on for my taste — there were too many components where I would have preferred simplicity.

That being said, Hurts Donuts is great for a 2 AM craving or for when you really need a sugar rush. Many people will appreciate the richness and complexity, but I just happen to be someone who likes her donuts simple. The originality of a flavor like the “Cereal” Killer is one of their strengths, and while I personally prefer Greenbush Bakery, Hurts will definitely satisfy a sweet tooth.

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[Top, from left]: Homer Simpson, Nutella, Cosmic Brownie. [Bottom, from left]: German Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Apple Pie.

Porter Coffee

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Name: Porter

Location: 640 W Washington Ave, Madison, WI 53703

Ambience: Hipster coffee shop

Price: $

Best Dish: Mocha

To be fair, I can’t exactly pick any other dish from Porter because I haven’t eaten anything else. I went at 9 AM, and had already had breakfast. My companion did have their avocado toast and enjoyed it — however, for almost $6 for avocado on toast, it seemed a little overpriced.

Porter’s biggest draw is its atmosphere. Tucked behind a bicycle shop just off of the railroad tracks, it’s very inconspicuous. In fact — it was so inconspicuous that Google Maps sent me around in circles for 10 minutes before I finally called my friend to ask where it was. Right outside the shop, there’s a stationary, giant yellow train just waiting there. The inside has an exposed pipe and a modern yet cosy vibe, despite how small it is. The exposed countertops and brick add to the ambience, as does the single, large square table in the center of the coffeeshop that serves as the main seating. Having everyone sit around the same coffee table really does encourage conversation — as I found when I spoke to the person sitting next to me about the newspaper.

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As for their drinks, their mocha is delicious. It tastes even better because their whipped cream is light, fluffy, and clearly homemade. As someone who generally does not enjoy whipped cream, this was a very pleasant surprise. Their mocha was a little bit on the stronger side, but it still had the distinctive flavor of the chocolate. The rest of their coffee menu is pretty standard — cortados, macchiatos, lattes, and the like.

Porter is a lovely place to go for a date or just a long conversation with friends. I wouldn’t recommend it for studying simply because it is so small. It’s a great addition to Madison’s local coffeeshops, and definitely a hidden gem.

Update: Porter’s sandwiches are also amazing. Their Veggie sandwich, with tangy artichokes that add a heartiness, arugula, and gooey cheese is phenomenal and is surprisingly one of the best sandwiches I’ve had.

Crescendo Espresso Bar and Music Cafe

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After-School Special

Name: Crescendo Espresso Bar and Music Cafe

Location: 1859 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711

Ambience: Coffee shop

Cost: $

Best Dish: After School Special

Crescendo is another one of the small, local coffee shops that dot Madison. They are a great study space, with a darker interior, but the large window keeps it feeling open. The staff is very friendly — when I asked, the lady at the counter had a good suggestion for a drink, and mentioned that the music is chosen by the staff. They also have a small area where they sometimes have live music, adding to the feel of the place.

I didn’t quite enjoy their iced vanilla latte, because it was little too watery. However, their ‘after school special’ (at about $3.50), was very good — especially for someone who doesn’t like a strong coffee taste. It’s a blend of chocolate milk with cold brew, and is sweet with a very mild coffee flavor. It’s not as strongly chocolate flavored as a mocha, but the flavors come together very well. They also have a couple of unique options, like a nitrogen cold press and blueberry matcha tea (served either shaken or blended). A friend really liked the shaken version, mentioning that the blueberry really came through. Their black bean burrito was also quite good for a quick snack — although, I’d describe it more as a warm wrap and the salsa was lacking.

Crescendo is a nice spot on Monroe Street for a day of studying, with lots of options and a good atmosphere. It’s a little more spacious than other local coffee shops in Madison, and since it’s less well known, tends to be less crowded. The softer music also helps make a better studying environment.

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Blueberry Matcha (shaken, on the left) and an Iced Vanilla Latte (right)
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Mocha with Almond Milk

Bradbury’s

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Mushrooms, Asparagus, Kale and Parmesan Crepe

Name: Bradbury’s

Location: 127 N. Hamilton Madison, WI

Ambience: Hipster Coffee Shop

Cost: $$

Best Dish: Impossible to go wrong.

With a minimalistic menu that focuses on good coffee, fresh, local ingredients, and crepes, Bradbury’s Coffee excels at what it sets out to do. There is no way to order incorrectly at Bradbury’s — my companions really loved the cold press coffee and the freshly squeezed orange juice, and my iced vanilla latte was one of the best I’ve had. It wasn’t overwhelmingly syrupy, with the correct balance of milk and coffee flavor.

Their rotating menu emphasizes the vegetables that are in season. When we went, it was asparagus, and the crispy stalks were cut thinly enough so that they were tender. They were happy to replace the scrambled eggs with kale, and while I was worried it would be too leafy, it worked exceptionally well. The heartiness of the kale complimented the smoothness of the mushrooms, which added another layer of nuttiness. The crepe was delicate, but didn’t fall apart under the toppings.

Also delicious are their sweet crepes — although they aren’t shown here, the homemade nutella and strawberry crepe with fresh whipped cream was a standout. The whipped cream was frothy and ever so slightly melted, and the tartness of the strawberries cut through the sweetness from the nutella. Prices range from $3-$8, and this place is a great pit stop during a round at the Farmer’s Market — or any other time.

Indie Coffee

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Iced Vanilla Latte (left) and Americano (right)

Name: Indie Coffee

Location: 1225 Regent St, Madison, WI 53715

Ambiance: Casual

Cost: $

Best Dish: Chocolate Chocolate Chip Waffles

Indie Coffee is a coffee shop on Regent, in a nondescript building. I would classify it as classically hipster — and they excel at waffles. I’ve also had their bagel sandwiches, specifically the fancy grilled cheese bagel. It was tasty, but quite greasy, dripping with the oils that come out from cheese. Although, that might have also been because I got it to go and the aluminum foil was difficult to maneuver around. Their chocolate chocolate chip waffle, however, was excellent. I found it a little odd because the chocolate chips were on top rather than within the batter, but it worked well and was delicious.

Their prices are typical of a nicer coffee shop — with dishes priced around $4-6. It’s also a great place to study, although it’s a little on the small side.

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Chocolate Chocolate Waffle