9 Nifty Restaurants in Madison, Florida
Fabulous food fuels your fun as you enjoy the lovely little town of Madison, Florida. Established in 1838, Madison sits at the top of north central Florida and is overflowing with Southern charm and hospitality. This may just be the perfect place to escape the hectic hustle and bustle of big city life and to get a glimpse of the true beauty of Old Florida.
Agriculture was vital when this area was settled by cotton and tobacco farmers. Today crops such as peanuts, corn, soybeans, mushrooms, and many vegetables grow in abundance. The farm-to-table movement helps the farmers, the local restaurants, and all those who revel in the deliciousness of the local cuisine.
Nature provides plenty of land for hunting and bodies of water, such as Lake Frances, for fishing. The humid subtropical climate makes Madison one of the most comfortable locations in Florida. There are undeveloped areas to explore as well as paved paths that invite walking, bicycle riding, and horseback riding. Less than ten miles from town on State Road 6 is Madison Blue Springs State Park, a crystal-clear spring that is popular for swimming and scuba diving. All these indigenous amenities make for a nature lover’s dream.
Ask the locals what they like most about Madison and you will hear them brag about how cute, quaint, and historic it is. They will be quick to tell you that it is a family-oriented town where faith and a strong work ethic are still embraced. Many, if not most businesses are closed on Sundays. They will mention that their small town of just over 3,000 residents was designated by VISIT FLORIDA as one of the “Best Little Towns in Florida”, and that they have an RV and Golf Resort, as well as a community college. History is certainly evident in the many homes built in the 1800’s. These excellent examples of Neoclassical, Antebellum, and Victorian architecture are a photographer’s dream.
The Four Freedoms Park is a city-block area in the heart of downtown Madison. It has moss-draped oak trees, azaleas, a gazebo, and several monuments. Right across Base Street you can view the county courthouse which was built in 1913. Two blocks South on Range Avenue you will find the Treasures of Madison County Museum which is a historian’s dream.
Keep reading for my list of the top 9 restaurants to consider on your next visit to Madison, separated by category.
Norris Cafe https://www.facebook.com/norriscafemadison/
140 SW Range Ave. // (850) 973-2552
Owners Chris and Amanda Norris established Norris Café in 2014 and take pride in being a friendly spot in town for breakfast and lunch. Local favorites Monday through Saturday include sandwiches, chicken or chef salad made fresh daily, milkshakes, and their own locally roasted Blue Quail coffee in an amazing variety of flavors.
The wall décor is filled with positive messages such as “focus on the good”. The seating is comfortable while the atmosphere is folksy and welcoming. Amanda kindly makes customers aware of their adjoining Daisy and Dukes boutique, connected by a barn door. Folks like to place their order, then browse through the boutique while the food is prepared.
Sunrise Coffee Shop https://www.facebook.com/sunrisecoffeeshopmadison/
247 SW Rutledge Street // (850) 973-1381
Filled with elegant antiques and a life-size wooden bear, Sunrise is definitely out of the ordinary. Owners P. Conners and M. Sheppard offer fancy cakes and “little bites of heaven”, as well as soup, coffee, tea, champagne, and wine. Their monthly wine tastings feature live music. They promote their two other local shops that sell books and antiques.
Chef Sheppard encourages travelers to go see the beauty of nature in the cool of the early morning and then come be pampered with a relaxing meal. Open Thursday through Saturday.
Grumpy’s Diner & Pie Shop https://www.facebook.com/GrumpysDinerMadison/
244 SW Range Ave. // (850) 973-2802
Being a long-time resident, real estate agent, and artist, owner Jessica Webb knows everyone and every property in town. She is a fun and energetic wealth of information who could quite easily convince most any visitor to move to Madison.
Locals can’t seem to get enough of her burgers, salads, and daily specials like chicken and dumplings. Oh, and of course an ever-changing assortment of Grumpy’s famous pies. I can attest that the apple pie is the best I’ve ever had. Grumpy’s Dine & Pie Shop is opened Monday through Saturday.
Smackin’ Lips Diner https://www.facebook.com/SmackinLipsDiner
6190 S State Rd. 53 // (850) 973-3115
Open seven days a week with “Southern Cookin’ At Its Best”, this is a promising new addition to the local foodie scene. The colorful mural brings a smile to your face as you step inside and in seconds the super enthusiastic staff greet you like an old friend.
Mary, a wonderful server, brought a smile to my face when she said, “Let’s get you fed”.
Marv came out of the kitchen to make sure I was satisfied with my meal. When I told him that Garrett at the Chamber of Commerce recommended Smackin’ Lips, he laughed and replied, “Good, since he’s my brother-in-law!”
Whether you crave an omelette, a hamburger steak with gravy and onions, a chicken sandwich with “secret sauce” and fries, or (what I had) popcorn shrimp with cheese grits, the variety at Smackin’ Lips is fabulous. The owners also operate the nearby Ragans Family Campground.
O’Neal’s Country Buffet https://www.facebook.com/OnealsCountryBuffetMadison
558 W Base Street // (850) 973-6400
This is an old-fashioned place known for fried chicken, greens, and banana pudding. Here you will find a crowd of hungry blue-collar workers and salt of the earth folks, all talking about politics and religion.
The staff is extremely busy and will slow down slightly to converse. But if you tell them your troubles then I’m pretty darn sure they would promise to pray for you later. Come here when seeking to serve yourself a heaping portion of fried food to fill your tummy.
307 SW Pinckney Street // (850) 973-2363
When you crave tacos and burritos in a most colorful setting, then head to Rancho Grande. The vibrant Mexican chairs and tables are matched by the equally vivid items available in the gift shop.
Be sure to check the schedule because there is often live music. It is also a perfect place to have a conversation in Spanish. Their mixed drink special includes a souvenir cup.
Cucinella’s Brick Oven Pizzeria https://www.facebook.com/CucinellasBrickOven/
201 SW Rutledge Street // (850) 973-3388
Cucinella’s has served the best hand tossed New York style pizza since 1932. Owners Jonathan and Karon Mazzella own multiple businesses, are active in the community, and he is a proud Army veteran. They are incredibly sweet and pointed out the very booth where they met each other nine years ago.
The staff is great and will often do extra thoughtful things like heart-shaped pizza for romantic couples. In addition to pizza, customers love the calzones, salads, wings, garlic knots, and cinnamon knots. I enjoyed my chicken salad while taking in the serenity at Lake Frances.
C & D Bistro https://www.facebook.com/cdbistro/
144 SW Horry Ave. // (850) 973-2041
Owner Dan Sullivan left the noise of Los Angeles to find a quiet contentment in Madison. He opened C & D Bistro in April 2019 and appreciates the positive response it continues to receive. He states, “Our food is photo worthy and takes your senses on a journey.” He created for me a beautiful and delicious strawberry sopapilla.
C & D Bistro uses locally raised grass fed beef and locally made buns for terrific hamburgers. Folks really love the fish tacos, wings, and deserts. Dan says his most artistic dish is the salmon with carrots, asparagus, and red cabbage.
The outdoor seating area has a relaxed beach vibe and includes a fire pit and corn hole games. The addition of a pole barn and extra seating is underway. Talented staff use their imaginations to offer extra entertainment such as fancy food carving and fire dancing.
La piazza Bella https://www.facebook.com/La-piazza-Bella-102281871244255 683 W Base Street // (850) 973-2521
Owner Henry Mendoza and head chef Maria Garcia are celebrating one year in business. Along with front of house manager Polet Luna, they agree that the small yet wonderfully supportive community in Madison has been so welcoming and kind. In turn, La piazza Bella helps to support the local humane society and the soccer team.
Their most requested “Tour of Italy” includes lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and a stuffed shell. Other favorites are the shrimp salad and the cannoli. Diners may choose seating inside or on the outside patio. Open Sunday through Thursday until 9PM and until 10PM on Friday and Saturday.