Monona Bait & Ice Cream

In a word: I will make you fishers of dairymen.

The specs: #00976   
4516 Winnequah Rd., Monona 53716
Details at YelpFacebook, Monona Bait & Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Latest Monona Bait & Ice Cream news and reviews at

JM ate the broken waffle cone sundae.
Nichole ate the Mary Jane sundae.
The bill was about $10, or $5/person, plus tip.
JM gave Monona Bait & Ice Cream an A-; Nichole gave Monona Bait & Ice Cream an A (see our grading rubric).

We made it to Monona Bait & Ice Cream on its antepenultimate weekend of 2015. The snack bar & ice cream fountain (and bait shop) is a must-visit.

Broken waffle cone sundae

Though the grill was closed by the time we rolled up and locked up our bikes, there was still plenty of ice cream to choose from. JM got the broken waffle cone sundae - thrifty and delicious! - with caramel and chocolate in a plastic pint glass. Nichole opted for the Mary Jane sundae, a replica of the brownie dish once served at Rennebohm's.

Rennebohm's replica

The ice cream is from Babcock, the ambience is from days gone by, and the store feels like a Lake Loop institution.  From the looks of it, the grill food is standard but also could be really good because of the personal touches. Either way, there are few better destinations in summer. It'll reel you in.

Bonus book bit: Argus, & an event

Hey! Monday night, 10/26/2015, come hear JM, along with writers who eat out for a living, talk about that at "Cap Times Talks" - 7pm at the High Noon, 701 E. Washington. Now, a bonus post.

Lots of words didn't fit into Madison Food. Here are some more of our favorites that we didn't want to be missed. Our writeup of our A to Z visit to Argus was posted back in 2004.

The Argus building at 123 E. Main St. was erected in 1847 and housed the Wisconsin Argus newspaper, which in 1852 merged with the Wisconsin Democrat. The next century saw a succession of various businesses. In the 1870s, it was a combination bakery, candy store, saloon and restaurant. By 1919 it was home to the offices and showroom of Fox Motor Sales, where customers could see the latest in automobiles, and in the 1930’s it was the Service Barber Shop.

Fox Motor Sales ad, 4/22/1920

On April 9, 1950, Art Metcalf’s New Bar-X had its grand opening and ushered in a new phase of life for the building with live music and "flowers for the ladies." Other bars followed, notably the Pourboy Club in the 1970s and the Salad Bar in the 1980s. By the 1990s, the building was in need of some refreshment itself. Fortunately, the new owner, Cliff Fisher, had a sense of history and his renovations kept the building’s character. The northeast side of the Capitol area was undergoing a renaissance from scruffy to yuppie, and the new Argus was part of that.


In 1997, Todd Dukes, the bar’s manager, bought the business from Fisher. Dukes continued to cultivate Argus as a choice weekday lunch spot and evening watering hole for politicians and business people and leveraged new technology to do so. Argus was one of the first venues in Dane County to embrace an internet jukebox. In 2002 Dukes had an electronic ordering system installed that shaved minutes off rushed lunchers’ wait times, by having servers enter orders on handheld devices that transmitted orders wirelessly to the bar and basement kitchen. And the menu of grilled sandwiches, homemade soups, and fresh salads kept customers coming back.

Since 2005 Argus has been owned and operated by Rick Brahmer and Gwen Cassis. When they took over from Dukes, they announced that their new name for the historic bar would be Tonic, but building owner Fisher was among the many who objected and convinced them to retain the name. They also kept the faux-antique clock overlooking the patio, which Fisher had installed when he ran the bar. Unfortunately, the wiring is so complicated that setting the time is nigh impossible, and sometimes the clock’s hands are stuck at ten o’clock for weeks at a time. Fortunately for eaters, Argus’ lunch menu is still all right, and probably more often than twice per day.

Selected references

Adams, Barry. “Argus Bar to Get a New Name.” Wisconsin State Journal, February 10, 2007.
Darlington, Tenaya. “Summer Food Forecast.” Isthmus, July 18, 2003.
Davidoff, Judith. “Recipe for Success: A Restaurant Renaissance Is Revitalizing Downtown.” Isthmus, July 29, 1994.
Levitan, Stuart D. Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.
Stein, Jason. “Argus Food Orders Go Digital.” Wisconsin State Journal, June 7, 2002.
Strohs, Warsaw, Denice Williams, and Walter Shorty. Beer Drinking in Madison : A Complete Guide to Madison Taverns. Madison: Warsaw Strohs, 1983.


MonkeyshinesIn a word: There's a little monkeytarnish.

The specs: #00975   
6209 McKee Rd., Fitchburg 53719
Details at Yelp, Monkeyshines Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Monkeyshines news and reviews at

JM ate the nachos.
Nichole ate the "Monkey melt."
The bill was $, or $/person, plus tip.
JM gave Monkeyshines a B; Nichole gave Monkeyshines a B- (see our grading rubric).

Monkeyshines is one of those hit-or-miss neighborhood-type sports-oriented bars where things could go really well, or they could go downhill in a hurry. This one walked the line between those two extremes. The big thing we missed is that, according to Facebook, they cure their own bacon. We should have gone for breakfast!

The atmosphere was literally cold (maybe because the thermostat hadn't yet been adjusted for fall) but the place was friendly enough. Kind of loud, but spacious and clean. The menu is actually pretty extensive, being comprised of several burgers, sandwiches and wraps, along with a small breakfast menu that includes something called the "garbage can lid."

NachosMonkey melt

Nichole settled on the Monkey Melt, a burger on marble rye topped with Swiss cheese, onion rings, and French onion dip. It was OK. JM got another standing bar order of his: nachos. Usually, he finishes most of them and takes the rest home (which makes for soggy leftovers, usually), but the portion size here was a little more right-sized for one sitting.  They were nothing special, though, and he wouldn't likely get them again.

Indeed, the whole Monkeyshines experience was a little on the underwhelming side, but again, maybe we missed some good points. That's the main drawback of our one-visit method.


Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. Updates here, and some bonus bits on Porchlight and Argus.


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