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Laurel Tavern

In a word: For as much as Madison isn't like Wisconsin, The Laurel is.

The specs: #0325
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; interview with Julie, cook and waitress; reviews at Ruppert Food Blog, Madison Fish Fry, collected at del.icio.us; menu at menupix; Laurel Tavern on Urbanspoon

The LaurelJM ate the fried cod with french fries, clam chowder and a lemonade.
John R. ate the baked cod with a baked potato, salad and a diet Mountain Dew.
John S. ate the fried cod with hash browns O'Brien, clam chowder and an iced tea.
Nichole ate the tuna melt on wheat with a diet Sierra Mist.
Rose ate the baked cod with hash browns O'Brien and a salad.
The bill was $56, or $11.20/person, plus tip.
JM and John R. gave the Laurel an A-; John S. and Nichole gave the Laurel a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest Laurel news and reviews

The Laurel is a bit of a throwback to a time when pretension and gentrification were words to be looked up in the dictionary.  The Laurel is sort of a west-side Esquire Club.  Transplanted from either 25 years ago or 25 miles north, it offers good bar burgers and, of course, Friday fish fry.  It also does not take credit cards.

Tabletop fireplaceIt was wise to get to the Laurel early on a Friday night. We were blessed with the best seats in the house: there was a gas fireplace right on the table, which the server graciously let us keep on for the duration of our meal (to the chagrin of the hostess and possibly other, warmer-blooded diners, to whom we apologize). By the time we were done, the place had started to get packed with fans of the Laurel's above-average fish fry.

SaladJohn and Rose's starter iceberg salads were average but distinguished themselves with a half hard boiled egg and very peppery red onions. Rose especially liked the super bleu cheese dressing.

Clam chowderJohn S. and JM likewise both loved their clam chowder, which was served fast and hot, with discernible bits of just-the-right-degree-of-springiness clam and a light creaminess with a slightly smoky flavor.

Fried cod and hash browns O'BrienOf the cod fish fry itself, everyone at our table approved. (Only the fried walleye pike option went untasted.) JM found the tartar sauce more delicate than usual, which had both an upside and a downside. The fries were good and the hash browns O'Brien sounded promising, described as the house special hash browns with onions, peppers and cheese. Though Rose liked hers, they were less than impressive to John S.

Baked cod and baked potatoThe baked cod was especially excellent and came covered in paprika and parsley, with drawn butter on the side. John R.'s baked potato was just average, so he didn't finish it but wanted to pack it up; our only complaint about the otherwise good service was that they were a little too fast to whisk away his plate and he didn't get a chance to ask for a doggy bag.

Tuna meltLast but not least, Nichole's tuna melt was all you could ask for in a tuna melt: perfectly crispy bread, the right amount of tuna and celery filling, and just enough cheese (brick was a good unobtrusive choice, over Swiss, cheddar and American) to make it feel like a party. Well, as much of a party as could be expected, anyway.

The side of coleslaw we ordered later was nothing to write home about, with caraway seeds that were visible but otherwise contributed nothing to the watery mayo mix. And we're sad they don't take credit and don't have Coke. But all told, the Laurel is a nice neighborhood hangout.


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HOW does no one get the walleye pike?? It's the best friggin' fish-fry fish you can get! Well, except maybe perch. Was there no perch?

Nope, just cod. Well, talk to JM et al. I wasn't gonna take one for the team, being the only diner in our group that's in the demographic that's supposed to avoid the heavy-metal-bearing fishies.

The Laurel has pretty routine bar food and a very inattentive staff. Off duty staff usually take up one end of the bar and the on-duty staff just hang out with them and ignore customers. You have to go up to the bar and get someone's attention. One of the waitresses, Mel, can be downright surly.

I live around the corner and was a regular, simply for the convenience. The food is ok for bar food--nothing special. By far the best burgers are at the Blue Moon and, especially, Dotty Dumpling's Dowery. The best fish fry is at Quivey's Grove Stone House.

Bottom line: The food wasn't special enough to keep me going back and put up with the inattentive staff.

The comments to this entry are closed.


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