Exploring the Culinary Culture of Madison, Wisconsin and Surrounding Area

The Coopers Tavern Opens on the Square

By on February 12, 2010 in New Restaurants, Reviews with 0 Comments

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The Coopers Tavern recently opened up its doors on the Capitol Square.  Billing itself as a neighborhood tavern that specializes in craft beer and rustic food, it has a very extensive beer menu, with items on the food menu that are unique and not often found in Madison.

Established as a joint partnership between Food Fight and Madison couple Peter McElvanna (formerly of competing capital pub Brocach) and his wife Amy Marsman, Coopers occupies the location formerly housing the short-lived Sucre.

We recently stopped in for a first look at the place.  We left with a pleasant intial impression.

The dish that has all the local Internet writers and foodies abuzz is the Poutine.  For those of you who aren’t local Internet writers or foodies, Poutine is not only fun to say, but it also is a traditional Canadian dish that has its roots in Quebec.  It is comprised of French Fries tossed with cheese curds and topped with gravy.  As someone who has frequently visited Canada on business, I can attest to its popularity, finding the dish served in diners, restaurants and even fast food joints. 

Poutine purists will note that there are some small execution errors in this particular poutine.  First, the gravy is a tad bit heavy.  Second, the cheese curds on the order that was served to us were pooled and melted at the bottom of the plate, creating a disk of hardened cheese with embedded french fries.  Still, it was adequate comfort food on a cold winter day.

Somewhat more successful (though slightly overcooked) was the Sconnie Egg.  A play on the traditional Scotch Egg, this hard-boiled egg is instead coated with Wisconsin bratwurst before being fried.  It is served on a bed of stout mustard, with a side of pickled vegetables.  A lacking touch which would have put this dish over the top would have been a dab of sauerkraut on the side.

The lunch menu is comprised of a few salads including a roasted beet salad with citrus dressing and a brussels sprout salad with blue cheese, bacon and croutons.

The sandwiches include a variety of offerings, including a burger, a reuben and a veggie sandwich.  We split an order of the Brisket Sandwich.

If you are looking for a brisket sandwich slathered in barbecue sauce, this is not it.  And that is just one of the reasons why this became our favorite brisket sandwich in Madison.  The other two reasons were the onion jam and the bacon aoli.  The aoli alone made this worth ordering, though the brisket itself was surprisingly moist and slightly smoky.  Served with a side of homemade chips, we’ll go back for this sandwich alone.

The chips were also noteworthy.

The beer menu at The Coopers Tavern must be mentioned.  Heavy on Belgian beers, this menu provides very unique beers that you won’t find many other places.  There are a couple dozen on tap and many served by the bottle.

Cooper's Tavern on Urbanspoon

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