Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Cooper's Tavern

A new beer bar, I think the trendy phrase to use these days is "gastropub", on the Square here in Madison. The Coopers' Tavern has been open about two weeks. I'll keep this review relatively short because there really isn't much to say except: yes, yes, and yes. Or, in the phrasing of the continentals it seeks to mimic, "get thee to there in a most expedient manner." Or something like that. I doubt that they actually say such thing.

Big beer list. And, yes I tend to cynicism at times, I'm always a bit skeptical when I hear that a pick-a-European-country bar has a "good" taplist. Especially when said pick-a-European-country bar is be-decked in kitsch and faux-thenticity as all FoodFight restaurants are. Even worse, "Good European Beer" typically means Guinness, Bass and, maybe, Harp and sometimes, if you're lucky, Smithwicks. And that's it.

Oh no. Not here. Good European Beer. And by European I don't just mean Belgian. Look, I like an abbey as much as the next guy, but please, can we please just get some decent German lagers and English ales? What? They make beer in Spain? A real, live, German Kolsch? Old Speckled Hen on tap requiring a two-stage pour? I about creamed my pants. That was before I even saw the 100-bottle bottle list.

And, yeah, while I admit I'm a convert to the "Publick House" ideal of geezers sittin' around shootin' the shit about Margie and that cad down the alley, a tv or two with some football (and not that pansy-ass Brett-Favre-interception-throwin' kind - the real football) on will make my day.

So, while I actually went into it quite skeptical and a tad cynical I'll be the ornery geezer on the pub stool in the corner wearing my Gunners gear.


  1. Couple of questions, what's the address? What was there before? Another bar? How does compare to Old Fashioned or Nat Spill? Is the food as out of touch price wise as say the new "JT's Vintage Brewing Company"? And is the tap selection the same crap as around town,
    Spotted Com, Coors light, Blue Moon, Cap Amber, Cap Seasonal and oh yea the token Bell's beer. It seems like that every bar in town has those brews on tap with the exception of the Malt House and Old Fashioned. Here's an idea for another blog, bars that go against the trend of the same old brews on tap. Maybe we get a listing of them, but in reality there is only a handful of places going against the grain.

  2. Address is 20 West Mifflin

    Here's a link to their draft menu:

    Here's a link to their bottle menu:

    And, I didn't eat there. Far larger selection than almost any place in town except Old Fashioned, Brasserie V and Malt House - comparable quality and pricing to those 3.

  3. The location was Sucre before Coopers, and McDonald's before that. I ate at Coopers the first week it opened and had a burger - it was excellent. Knoche's meat market products featured extensively on the menu, and Knoche's products are excellent quality and flavor. Burger was cooked to perfection and not so huge I felt a heart attack coming on like so many other places. Prices were quite reasonable considering the location. Staff were friendly and attentive even though it was packed. I'm definitely going back.

  4. And just in time for the World Cup this summer!! Know where I'll be spending my afternoons....

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed the place! I've been telling friends about it and I think they had the same cynicism that you had. I keep insisting that their selection is pretty impressive, but they're too jaded to take my word for it.

    Peter has put a lot of time and energy into opening this place and I think he's done a great job. The menu isn't large, but what they make, they make really well.

    An excellent addition to the capital square.

  6. Travis,
    Is that the World Beer Cup? I though that was Chicago and in the spring-time?

  7. i must be the only one that looked at that tap list and said meh, nothing jumps out, its a list that consists of commonly available larger scale european and US craft beers with the occasional macro made craft trying to sneak in and some easy to find locals. hell they dont even have local seasonals on there. it looks more like a list designed to impress @ first glance well being simple enough as to not have to change ever outside of the 2 maybe 3 seasonals on there. maybe this is the cynicism you mentioned and i reserve the right to change my mind upon actually trying the place out, but until then based on there website i find it hard to imagaine it among the likes of the Old Fashioned, Brasserie V, Maduro and Malt House

  8. I ate there a couple days ago for lunch (didn't get to sample the vast array of beer because I was on the clock, but loved the selection available). Not many options for a vegitarian, but the grilled cheese was great as was the cheesy cauliflour soup. Look forward to going back there for some brews.

  9. Anon - no, THE World Cup.

    And having the pub ready 4mo ahead of time is cutting it pretty close when the World Cup only comes around once every 4 years....

  10. Stopped in there about a week or so ago after work to meet the S/O, and was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful beer a dyed-in-the-wool English and Scottish beer/ale fan, it was so nice to see Belhaven Scottish Ale AND Old Speckled Hen on tap....great selection in bottles, too. A very nice selection. While their web page showed a pic of Fuller's ESB, none could be found, but let's hope that appears soon.

    Even though the dinner menu hasn't started yet (I don't believe) the Reuben was exceptional...the frites, unfortunately very pedestrian.

    Scotch selection isn't as good as other places in town either, but all-in-all a nice, enjoyable evening.

  11. I was happy to find they have Poutine, but even MORE happy to find they have Ribena to make "Black Guiness". They pulled it right and with the correct amount of Ribena. Oh, and the poutine & chicken sandwich was GREAT. Going for another "Black Guiness" tonight.

  12. I was there and was kicked out because I took a picture of the beer I was drinking. I was told I made the bartender uncomfortable. I was so embarassed that I left and had to go back in to make sure I had my card. I was intercepted by another waiter that told me I was not supposed to be there. It was very embarrasing.


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