Colectivo Coffee on Monroe Street

If you’ve spent any time in Madison at all, you’ve probably noticed how quickly Colectivo is making waves in the coffee industry around town. With three locations (State Street, the Capitol Square, and Monroe Street), this Milwaukee-based coffee company has become a household name for many coffee-drinking Madisonians.

And with good reason.

 

A beautiful (and delicious) mocha

Industrial-style interior

Coffee quality/taste: 4/5

Colectivo coffee has a distinctive taste that might not appeal to everyone. In general, I find the flavor to be on the bitter end of the spectrum. Depending on the day and the mood I’m in, that can be either a good or a bad thing. Their mocha, in particular, lacks the cloying sweetness that many coffee shops infuse. (Colectivo never puts whipped cream on their mochas, opting instead for carefully crafted latte art.) Lattes and cappuccinos are similar: frothy and rich but a tad bitter. All the coffee I’ve tried has been well-prepared and of good quality. While not all of Colectivo’s blends are fair trade, a large percentage of them are. Also, a warning: the sizes at Colectivo are deceptive. A “Medium” at Colectivo is equivalent to a small at most other places (12oz), whereas a “Small” at Colectivo is REALLY small (8oz – the same size as a Starbucks “Short”).

Food quality/taste: 4.5/5

I generally have low expectations for coffee shop food, which is why I so greatly appreciate the quality of food served at Colectivo. For one thing, their selection is astounding. Options include a cold case with quiches, some pastries, and other refrigerated goodies, a room-temperature case with everything from pretzels to scones to cookies, an all-day breakfast menu, and a sizable lunch menu. One of my favorites is the Falafel Burger, one of several vegetarian options. The burger comes on a soft bun smeared in a creamy, if somewhat bland, hummus and piled with cucumber, lettuce and tomato. A cucumber mint sauce comes on the side. The burger is surprisingly spicy and well flavored. (I’ve taken half a point off for food because one time my falafel came partially frozen, which means they’re probably heating up frozen falafel in a microwave and plopping it on the burger. It’s tasty enough, though, that I don’t mind too much.) The bakery items are similarly yummy and taste fresh. The smoothies are really good, especially the Mango Peach Ginger (though my sister is partial to the Berry Booster) and I almost always order one if I’m not getting coffee.

Ambiance: 5/5

Ambiance is the real reason to go to Colectivo, particularly the Monroe Street location. Much of the seating is in a repurposed garage with tons of windows in the (still working) garage doors, so the natural light is excellent. On warmer days, the garage doors are opened so the seating area essentially becomes outdoor seating with a roof. The layout is seemingly random, with a few soft chairs around a seldom-lit fireplace, several small tables, a couple of long communal tables, and some bar seating. There is another seating area behind the order counter with more bar seating, small tables, and a few booths. Quiet music is often playing, but not obtrusively. The decor is all that rustic industrial look we Millennials love so much. The building itself was built in the 1920’s and Colectivo did a really nice job preserving the historic feel while still making the interior very modern and stylish. Probably the biggest problem at Colectivo on Monroe Street is the volume of people there, which affects both seating and parking. There is a parking lot with a grand total of three (maybe four if you really try) parking spaces — otherwise, street parking is available throughout the neighborhoods just off Monroe. Sometimes street spots can be hard to find, but there’s usually something within a couple of blocks. Similarly, inside is often very crowded, but I’ve never not found a place to sit.

Service: 4.5/5

Service is definitely above average. There isn’t anything particularly remarkable about Colectivo’s service, either good or bad. The staff are always friendly and accommodating when taking orders, and I’ve chatted with several of them when the line isn’t too long. Depending on what I order and how busy it is, food can be slow to arrive. Colectivo gives out number tents, so they bring the food to your table when it’s ready. They’re also more than happy to make food to-go if you want to bring it with you. On several occasions, staff have offered to remove my dishes when I’m done eating, which is actually really nice because of an odd quirk Colectivo on Monroe has: the garbage can openings are too small. If I have anything bigger than a coffee cup or a wad of tissue paper to throw away, I have to work really hard to stuff it into the garbage can. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a problem I’ve never had before.

College-student friendliness: 3.5/5

Since Colectivo is close to campus and on many bus routes, it is a favorite hang-out for college students. Many tables have been covered in papers, laptops, and notecards when I’ve been there (including my own). There is free wi-fi, but the connection is often very slow due to the number of people on their computers. Mid to late afternoons are usually the best times to go, after the lunch rush but before most people leave work. Early mornings are some of the most crowded times, since many Monroe Street-area residents get their pre-work coffee and breakfast from Colectivo. Weekends are also busy, and it can be difficult to find a table. Outlets are relatively easy to locate, especially in the back seating area. Overall, seating availability, like parking availability, is hit-and-miss. Noise levels can be high depending on the number of people.

Recap:

Coffee: 4/5
Food: 4.5/5
Ambiance: 5/5
Service: 4.5/5
College-student friendliness: 3.5/5
CafeScore: 21.5/25

Location:
2520 Monroe St., Madison, WI

Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6:00am – 9pm
Sat: 6:30am – 9pm
Sun: 6:30am – 8pm

Website:
http://colectivocoffee.com/cafes/monroe-st/

Up Next: Chocolaterian Cafe

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Oasis Cafe

Oasis Cafe in Fitchburg is one of my go-to places for coffee and studying. For one thing, it’s really close to my house. For another, Oasis combines consistently good coffee and tasty lunches with a (usually) pleasant atmosphere perfect for studying.

Coffee, Scone, and Studying

Some of the decor at Oasis

Coffee quality/taste: 3.5/5

Oasis serves EVP coffee, which I generally don’t like all that much. One person I talked to said he likes the variety of roasted coffees Oasis offers and he believes everyone can find something they like. Another friend says the hot chocolate and Italian Sodas are delicious. In my experience, Oasis makes some quality espresso drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos, but the brewed coffee isn’t great on its own. On my most recent trip, my trademark mocha had a weird grainy texture, which was disappointing. When I’ve gotten lattes or cappuccinos in the past, I’ve enjoyed them. Usually I would rate the taste as “above average,” and I’ve never gotten anything that tasted burned or like the coffee’s been sitting in a pot for five hours. In terms of coffee, Oasis’s greatest strength is its consistency; apart from a slightly varying mocha texture once in a while, I know exactly what I’m getting when I go to Oasis. That consistency is something I really appreciate and has caused Oasis to become one of my staples.

Food quality/taste: 4/5

I really like the food at Oasis, though others have reported mixed feelings. When I eat lunch there, I always get the Chipotle Chicken with Jack on sourdough, a warm and just the right amount of spicy sort of sandwich. There are a variety of sandwich options, all of which are made fresh on your choice of bread, which comes from the Madison Sourdough Company. They also feature two Soupes du Jour, which I was told are made in-house each day. The scones and other baked goods are decent, but nothing spectacular. It’s worth noting that I haven’t tried many of them, though, since I almost always go for lunch. Also, you can get pel’meni from Paul’s Pel’meni at Oasis (I’ve never tried it myself, but I hear it’s good).

Ambiance: 3.5/5

It’s hard to give Oasis an accurate ambiance score, because it actually has quite a range. Some days I go and I’m the only one there, the music is quiet, and the temperature is just right. Other days, it’s so crowded I can’t find a table, the music is obnoxiously loud, and it’s unpleasantly cold. More often than not, it’s somewhere in the middle, but it’s hard to predict which end of the spectrum it will be any given day. Normally, the closer to lunchtime it is, the more crowded Oasis is, but it thins out as the afternoon draws on. Weekends are always worse than weekdays, naturally. The cafe is laid out in a “U” shape, with the counter at the base of the “U” and two wings of seating area on either side. One side has a kid-friendly area with a chalkboard, books, and some toys. That side also has some random potted plants. The other side has a fireplace with some comfy couch seating around it. Both sides have lots of good window seating and natural light and there is some outdoor seating, too. The whole cafe is filled with art of various types you can buy if you’re so inclined.

Service: 5/5

Service is what sets Oasis apart. The staff are all very friendly, personable, and competent. Since everything is made from scratch, preparation of food and drinks can take a while, but the staff are always happy to bring your food and/or drinks out to you when they’re done. I’ve also witnessed amazing patience from the staff a number of times when dealing with difficult customers, patience I don’t think I’d have if I were in their place.

College-student friendliness: 4/5

Oasis is a suburban coffee shop, so it’s not specifically designed to be college-student friendly. That said, it succeeds anyway. The tables are larger than at most coffee shops, giving lots of room to spread out papers, laptops, notebooks, etc. Oasis has free wi-fi, but it’s password protected. The register has a little sign on it that gives the password. Depending on how many people are working on their computers, the wi-fi can be either really good or really bad. Go in the afternoon, 1pm or later, if you want to get a lot of work done. Overall, there’s plenty of seating and decent wi-fi, but it can be hard to focus for long periods because of the fluctuating noise levels.

Recap:

Coffee: 3.5/5
Food: 4/5
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Service: 5/5
College-student friendliness: 4/5
CafeScore: 20/25

Location:
2690 Research Park Dr Suite E, Fitchburg, WI
Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6:30am – 5pm
Sat: 7am – 3pm
Sun: 8am-12pm
Website:
No official website, but more info here: https://www.facebook.com/oasiscafefitch

Up Next: Colectivo Coffee on Monroe

Indie Coffee

Indie Coffee is a cute little coffee shop on Regent Street. It’s unassuming, tucked away in an old building across the street from Budget Bicycle Center and next to an auto shop, not where you’d expect to find a popular campus hangout. And it is, indeed, very popular. Because of Indie Coffee’s practically famous waffles, be prepared for a long wait around breakfast-time, (but it’s worth it!).

Indie Coffee coffee bar

Delicious coffee

Gorgeous (and tasty!) waffles

Coffee quality/taste: 4.5/5

Of the places I’ve visited so far, Indie Coffee has some of the best coffee. On my first visit, I ordered a Mocha (surprise, surprise), and thought it was quite good. I had an Iced Latte on my subsequent visit and was even more impressed. It was smooth and creamy, with just the right coffee/milk ratio. A friend who ordered a black coffee said it tasted high-quality and slightly sweet. All the coffee has nice flavor and seems to be very fresh. What makes things even more fun is the number of coffee add-ins available. The counter is covered in flavors, sweeteners, and various types of cream. If you’re in the mood for a quick, tasty coffee when you’re near the UW campus, be sure to stop at Indie Coffee.

Food quality/taste: 5/5

Once again, Indie Coffee exceeds expectations. I first went on a Saturday morning to get some waffles. Wow! My waffle was not only gigantic, but it was also light, fluffy, and delicious — exactly what a Belgian waffle should be. The variety is nice, and there are a few “healthier” options in addition to the more standard sweet waffles. For example, one fellow diner had a Cranberry Walnut Waffle with cranberries and walnuts actually baked into the waffle. I had the Red + White Waffle, which was piled with mounds of strawberry sauce and whipped cream. I had mixed feelings about the strawberry sauce; it tasted vaguely artificial, but everyone else loved their waffles and all other aspects of my waffle-eating experience were well above satisfactory. Besides, there aren’t many places in Madison where one can get fresh, quality Belgian waffles, so Indie Coffee is a special treat. On my most recent visit, I decided to try a sandwich. I had the honey fig + goat cheese sandwich, which is served on cinnamon-raisin bread. It was steaming hot (too hot to eat for several minutes) and very good. I’m not a fan of goat cheese, and I’ll admit I would have preferred the sandwich without it, but I loved it regardless. Since Indie Coffee is close to my office, I plan to return for lunch many more times.

Ambiance: 5/5

In terms of ambiance, Indie Coffee is a standard campus coffeeshop with some “indie flair.” There are perhaps a dozen tables of varying sizes and shapes, and it’s usually busy. The first time I went, the line stretched out the door, but I never saw it that crowded again. The tables are all butcher-block style, and much of the decor has the seemingly contradictory modern-retro feel of many independent Madisonian coffee shops. Indie Coffee gets plenty of natural light, which is somewhat surprising when you see it from the outside. There’s even an outdoor patio in the back. The noise level is middling, with quiet music and some chatting patrons.

Service: 3.5/5

The only reason Indie Coffee doesn’t get a higher service score is because of the length of my wait on my first visit. After ordering my coffee and waffle, I waited approximately 45 minutes before the waffle was finally done. I’d finished my coffee by then and was wondering if I’d been forgotten. When I asked, I found out they have very few waffle irons, which makes it hard to keep up with the high demand on weekend mornings. While I certainly understand the difficulty, it still seemed overly long to wait for a waffle. On my most recent visit, however, I got lunch around 1pm and the wait was under 10 minutes, so timing is definitely key to determining how long it will take to get your food. The staff is friendly and overall very efficient. They also bring the food to your table, which is a simple touch I always really appreciate.

College-student friendliness: 4/5

Depending on when you visit, Indie Coffee can be a great place to hunker down and work. If you try to go at a peak waffle time, you’ll have trouble finding a table, but once you do find a place to sit it’s easy to stay for a long time. The wi-fi’s good and the noise never seems to get to a level that’s distracting. Outlets are a bit elusive, but not impossible to find. One important thing to know is that Indie Coffee has no parking. You have to find nearby street parking or be willing to walk in order to get there. Of course, its proximity to campus is probably the biggest reason I do recommend Indie Coffee for its college-student friendliness, so the lack of parking isn’t all bad.

Recap:

Coffee: 4.5/5
Food: 5/5
Ambiance: 5/5
Service: 3.5/5
College-student friendliness: 4/5
CafeScore: 22/25

Location:
1225 Regent St., Near Camp Randall
Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6:30am – 8pm
Sat-Sun: 7:30am – 8pm
Website:
http://www.indiecoffee.net

Up Next: Oasis Cafe in Fitchburg

Barriques on Monroe Street

Barriques has multiple locations around the Madison area, and Barriques on Monroe is one of my favorite places to go get lunch and/or coffee during the week. It’s at an easy walking distance from the engineering campus area, so especially on nice days I like to go to Barriques and settle in for a few hours.

Mini-Mediterranean. Yum!
Mini-Mediterranean. Yum!

Coffee quality/taste: 5/5

Barriques has great coffee, but the Barriques on Monroe Street seems to be especially good. Their specialty drinks and regular coffee alike are delicious. My drink of choice is a Baby Grasshopper (as opposed to the Daddy Grasshopper, which has alcohol), a minty Mocha with just the right balance of sweetness and coffee flavor. I also like to get bags of ground coffee at Barriques for my coffee maker at home from time to time. In the summer, when I can’t decide if I want coffee or ice cream, Barriques lets me have both with a luscious espresso shake. They use Chocolate Shoppe ice cream and coffee grounds, creating a creamy, melty, caffeine-infused dream. While all Barriques locations are similar in terms of coffee quality,  the Monroe Street one tends to be just a bit better than the others.

Food quality/taste: 4/5

What I like about Barriques is that they do an exceptional job of finding a good coffeeshop/sandwich shop dynamic. I haven’t tried many of the food offerings from Barriques on Monroe, but what I’ve had has been excellent. On my most recent visit, I ordered a Mini-Mediterranean platter (pictured above) and thought it was not only tasty, but also the perfect amount of food for a mid-afternoon snack. There are other similar snacks available, as well as a selection of sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. My experience with sandwiches from this particular Barriques is limited, but what I’ve tried I’ve enjoyed. The pastries offered at Barriques change occasionally, but they always have good flavors and texture. One of my favorite pastries is the pumpkin-chocolate chip bread. It’s moist and full of flavor. (Note: as I’m writing this blog, I’m beginning to realize just how much of a chocoholic I am. An intervention might be needed.)

Ambiance: 4/5

Barriques has kind of a funky layout. There’s some bar seating in the way back, some booths and tables up front, and then some more bar-style seating along the front window. All told, there’s plenty of seating available, but you might have to search a bit to find a spot. Usually around lunchtime it gets busy, but people tend to get coffee to go, so it’s never overly crowded. Barriques also sells alcoholic beverages (they’re famous for their “Wall of 100 Wines”) and as such parts of it feel a little like a wine cellar (dim lighting and lots of wood), but the front area is bright and cheerful. A large front window lets in good natural light. The noise level is always low; if there’s music it’s unassuming enough that I haven’t noticed it. Rather interestingly, people tend to be quieter in Barriques than in other coffeeshops.

Service: 3/5

Service at Barriques is fine. Baristas aren’t overly friendly, but they’re polite and relatively efficient. It did take an unusually long time to get my food on my last visit, but I haven’t experienced that previously. I’m chalking it up to a fluke. Be aware that sandwiches are prepared when you order them, so depending on the sandwich you might have to wait awhile. In my opinion, the fresh, warm sandwich is worth the wait. Last time I went I got the Mini-Med plate, which comes with lots of yummy hummus and not quite enough pita. I requested extra pita, and they were happy to give it to me (no extra charge).

College-student friendliness: 4/5

Because of the lack of noise and the likelihood of finding a table, Barriques on Monroe is very college student friendly. And indeed, I often see numerous students studying there during my visits. The wifi is good (and not password-protected), so bring your computer. Outlets aren’t as easy to locate, but the booths have them if you do need to charge anything. I definitely recommend Barriques as a study location.

Recap:

Coffee: 5/5
Food: 4/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Service: 3/5
College-student friendliness: 4/5
CafeScore: 20/25

Location:
1825 Monroe St., Madison WI 53715
Hours:
Mon-Wed: 6:30am – 9pm
Thur-Fri: 6:30am -10pm
Sat: 6:30am – 10pm
Sun: 7am – 9pm
Website:
https://www.barriquesmarket.com/our-cafes/monroe-st/

Up Next: Indie Coffee on Regent Street

Fair Trade Coffee House

Fair Trade Coffee House is a wonderful little spot on State Street. It has an unassuming exterior and is easy to miss, but it has become one of my favorite places to go for longer coffee outings.

IMG_5284

 

Coffee quality/taste: 4/5

Fair Trade has some seriously tasty coffee. They’ve also done a swell job of diversifying their specialty drink options. When I last visited, I ordered a Grasshopper Mocha, which is a Mocha with mint flavoring. It was quite sweet, but it works well as a “dessert drink.” In addition to Grasshopper, they offer several variants of Mochas (including raspberry) as well as other flavored Lattes, Macchiatos, and more. Fair Trade brews, unsurprisingly, fair trade coffee, which is an added bonus. Their coffee has always tasted fresh and of good quality.

Food quality/taste: 3/5

As coffee shop food goes, Fair Trade is a solid average. Their pastries are perhaps a bit above average and their lunch food somewhat inconsistent. I ate an orange-chocolate chip scone last time I was there and I found it to be exactly what I expected: not too dry, not too sweet, well-flavored, but unexciting. Fair Trade has a variety of sandwiches, salads, soups, and such for lunch, most of which is in the “fair” to “good” range.

Ambiance: 2/5

Fair Trade tends to be very crowded and the temperature can fluctuate wildly. Last time I was there, it was about 40 degrees outside and at least 80 degrees inside. The baristas were sweating and looked miserable. I adjusted to the heat eventually, but it was rather unpleasant for a while.  Tables are plentiful but squished close together, so maneuvering can be tricky. In the very back of the seating area is a small fireplace, which is nice in the winter. The walls are covered in art from local artists and musicians occasionally perform inside; overall Fair Trade has a very “Madison-y” feel (local, organic, friendly).

Service: 3/5

Service gets 3/5 mostly because there’s nothing remarkable about it either way. Staff are friendly and efficient, but not overly so. I’ve never had a bad experience, but neither have I felt welcomed the way I have at other coffee shops (especially the local, non-chain ones).

College-student friendliness: 3/5

Depending on the busyness level, Fair Trade can either be a great study spot or a horrible one. Many years ago, my French class met at Fair Trade in the mid-afternoon on a weekday and we were able to get a large group of tables right in the middle. Last time I went was a Sunday afternoon, and I think I took the last free table. It can be incredibly loud if it’s crowded enough, but the sound comes almost exclusively from other patrons (no loud music, creaking doors, etc.). Wi-fi speed can also be an issue if everyone is using computers. In short, whether or not Fair Trade is a good place to study is difficult to determine without more consistent data.

Recap:

Coffee: 4/5
Food: 3/5
Ambiance: 2/5
Service: 3/5
College-student friendliness: 3/5
CafeScore: 15/25

Location:
418 State Street – Madison, WI
Hours:
Daily: 8am-11pm
Website:
http://www.fairtradecoffeehouse.com/

Up Next: Barriques on Monroe Street

Prairie Fire: Union South

Prairie Fire is a small coffee shop inside UW-Madison’s student union (Union South, by the Engineering area, not to be confused with the Memorial Union). Overall, it’s fairly standard campus coffee. I’ve had many a group project meeting at Prairie Fire and it’s one of my go-to places on campus for long-term studying. They have the typical coffee and espresso-style drinks along with at least one seasonal specialty drink.

Prairie Fire fireplace and seating area

That being said….

Coffee quality/taste: 1/5

Blech. Prairie Fire’s coffee is about as “campus-y” as it gets. On my most recent visit, I got a small Mocha with skim milk & whipped cream. As is usually the case, the coffee tasted burnt and, though it was plenty warm, it didn’t satisfy me the way good quality coffee does. Prairie Fire is a last resort for me when I really need an extra boost so I don’t fall asleep during a lecture. During a recent 4.5 hour exam-grading marathon, I took a coffee break at Prairie Fire and ordered a small dark roast. It was better than I was expecting, given my disappointment with their specialty drinks. Still, if you want good coffee, Prairie Fire is not the place to go. It’s worth noting that Prairie Fire serves Peet’s Coffee, but I’ve been to Peet’s in other places and it just doesn’t compare.

Food quality/taste: 2/5

Food does better than coffee here, but only just. Again, it tends to be standard campus fare: cheap-tasting (yet overpriced) and low quality. When they have churros, I’ll sometimes order one because they look so fun, but then I’ll munch it in mild disillusionment as I sip my burnt coffee. Prairie Fire offers a slim selection of salads and sandwiches from the UW cafeteria, again usually disappointing. If I’m going to get food at Union South, it probably won’t be from Prairie Fire.

Ambiance: 4/5

Ambiance is where Prairie Fire manages to redeem itself just a little. The seating area for the coffee shop is slightly raised and tucked back out of the way of the main traffic path. There’s a small fireplace along one side — though I still can’t figure out if it’s real — and some big comfy chairs right beside it. Tables are plentiful (and often almost filled) and yet the noise level stays fairly low. Quiet music is muffled by other background noise, such as people’s conversations. Furthermore, a tiny piano sits in one corner, and if you’re lucky you might be there when someone decides to play for a bit (the piano is dreadfully out of tune, but still fun). Small windows on one wall let in some natural light, but the atmosphere is generally cozy and dark, which can be nice in the gloomy winter months.

Service: 2/5

Let me start with the good news: in my several years of going to Prairie Fire, I’ve seen the same two or three managers almost every time I’ve been there. All of them are very friendly and efficient. Most of the time, though, the servers are college students. Sometimes they do really well, sometimes not. More than anything, I’d say the service is inconsistent. I’ve occasionally waited over five minutes for a coffee to be prepared (when I’ve been the only one in line), though other visits I’ve been in and out in under a minute.

College-student friendliness: 3/5

Prairie Fire is supposed to be a place for college students to study or discuss projects, and it does an admirable job of that. The problem is the sheer volume of students that all want to be there at the same time. You’re lucky to find a table (although you can always check other spots in Union South where seating is more often available). Group discussions can get loud, and while they tend to be interesting they can also be distracting. Late afternoons/evenings and weekends are ideal times to go if you want to hunker down and work.

Recap:

Coffee: 1/5
Food: 2/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Service: 2/5
College-student friendliness: 3/5
CafeScore: 12/25

Location:
1308 Dayton Street in Madison, WI
Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 7am – 11pm
Friday – Saturday: 7am – 12am
Sunday: 7am – 11pm
Website:
http://www.union.wisc.edu/prairiefire.htm

Aldo’s Café: The Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Aldo’s Café at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) is a frequent stop of mine as I make my way around campus. It’s a great spot to grab a quick coffee (they make specialty coffees in addition to the standard fare) and pastry or a sandwich, salad, or soup for lunch.

Coffee quality/taste: 3/5
As campus coffee goes, Aldo’s does a great job. When I went this morning, I ordered a Mocha to go. It was piping hot (as usual) and prepared quickly. I didn’t love the taste; Mochas are my go-to drink, so I have very well-defined preferences on sweetness levels and such. In my opinion, it was a bit too sweet and they didn’t put any whipped cream on it (my favorite part of a Mocha). Regular coffee tends to be better in terms of taste. (Besides, it’s fair trade!)

Food quality/taste: 3/5
I didn’t get any food when I went this morning, but on past visits I’ve tried a number of different menu items. I give the pastries 4/5. Their scones and muffins are delicious. Lunch food, however, gets a 2/5. While the ingredients seem to be of high quality, the lunch rush usually causes them to work perhaps too quickly and proportions are often off. Sometimes a sandwich will have too much mayonnaise; sometimes too much meat. The soups are decent — nothing special.

Ambiance: 4/5
I’m biased, of course, because I spend much of my time at WID, and I think WID is an awesome building. I love the open-air feel. Aldo’s, especially, gets great natural light. It’s nice to sit by one of Aldo’s towering windows in the dead of winter and soak up the sun. Very quiet music plays from behind the register, but the background noise of people talking can get loud. Seating is limited and ranges from couches to bar stools to regular tables.

Service: 3/5
The service at Aldo’s is hit-and-miss. They are always friendly, but not the speediest in terms of making coffee. They make food quickly — usually — even in the middle of the lunch rush, but for some reason coffee takes a while.

College-student friendliness: 3/5
While Aldo’s primarily serves the campus community, there are better places to go to get work done. Aldo’s has few seats, and chances are good all of them will be full. Granted, there are plenty of other tables in WID to which you can take your coffee, but Aldo’s itself isn’t designed to hold many students.  Groups are even more difficult, since only a fraction of the seating is actual tables. However, if you can find a spot, it’s easy to stay for long periods of time. It’s a great place to eavesdrop on some fascinating conversations about current research, too.

Recap:
Coffee: 3/5
Food: 3/5
Ambiance: 4/5
Service: 3/5
College-student friendliness: 3/5
CafeScore: 16/25

Location:
330 N Orchard St, Madison, WI 53715
Hours:
M-F 7:00am-5:30pm
Sat-Sun: Closed
Website:
http://www.aldoscafemadison.com/