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Coopers Tavern

In a word: Madison's worst-kept secret.

The specs: #0539  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus;  reviews at 77 Square and againThe Wandering Cuisine, life and puppies, Ruppert Food Blog, Isthmus, AV Club, Eat Drink Madison, Yelp, Madison Beer Review, QSC, Madison Foodie, Madison Fish Fry; previews at Isthmus and 77 Square; TDPForum; official web site and reviews, links collected at del.icio.us, Cooper's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Latest Coopers Tavern news and reviews

JM ate the pork belly mac and cheese.
Nichole ate the Reuben with a Lakefront Brewery Fixed Gear red.
Paula ate the Brussels sprout salad with an Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen.
The bill was $47, or $15.67/person, plus tip.
JM gave Coopers Tavern a B+; Nichole gave Coopers Tavern a B-; Paula gave Coopers Tavern an A (see our grading rubric).

Coopers has been packed at dinnertime every time we've seen it. Is it because the Square needs a  midrange comfort food outlet? The lure of the real snug in the back of the room? The extensive beer list, the Food Fight affiliation, or the truly warm hospitality of its tireless owner? Probably all of this and more. But on our visit, three months into Coopers' tenure, we felt the place creaking under the weight of its own popularity, and food and service were somewhat worse for overwear.

Picking a Saturday night at 6:30 was our own dang fault, sure, and we did get in sooner than promised (not like it was a burden to catch up on Baconfest and other news with Nichole's DCFM Info Booth buddy). However, Paula never got the club soda she requested, and we missed out on the bone marrow app we ordered. And the din, good heavens. 

Pork belly mac

Pish, tosh, let's get to the food we did eat. JM's pork belly mac and cheese was a bit sad. The noodles seemed like they'd sat out under a lamp too long and were crusty on top, which left JM with little patience for a somewhat tough bit of otherwise tasty pork belly and a decent, yet bitter ,cheese sauce. JM and Paula were both disappointed in the sourdough baguette, which was of the gum-tearing-up variety.

Brussels sprout salad and rauchbierPaula let Nichole order her own favorite dish, the Reuben, and opted for the Brussels sprout salad. The sprouts were large, cut into quarters, and only very lightly steamed if they'd been cooked at all. A bed of romaine mix in a creamy garlic dressing "paired perfectly with the bite of the sprouts," said Paula, but the bacon and blue cheese were both were pretty mild and didn't have quite the effect she thought they would. She'd order the salad again, but perhaps hold the croutons, which seemed to be made from bits of the same machete-like baguette.

ReubenThe Reuben is made with excellent house-corned beef, and the cheese and beer slaw and bread all add up to more than the sum of their parts. Even knowing all that, and knowing the zeal this sandwich has inspired in many a Madisonian, Nichole's going to nail up her 95 theses for Quivey's Riley Reuben on this one. 

There's more on Coopers' menu we'd love to try - namely the beet salad and chicken curry (thanks to Kyle, Nichole's already sampled the grilled cheese, which was good if blander than expected). We wish we could go back when they weren't so crowded, because this hardly feels like it was the optimal circumstance. Then again, Coopers sans crowd seems pretty unlikely.


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For such a glum review I'm surprised by the high grades. I found Coopers to be typical FoodFight fare: dull uninspired food :( The beer selection makes it a worthwhile place to visit before/after dinner though!

The beet salad is ok but barely has any beets in it and too many of the terrible croutons :)

Ive been there twice this month. I had their chicken sandwich and on the next visit the turkey sandwich, both great. The mixed greens as a side are worth it.

That didn't take long. (Figgy B)

I gotta try that Reuben!

I've been three times.. but only ate twice. Once a friend and I split our meals... she got beet salad, I got veggie sandwich. both divine. lots of beets and good cheese. the veggie sandwich was inspired... no eggplant, for once, and the addition of a thin smear of hummus elevated it to truly awesome. I think they used Clasen's wheat bread, too, which helped not turn it into slop.

Now... I've been at lunch for the food, and strategically at 1pm or after (as many downtown workers know... avoiding noon - 1pm is best everywhere). Thought the service was great. Prompt. Coworker was pleased that when she wanted an additional 1/2 glass of soda, she got a 1/2 glass of soda. I guess everyone fills it up when you say 1/2. Except Cooper's. Go them. (Not my issue, mind you.)

Went last night. Had the beet salad. It was okay. The dressing needs more zing. Their croutons are seriously rocklike. I know croutons are supposed to be hard, but I think I lost a filling. (kidding).

J had the cooper's burger and he ordered med well. It came...medium well. No pink. That made him happy. Came with homemade chips which were tasty.

We also sampled the poutine and it ... was okay. The frites were well browned but could have been crispier.

We went early, before our dance class, so we had no problems getting a table, but it was starting to fill up. I'd go back and try something else, just to see if I'm being a little picky and unfair.

went again last night with hubbie. now i see some problems. spinach salad with cherries, walnuts and fried goat cheese. fried goat cheese is icky-- the cheese inside that is still white gets all gritty and clumpy, but without smoothness. dressing was a bit too minimal. cherries didn't appear to be dried and rehydrated-- they looked near-maraschino-ish and not super flavorful. i'd never order that salad again. you're right about the baguette. why are people so ape for Madison Sourdough? hubbie had burger (his first time there) and loved it. bun fell apart, but he kinda likes that. frites were superb and the accompanying aioli made me nearly lick the cup clean.
my verdict: stick with burger, veg sandwich, beet salad and frites

I tried this place for the first time on Labor Day evening. It was not very memorable. We started with the pretzel appetizer. They were more like breadsticks. They were good but not outstanding.

I got the seared goat cheese polenta served over a red pepper coulis with brussels sprouts, seasonal vegetables, and a rustic baguette. The polenta was good. The red pepper coulis has no flavor. I surprised that something so colorful could have so little flavor. My vegetable had been cooked just a little too long.

Todd got the burger and chips. The chips had also been cooked a little too long. When we arrived, it wasn't too crowded. It was fairly crowded by the time we left. I am glad we didn't have to wait for such ordinary food.

Inconsistent service, smug attitude. There are many better in Madison.

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