The Coopers Tavern

very good

12 Reviews

Type: Bar, Eatery

20 W Mifflin St
Madison, Wisconsin, 53703-2523
United States

(608) 256-1600 | map

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Added by Soneast on 01-14-2010

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Reviews: 12 | Ratings: 36
Photo of zeff80
3.9/5  rDev +2.4%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4

This is a small, narrow shotgun tavern. It has a nice large board listing beers and their details. 20 or so taps. It was crowded but the service was good at handling a large crowd. Didn't try the food, but the menu looked good.

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Photo of Rilesmiles
4.11/5  rDev +7.9%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4.25

This place has the appeal of a hole-in-the-wall pub with the quality and ambiance you'd expect from an upscale gastropub. It's small, intimate, and almost always busy. The bottle list is long and a bit pricey, with everything you'd expect both domestic and imported. The tap list is always exciting, but never wet-your-pants exciting.

I've had burgers, reubens, fish sandwiches and a few other things to eat here and all were satisfying. I've never had a bad experience here. They also play soccer on the TVs above the bar, which is a big plus for me. They're unofficially an Arsenal bar, for any of you Gunners in town.

Only gripe: inconsistent with proper glassware. Having your beer served in a wet shaker glass doesn't give the greatest first impression.

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Photo of MarcatGSB
3.13/5  rDev -17.8%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3 | food: 3

I hate to find myself being the 10th reviewer on this one, but I guess I will have to do it.

I stumbled upon Cooper's Tavern after checking out the places guide here on BA, as I always eat at Brasserie V when in Madison, so I wanted to try and find something different, and right down town as I was seeing a show at a downtown Theatre and staying down town as well. Cooper's looked very promising. The menu read nice, their tap list was above average, (their bottle list is lengthy, but average, and nothing special).

The food menu is packed with stand out dishes like Lobster Mac, roasted Bone Marrow, some really nice looking salads, beet root Hummus, etc etc. Things that sounded really appealing to me. We loaded up on some app's, and they were all delicious. The roasted bone marrow was fantastic, albeit a very small portion, I could have used 3 bones (instead of 1) to pick at, and maybe charge twice as much...The mussels were super tasty as well. The salads we had were awesome. The brussel sprout salad was fantastic, something really to remember.

The entrees were meh. Very meh. The lobster mac was terrible. No flavor, and for $19.99, bah. The Pork Belly Mac was about the same, (it had brown sugar on it? really odd combo, and not appealing).

Cooper's is a cool place, don't get me wrong. But as far as beer goes, this place is half of Brasserie V is...and food goes the same. Some really nice things, but then some really disappointing things as well. If you are looking for a good dining experience, and a killer beer list (this is a BEER website after all, right?), take a cab to Brasserie's well worth it!

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Photo of Kbyfield
4.78/5  rDev +25.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Love Coopers. Excellent tap and bottle selection, great menu, and very good service. It gets crowded and noisy sometimes, but given it’s proximity to the Square and St Street, this is expected. The Manager is on site nearly every night keeping things running soundly, the bar staff is well versed in the various beers, and the wait staff is quite proficient, if a bit overwhelmed at times.

They do a very good lunch so if you’re in the area and want to try it out but don’t want to battle the masses, it’s a good time to check out the selection and some great food.

And FTR, it’s been a Food Fight, Inc restaurant since Day 1. If the previous reviewer liked it before, they shouldn’t have to worry about anything changing.

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Photo of martyl1000
4.9/5  rDev +28.6%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Been here thricely now. Each time as well deserving of praise as the last. Their 30 taps are hard to beat. Pub food innovations will have me looking fwd to returning. Fresh baked beer cheese pretzel surprised in its vertical format. Knowledgable and accomodating staff. Nice long warm wood bar and plank floor. TV's mercifully small and silent. Kitchen open mercifully late. Next time: dessert! Nice work, people.
Fourth visit: they were clearing space to bring in their holiday brews, so Ayinger cCelebrator was $3., among other taps for $2/pint.
Busy Sunday night, yet service from the lone bartender was the perfect mix of timely attention and confident discretion.
Surely not common to find two draft Saison in one place (Goose Island 'Sofie', Ommegang 'Hennepin'), both exceptiional.
It comes to my attention that Coppers Tavern has been recently taken over by Food Fight Inc, which, in other instances, has led to your typical corporate attenutaion of quality (see Avenue Bar and Tex Tubbs for heart-breaking examples). However, at Coopers tavern, so far, so good.

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Photo of barcabadger
3.85/5  rDev +1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

It is an above average place. Madison can do better, but given the location and its intended clientele (the don't want chains, but will settle for local chain to safe crowd) it is pretty good. It does offer some great selections but also goes with the fairly "safe" and "average" selection more than than should.

If I were to make it better, I'd make the atmosphere a little less sterile and authentic. It is a better alternative to the Irish Pub across the square, but it can make itself a little more unique.

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Photo of steveh
3.2/5  rDev -16%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2 | selection: 5 | food: 2.5

Yeah, this is gonna be a lop-sided review, but it's straightforward.

Tried Coopers as Plan C on Memorial Day after we got juked by another place that promised to be open, but didn't follow through. That said, I knew about the Coopers beer selection so I was excited.

Place wasn't terribly crowded, but the set-up is one of those that puts tables on top of each other and the acoustics make things loud.

The decor was typically nouveau industrial in a long, narrow setting, but this lets the bar shine.

Service was slow and spotty, even with 4 waiters working. The food was on the high end (it's directly across from the Capitol, says a lot) of price, but really didn't balance in quality. My wife had the tenderloin that she called unimpressive, and I had the stew that was rather lackluster.

Now the beer selection is another subject, though I have questions about handling. My first choice was out, it would seem everything is in the same cooler, at the same temperature, which rather stunted my Blanche De Bruxelles to start... and it was served in a Wittekerke glass.

All in all, I'd stop in to see what was new on tap and probably make my way down the street to the Capital Tap House.

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Photo of emerge077
3.48/5  rDev -8.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

Made a quick Saturday afternoon stop here after checking out Fromagination on the square. There was an enclosed sidewalk patio outside, and a manageable crowd inside. The bar was full, so we sat at a low table in the back, on the other side of the "snug" room. Wasn't especially cozy. The atmosphere was contemporary, somewhat minimal, lots of dark wood (floors, tables, chairs, bar top), with robins egg blue wood paneling and cream colored walls with some exposed brick touches. Framed classic photography of barrel rooms, keeping with the cooper theme. Some flatscreens high on the walls playing rugby games.

Selection was pretty good, more imports than other places around town, with an extensive bottle list (available online). We settled on a Great Dane Imperial IPA and a Tyranena Bitter Woman, as fresh local beer was what we were after. The atmosphere was bustling, and the space was deep and narrow. There were empty brown 750 bottles on each table, which wasn't clear if it was meant to be a decoration or used for water or something. We didn't try the food while here, but i'd return sometime to sample a few things. As it's on the square, it's in close proximity to a few other places worth visiting too. Old Fashioned still has the best taps in town for my money...

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Photo of cullenvens
4.68/5  rDev +22.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

This place is very, very valuable in Madison. Because of other nearby pubs that have delightful food, good beer selection and excellent service, The Coopers Tavern has had to keep with the status quo. However, you wouldn't think they were followers by their prices or knowledge of food, beer or whiskey for that matter.

To speak, first, of the prices: I was blown away by the affordability when combined with the quality! Next, their knowledge is impeccable. I was pleasantly surprised by the bar service (both on beer and Scotch) and the outside table service.

This awesome experience was only improved upon (I know!) by the hospitality of the proprietor, Peter McElvanna. After a short chat about the Badger vs. Buckeye football game we could hear roaring from at least a dozen city blocks away, he quickly became my favorite part of the experience. We will be back, several times, I am sure.

In conclusion, the beer is awesome and the taps are so fresh. The Scotch is amazing and the food is haughty without being oppressive (either by price or fanciness).

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Photo of Florida9
4.38/5  rDev +15%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

This has to be the most under-appreciated beer bar in all of Madison. Great food at reasonable prices with 28 taps of fine craft beer to match it with.

Located off the Capitol Square in a tiny speck of a storefront, Coopers offers great beer and food. Food is a blend of old school traditional French and British along with some more modern sandwich options. Everything is made to order and, I'll admit, it was far better than I expected. But the best part about the food it that this IS beer food. Simple and hearty, from roast beef to fresh fried chips and frites, to quiches to match up against the many Belgians they have on tap, this food is just meant to be enjoyed with a quality beer.

And the beer is certainly quality. Twenty-eight taps, roughly half of which were American craft (NG, Ale Asylum, even Great Dane), about half were Belgians, and there were some British and Germans in there to make up the difference. A very wide selection of quality bottles, arranged by style, is also available.

Prices are reasonable for the quality of the food and beer. (This place could easily charge double if it were located in Chicago.)

Service is competent if not overtly friendly.

With a better beer list than The Old Fashion, better food than Brickhouse, and better prices than Brasserie V, I am unsure why Cooper's Tavern has gone so unnoticed. Personally, I can't wait to return.

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Photo of AmberMan22
4.58/5  rDev +20.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Wow, Coopers is a helluva lot packed into such a small nook on the Capitol Square.

Nice atmosphere, especially in the evening. Good mood lighting, but still properly lit at lunch time. Only trouble is that the place is so skinny that there isn't much room to move about easily or bring really large parties.

Quality is really top notch though. The place is dressed up with nice furniture, nice interior decoration, and a general feel of authenticity. Bang up job.

Service is good. Everyone is polite, helpful, and prompt. The place is usually pretty busy for lunch, but that's another sign that it's good.

Selection is wickedly impressive. 27 varieties of beer on tap and NINETY-SIX (96!) bottled. The bottled list is almost more impressive, but there's no way in heck I'm gonna add those right now. I'll list a few of the better ones:
-Sam Smith -- RIS, and Oatmeal Stout
-Rochefort -- 6, 8, 10
-Unibroue -- Fin du Monde, Maudite, Trois Pistoles, Blanche de Chambly
-Founders Dirty Bastard
-SN Torpedo Extra
-Bell's Two-Hearted
-Victory Hopdevil
Then there's the food! A bit pricey, but very delicious and well worth it.
Which is pretty much how I'll sum this up.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4

surprised nobody has reviewed this one yet - great location right on the capitol square on the otherwise socially void mifflin street side. about a block from the old fashioned and within walking distance of all the other downtown stops

interior is cozy - the "snug" is extra cozy - a room seating 4-6 that is completely closed off except for a window that opens up into the bar. i've sat there twice for lunch - seems like it could make for an interesting night of drinking though

i remember reading about this place opening months ago and had been looking forward to it ever since. i think i have been in to Coopers 4 times now, twice for lunch and twice for dinner. self-described as a "gastropub" and boasting a large tap/bottle list

I count 28 taps, but none of them really excite me. with places like the old fashioned, maduro and now the brickhouse offering exciting tap selections in the downtown area, coopers doesnt stand out as a major destination for beer.

goose island matilda is on but it's a little pricey at $7 i think. a variety of scottish, british german and irish taps are present. Seems like if you wanted that sort of thing downtown, you always had brocach...

on my last visit i stuck to ommegang hennepin and two brother domaine dupaige and also got a bottle of GI Sofie that was reaonably priced. There's a fair amount of bottles available as well, but i'm not sure how fast these are turning over.

the food has been a mixed bag. On one hand they offer the french canadian classic, poutine (frites, fresh cheese curds, brown gravy) which is incredibly sinful yet irresistible. i had the seared goat-cheese polenta on my last visit and it just wasnt that good (especially compared to the polenta options at cafe continental nearby). The salad with fried goat cheese and cranberries is pretty tasty and all of the sandwiches i have had have been good (lamb, reuben, brisket).

it's going to draw a lot of comparisons to the old fashioned and i think coopers falls behind in all the major categories for a beer bar (taps, rotation, grub, atmosphere). the owner seems like a generally nice guy so i hope they do well - the location will cause long waits and crowded bars at night

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The Coopers Tavern in Madison, WI
3.81 out of 5 based on 36 ratings.
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