« Fit 2 Eat | Main | HomeTown Buffet »


In a word: Something to love.

The specs: #0755  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, 77 Square, Wisconsin State Journal, Isthmus; Twitter, The Fountain on Urbanspoon

Latest Fountain news and reviews

JM ate the double brat with a lemonade.
Jennifer ate the burger with Muenster and regular fries.
Jenny ate the seasonal salad.
Nichole ate the chicken sandwich with a Moon Man.
Toby ate the burger with colby & Swiss and bacon with sweet potato fries.
Trent ate the turkey pot pie.
The bill was $72, or $12/person, plus tip.
Nichole gave Fountain an A-; Toby and Trent gave Fountain a B; JM, Jennifer and Jenny gave Fountain a B- (see our grading rubric).

Fountain is a small new Wisconsin-themed pub just off the Square on State Street. It's easy to miss, as it has a very small footprint, but we found it generally worth a trip. One could argue that its genre is overrepresented, but if downtown Madison can support six sushi restaurants (including one with gogo dancers and one without a kitchen), it should probably be able to support one more pub along the lines of ... wait for it ... Old Fashioned. (This comparison brought to you by The Obvious.)

So we're a little afraid that Fountain will get lost in the downtown shuffle, when really it's a charming spot.* Fountain's different in that it seats only about 50 in its long, bar-dominated dining room. Tables for two along the be-muraled wall opposite the bar would be a good place for a comfortable date, especially if your date likes those homey wooden Colonial style captain's chairs because they are reminders of Gram's house.

So beer is important in a place like this. Tyranena, Central Waters, Lakefront, and other local brews are represented. We also learned from our dining companions that Moon Man, whose pawprint graces the New Glarus label, is a real cat who lives in Madison, and now we're two degrees removed from him. Sweet!

Sweet potato fries

We started with some crinkle cut sweet potato fries, and were impressed. Bleu cheese dressing was a good match. Later the folks who got plain fries wished they'd gotten more of these.

SaladThere are some decent vegetarian options here, most notably a seasonal salad. While Jenny found it good overall, she also commented that it was trying so hard it verged on incoherent - there were about three too many ingredients. It consisted of Romaine lettuce topped with carrots, cabbage, roasted butternut squash, and grated parmesan, and came with a side of roasted beets with pumpkin seed pesto.

The turkey pot pie was to Trent "Thanksgiving in a bowl." It was a giant tureen of peas, carrots, onions, and of course, moist light and dark meat turkey - all the good stuff. Its one flaw was that its biscuit topping was underdone in places, enough that eventually he avoided the biscuit altogether.

Pot pie

The burgers were sadly underwhelming. Toby and Jennifer ordered medium rare, and the meat was done to order, but was also somewhat greasy. Smooth-topped, toasted buns, Muenster, Swiss and colby, bacon... it all should have added up to something better, yet just ended up bland. Part of the problem was the "anemic" tomato and lettuce (definitely not exclusive to Fountain, but pandemic to anywhere dependent on truck farming or hydroponics to get good veg in winter).

Burger with colby and SwissBurger with muenster

Nichole set out to get something with pepper relish on it. The chicken sandwich with relish, bleu cheese sauce, and bacon on a toasted, buttered bun, was super messy but super dreamy. (Unfortunately it's not offered at lunch, but the tuna melt is also good.)

The slaw, however, was a pass - the portion was huge and so mayo-drenched we could have wrung it out in a sock.

Chicken sandwich and coleslawFrench's yellow

Finally, the Wisconsin state sausage: bratwurst. Fountain gets theirs from Bavaria Sausage Co.,** an excellent choice. JM got the double brat platter and was surprised that the two sausages were so different - one was much juicier than the other. While the bacon kraut sounded like a good idea, the excess fat merely dampened what needed to be a more tart contrast to the sausage, and sogged out the untoasted bun.

We attributed the few ragged edges to having gone so soon after they opened. Though we're not gushing, we'd go back.

*Since our visit, neon has popped up in the front window - a blue Fountain logo and a Miller High Life sign - that seems a little out of keeping with the mood inside.

**If you haven't been there, check it out. They've got a fully stocked deli counter with hard-to-find cold cuts and cheeses, mustard, canned goods, chocolate, Haribo, Bavarian pretzel rolls, duck, rabbit... it's a wonderland. But along with the authentic German food, be prepared for authentic German disregard for queueing.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

We really enjoyed our meal. Todd got the BBQ burger; I got the mushroom burger with spinach and artichoke sauce. My favorite part was the sweet potato fries. I normally don't like the crinkle-cut fries as well, but these were great. (I don't know why I don't normally like them. Perhaps it's an irrational food fear.)

The bar is beautiful. The beer selection is Wisconsiny. The service was great. We are so happy it's close. I am so glad I saw your review. The burger place we intended to go was closed due to snow. I remembered the rave of sweet potato fries so I thought I would check it out.

19 friends and I went to the Fountain for my birthday. Yes, we made reservations. And even though it was obvious they were nervous about a 20 top, they gave us the go ahead.

When we arrived exactly on time, it took them 20 minutes to set up the table(s). We didn't really mind, because we've been there enough to know that they're not made for big groups.

We had 2 waitresses. Danielle was perfect: she kept us hydrated and was always in the right place at the right time, and not to the point of annoyance. The other woman (blue and black dress, red hair?) was annoyed with us, and didn't work to hide it.

Everyone's food (mostly burgers) tasted great, except for my brother's. He was sick the rest of the night (he ordered the Fountain burger).

Use caution, at least and especially with small groups.

It's very hard - and not very fair - to pin being sick on food one has consumed that recently. It would be fair to say the brother wasn't feeling well and that there was suspicion that it was the food; then we could draw our own conclusion based on knowledge of physiology and biology and decide that it was something eaten much earlier. It slays me that people immediately blame restaurants on their stomach issues (rare) and can't begin to imagine they were poisoned at home (common).

If several people ordered burgers, and only one got sick, it most likely wasn't the burger.

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.


Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

Madison Food coverInfo about our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is here, or read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook.



About Follow madisonatoz on Twitter Contact
Blogroll Ad 
Free Blog
Read our book and food tour
Dish du jour Creative Commons License subscribe to RSS Subscribe
Memo to restaurants Bloggers' Rights at EFF Quizzes
Reflections BlogWithIntegrity.com Tip jar
Banner image by Kayla Morelli, Red Wheelbarrow Design