An unpopular bar in Madison? Is there such a thing?
September 15, 2017 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Three friends going to Madison on a football weekend, for reasons unrelated to football, would like a place to day drink that won't be loud and crowded. Is this possible?

It's two weeks from now, they're playing Northwestern. We have all been to Madison before, but not for a long time. We're staying near the convention center and we like cocktails.
posted by clavicle to Travel & Transportation around Madison, WI (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Good luck with that - early season games, especially against a team like Northwestern, are likely to be very crowded. You might try some of the bars on Willy St. : Mickey's Tavern was where I usually went to watch games when I lived there. It's smaller, so even when it was crowded, it wasn't too bad. Good food, and a nice vibe. And you'll be travelling contra-traffic, so it should be an easier drive/taxi.

The closer you get to campus on State Street, the more crowded its gonna be, but from the convention center, everything there is walking distance. Nick's Restaurant on State was also a good place to watch the game - but it's no sports bar, they only have a couple of TVs, so getting a good seat was important.

Football season in Madison is one of the things I really miss. I'm not even a big football fan, it's just a great time of year in Madison. Have fun!
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:59 AM on September 15, 2017

Best answer: This is very possible! If you want to avoid game day revelers, avoid state street and the campus neighborhoods, but even the square is relatively calm on game days, especially at non-sports bars during the game. I'm assuming you mean the Monona Terrace convention center a block from the capitol square. For cocktails on the square, Merchant is hard to beat, and I love their brunch. Graze is another very popular brunch option with excellent cocktails, but I find it's usually much busier than Merchant (although occasionally Merchant does a dj brunch that is unbearably loud-- both of these restaurants are near the convention center and the Square, and Merchant takes reservations).
Old Sugar Distillery is a short walk from the square, and opens at noon on Saturdays, if you'd like to go straight to the boozy source. If you want to venture further afield, Gib's further down Willy St has very lovely cocktails, but doesn't open until 4 on Saturdays. Even Further from the square is the Malt House, opens at 2, no TVs. Great beer & scotch lists, I'm not so sure about other cocktails, but definitely quiet. Madison really is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to bars, I hope you find what you're looking for!
posted by worstname at 9:16 AM on September 15, 2017

In general, you can always get a seat at the bar in Thai or Indian restaurants.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:38 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's been a few years since I've lived in Madison, but yeah, head east on Williamson ("Willy") away from downtown. The bars around the Winnebago-Eastwood-Atwood triangle of streets a couple miles down, after Willy turns into Winnebago (you'll cross a small river) are what you're after.
posted by Rykey at 9:46 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend the Harmony Bar on Atwood. Best cheese curds in Madison.
posted by rockindata at 2:00 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding Merchant.
posted by repoman at 2:54 PM on September 15, 2017

Alchemy (near Schenk's Corners and the Harmony) will have the game on, but it probably won't be too boisterous. Speaking of the Harmony, they just remodeled and have windows!

Heritage Tavern just off the square has a nice bar half but is open until 2 and then again after 5, so you'd have to relocate for part of that time.
posted by St. Hubbins at 1:59 PM on September 18, 2017

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