The Argus

Your Rating: None
Very Good
10 Ratings

Type: Bar, Eatery

123 W Main St.
Madison, Wisconsin, 53703
United States

(608) 256-4141 | map

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Added by DaPeculierDane on 10-02-2005

View: Place Reviews
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 10 |  Reviews: 4
Reviews by emerge077:
Photo of emerge077
4/5  rDev +5.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

First review in almost 2 years, hmm. The Argus seems to get passed over for trendier options nearby on the square.
They were hosting Three Floyds for a Great Taste pre-party, so we stopped in briefly for a beer and survey the scene.
On the corner with a patio, and a stone's throw from Maduro and Tipsy Cow on the far end of the block. Easy to pop in here and there.

Inside it's comfortably dim barroom with natural light coming in along the sides. The bar itself was surfaced with copper and had a nice rail. Tin ceilings and old tile floors in the front room. Classic tavern feel.

Selection for the FFF event was great, including BA beers Crack The Skye and Sicario. Typically the selection skews toward local crafts and a handful of macros, not a bastion of craft beer but it's serviceable. Service was quick and efficient despite the crowd which was pretty laid back.

Argus is an overlooked chill spot off the square downtown that's worth a look if you're heading to other nearby bars.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of BarrelAgedG
3.74/5  rDev -1.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4.25 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5

Photo of Rilesmiles
3.86/5  rDev +1.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

Photo of hoosier222002
3.8/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

Photo of tkanedc
4.09/5  rDev +7.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.25 | food: 3

Loved this place, didn't have a bite--so hurt the rating

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Photo of KAF
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%

Photo of TX-Badger
4.5/5  rDev +18.4%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

The wife and I went on a Friday for the fish fry. A HUGE plus of the Argus is they are dog friendly on the patio! We each had the fish fry, and for only $7.50 it was delicious and a steal! They have a decent tap selection and the service was fantastic for a busy Friday afternoon. Definitely a great spot to hit up on Capitol Square.

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Photo of redblacks75
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%

Photo of rhoadsrage
3.45/5  rDev -9.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

This place is two doors down from Maduro but a world apart. Inside the bar they have a decent tap selection leaning more toward the MBC side of things. The night I went it in was pretty dead even though Maduros and the bar in-between were both full. It had the Bud Light banners and sports banners tacked up on the walls around the bar.

They have a late night menu, which include gutbusting classics like Fried Cheese Curd. We took our food and beer, in plastic cups, out to the big sidewalk tables and enjoyed the nice night but one beer and snacks were really all we needed from this place. This is very much a college bar and I’m sure does lots of volume when class is in session.

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Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3 | food: 4

In an odd way, The Argus is a real BA’s bar. Sure it looks like a typical Wisconsin swill saloon but the owner has proven that he’s a true BA at heart by desperately trying to liquidate all of his swill. In fact for most of the last year, he has given away Miller Lite for FREE every Thursday.

Sure this has attracted a large crowd of swill sippers but I don’t mind because the Argus has a small (12) but solid, and ever rotating, selection of craft brews on tap. I admit that this place is barely a “beer bar” but I think it qualifies because their taps change very frequently giving the regular enough time to become intimate with each beer, without getting bored with any of them. If you’re only in town for a day or two skip this bar and hit up the Dane and Essen House but if you have more a little more time, take an hour and check out the Gus for lunch or a game of darts.

Typically the tap list looks something like the following:

Miler Lite
Leinie’s Red
Burning River Pale Ale
Another frequently rotating Great Lakes brew
Berghoff’s seasonal
Beamish or another stout
Capital Amber
Capital Seasonal
Another frequently rotating Capital brew
Spotted Cow
A Brown Ale like Moose Drool or New Castle

The bottle selection is mostly limited to Macros but High Life bottles are cheep and I’m happy to stick with those if I feel like a bottle.

The atmosphere at the Argus is very good. The bar is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Madison. Check out the foundation in the basement sometime. The stonework gives away the age. Historically, the building housed Madison’s first newspaper, “The Daily Argus,” hence the name, a Turkish bathhouse, and a bakery. The architecture is very intact.

The Argus has a large solid, wrap-around wood bar, antiquey tin ceilings, pool in the basement, darts upstairs, a good juke box (lot’s of 70’s/80’s punk rock and hair bands thanks to me and my friends), and one of the best patios in the city with a great view of the capitol and a fresh breeze off the lake in summer.

The service at the Argus is phenomenal. Show your face in the Argus a few times and they’ll get to know it and your drink of choice. Show it a few more times and both the owner and the staff will take care of you. This is a regular’s bar. The staff knows this and they treat their customers accordingly. I’ve also seen bartenders at beer tastings and events around the state. Several of them know their beer.

The Argus offers good drink specials almost every night of the week such as free drink bingo night, the now retired free Miller Lite customer appreciation night, and buy a Great Lakes beer and keep the glass Wednesday. These change as frequently as the beers so don’t blame me if they’re gone by the time you get to the Gus. Also, prices are reasonable for the Capital Square to begin with so specials aren’t necessary to you’re your wallet from emptying.

As far as food goes, the Argus serves up great sandwiches, good soups, and ok salads at lunch. I especially enjoy their BLT, their cheesy Gyros, and the club. After lunch and well into the evening they serve chicken fingers, sausages, and really tasty, really cheap super thin crust pizza. It looks like cardboard but it tastes great.

The Gus is not a beer drinkers paradise by any means but it’s a solid bar, always filled with a politically charged atmosphere from the nearby capital and a friendly staff.

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The Argus in Madison, WI
Place rating: 3.8 out of 5 with 10 ratings