Mickies Dairy Bar: Mighty, big breakfasts
Mickies Dairy Bar, est. 1947, is a classic diner with guts and, given half a chance, it will fill your guts, too. On Saturday mornings, especially on game day, there’s a line out the door, but tables turn fast and you won’t be disappointed. Take note of the parade of glossy-eyed eaters clutching to-go containers as they exit. Indeed, many undergrads cite Mickies for its low cost-to-calories ratio. Keep that in mind, and the fact that there’s a lot of eating left to do today, as you place your order at this over-the-top mom-and-pop.
The original Mickie is long gone, but today owners Janet & Payow Thongnuam carry on the tradition of delicious grilled cheese, liver and onions (every day!) and breakfasts engineered to kill a hangover or fuel a day of jumping around and cheering the Badgers. When the city block on which Mickies stands was up for redevelopment, the little diner held its ground versus a big hotel development - for which Madison is all the richer.
Inside expect a diner bar, wooden booths and tables with tall stools, and lots of sports paraphernalia. Some ancient menus are posted too (don’t let the “coffee for a quarter” fool you). The service is good and fast; when you’re done, pay at the counter.
Mickies is known for its scramblers. These are massive platters of breakfast food that can easily feed two adults. They start with a foundation of “yanks,” Mickies’ signature chopped hash browns, topped with eggs scrambled with your choice of omelet ingredients (ham, bacon, sausage; broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, and more), topped with melted shredded cheddar and smothered in poultry gravy. Plus toast.
Mickies wouldn’t be a dairy bar without malts and shakes. (Perhaps because we live in Madison we’re acclimated to the ubiquity of sweet dairy products.) While plenty of restaurants serve ice cream, frozen custard, or even a full selection of soda fountain favorites, a place that calls itself a “dairy bar” (currently one of only two in town, the other being a theme-park-like nostalgia-fest called “Rennie’s” after the nickname of a long-gone drugstore chain, Rennebohm’s) had better do it right. And Mickies does, serving your malt in the quart-sized mixer with as many spoons and straws as your party wants.
Choose from eight flavors, from the usual fruits, plus butterscotch, mint, and coffee, and feel free to mix them up. The strawberry-chocolate shake is particularly good.
Inside Tip: B-cycleThe next stop on the tour is back downtown, which is just over a mile away. It’s a pleasant walk, but you can also take advantage of Madison’s B-Cycle bicycle rental program. Use a credit card to check out a bike from any corral in town, and return to any corral. There’s one visible from Mickies’ front door and another within steps of the next destination, State Street Brats; see an interactive kiosk or the B-cycle website for locations and current rates.