Bars and Pubs
- Where to Go
- The Best of Milwaukee and Madison
- The Best Wisconsin Weekends
- A Perfect Week in Door County
- Wisconsin for Recreationists
- Rustic Road Tripping
- Made in Milwaukee
- Madison Weekend
- Sports: The Packers and Beyond
- Out on the Town in Milwaukee
- Say Cheese!
- Four Days in the Mad City
- A Wisconsin Family Road Trip
- Wisconsin’s Best Brews
Madison—mostly thanks to the UW, one thinks—pretty much always is at the top 10 in the Princeton Review party schools in the United States; the city definitely leads in binge-drinking. Read: tons and tons of watering holes.
The closer you are to the university, the greater the population of students in the raucous bars. Agoraphobics need not even consider venturing into them, but at least Madison’s legendary drink specials keep things cheap. The Capitol Square area, a mere seven blocks from the university, has a much lower undergrad quotient; you’ll be rubbing elbows with lots of suit-and-tie government wannabe-powers-that-be. For the nonce Opus Lounge (116 King St., 608/441-6787) is the place to attempt to be “scene”; pricey drink concoctions and global fusion appetizers are the thing here.
To really escape the students, the best views in the city come at Fresco (211 State St., 608/663-7374), perched atop the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Sit in a chic sofa encased by glass with a panorama of the city. You pay for the view.
It’s mostly students at the well-lit and capacious Plaza, just off State Street at the corner of Johnson Street, known for its tangy burgers. Two floors of twentysomethings—the upper level looks for all the world like a house party—socialize at Genna’s (105 W. Main St., 608/255-4770) across from the Capitol along West Main Street.
A half block away is the dimly lit Paradise Lounge ((119 W. Main St., 608/256-2263), once home only to serious hard-core drinkers but now a hangout for the black-and-flannel crowd. A few doors down is the Shamrock Bar (117 W. Main St.), one of Madtown’s three gay bars.
Lots of Capitol suits enjoy good pub grub at the Argus (123 E. Main St., 608/256-4141), an antebellum building with pressed-tin coffered ceilings; at night, legions of the netherworld mingle with the late-going yuppies.
Another string of bars—nay, sports bars—chock-full of students is found along Regent Street down from Camp Randall stadium. The hordes of students generally don’t stray as far as the subdued Greenbush Bar (914 Regent St., 608/257-2874), an excellent Italian neighborhood eatery and the place in the area for a glass of wine or a scotch.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition