Hey, here's a secret - the north side boasts an honest-to-goodness, dedicated artisanal charcuterie. Hamann Charcuterie, 2933 N. Sherman Ave., has a small but high-quality selection of the best bratwurst, andouille sausage and ham, made from locally sourced and organic meats.
The vista from the top of Lakeview Hill, in front of the former TB sanitarium that now serves as the offices for Dane County Department of Human Services, 1202 Northport Dr., is unrivaled, with Lake Mendota and the isthmus all in sight, as well as the surrounding countryside.
Just behind the Dane County Department of Human Services building is one of Madison's most breathtakingly beautiful places, a 27-acre county conservation park called Lakeview Woods. Be sure to hike the paths that crisscross the woods behind the old water tower, and try to make your way to the cemetery behind Lakeview Lutheran. It's perhaps the prettiest in Madison, with tombstones that date back to the 1860s.
Madison is not without its old-school taverns. But the one that seems the most like a neighborhood-only proposition, the one with the lowest profile, is Busse's Markway, 2005 N. Sherman Ave. The two-story building, with apartments upstairs, has a cozy front room with a horseshoe-shaped bar and a bare-bones back room that's used for political meetings and informal get-togethers. Busse's features great beer memorabilia, like the vintage Budweiser carousel lamp with the Clydesdale team prancing around it, and bags of chips hanging from the ceiling. But are its days numbered? The tavern is currently for sale.
In one corner of the grounds of the Central Wisconsin Center, 317 Knutson Dr., you'll find the poignant cemetery for the Mendota Mental Health Center. Near the intersection of Green Avenue and Knutson Drive, behind a row of ordinary homes, there's an official memorial marker and three headstones. But they mark the burial spots for many more patients who died while institutionalized and whose families had not the will or the means to bury them elsewhere. Two earlier burial grounds were across the road nearer to the original Hospital for the Insane; those bodies, from between 1860 and 1964, were exhumed and reburied here. No burials have taken place in this spot since the mid 1960s.
Kappel's Clock Shop has been fixing and selling clocks for four decades at 2250 Sherman Ave. It's worth a visit just to hear the shop's wonderful symphony of ticking and tocking.
It's amazing how many people have lived in Madison for years without ever visiting Governor's Island (take Troy Drive to the Mendota Mental Health Institute and turn down Cinder Lane). It's a spectacular chunk of land, with bluff views and woodland trails. In fact, much of the 300-acre Mendota complex is open to the public, though some of the signage suggests otherwise. Enter where Woodland Drive runs into Harper Road, or from the end of Veith Avenue.
While you're heading to the end of Veith Avenue (you probably won't find it without a map), check out the green space on either side of the road. To the right is the Mendota Unit of Cherokee Conservation Park, a lovely patch of woodland. To the left is the 10-acre Meadow Ridge Conservation Park, with an overlook, bluffs and prairie.