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In a word: Greenbush survivor abides.

The specs: #00946   
1405 Emil St., 53713
Details at Yelp, Licari's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Latest Licari's news and reviews

JM ate the bacon cheeseburger.
Nichole ate the fish fry.
The bill was about $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Licari's a B-; Nichole gave Licari's a C+ (see our grading rubric).

Licari's is one of Madison's longest lived bars. Jerry Licari's Spot Tavern was once at 767-771 West Washington, but along with most of the rest of the businesses in the old Greenbush, it was pushed out by the Triangle Redevelopment Project in the early 1960s. In fact, Licari's and Trotter's Tuxedo Cafe were the two that held out longest. Licari's eventually moved to 1405 Emil Street and has been there since; Trotter's had trouble relocating - in short, Madison residents organized to prevent a black-owned business from moving into their neighborhoods - but eventually reopened at 1616 Beld Street.


Anyway, history. Licari's "new" spot in the Beltline area near Fish Hatchery was one of the closest places at which JM could have grabbed a quick lunch near his old office 10 years ago, and he might have eaten there before. Even so, it was our first time grabbing a table there together. 

The swivel factor was medium; we arrived again in the early end of the dinner hour when most customers were happying an hour or two. We were somewhat rushed, and so couldn't really relax into the vibe. At the time it wasn't super-chill, anyway, with a bizarre Family Feud episode on the TV above the bar - oddly clad men vs. scantily clad women (wrestling was involved). The service was fast and friendly, taking our order chosen from a large chalkboard chock-full of bar standards. We stuck to the familiar: a burger and a fish fry.

Bacon burger

JM's burger was loaded with bacon, the bun was perfectly toasted and the meat-cheese meld was great. Fresh lettuce, onion and tomato, with a you-dose-it tub of BBQ sauce, filled out his meal.

The fish fry was pretty good. Two sizeable pieces of walleye in a light crumb breading came with pickles and a creamy slaw. The tartar and typical crinkle fries tugged the edges down, keeping this plate from flying high, but overall it was decent.

Fish fry

Licari's feels like it is from the time when stops at bars on the way home from work were more common, instead of taking the whole family out to pick up burger a little while later. Still, as blasts from the past go, this one was just OK.


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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.



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