There’s something about sipping a beer or an Old Fashioned at a dive bar that makes you really feel like a local. These are a few of my favorite recent dive bar discoveries. There are still many to try! A good problem to have, I think.
Woody and Anne’s – 2236 Winnebago St.
Once a regular spot for workers at the Ray-O-Vac facility, this small bar is now popular with folks from the neighborhood. A 22-foot vintage shuffleboard table lines the front wall of this east-side dive, and a curved bar fills the rest of the space. As long as your name is not on the “do not serve” list taped to the register, you can expect friendly service, and maybe even join the regulars in singing along to ’80s rock from the jukebox.
Le Tigre Lounge – 1328 S. Midvale Blvd.
This small family-run lounge decked out in serious tiger decor has one of the oldest liquor licenses in the city. The hardest choice to make here is where to sit—under the body of a stuffed (real) tiger or in front of a snarling tiger hologram.
Ohio Tavern – 224 Ohio Ave.
This purportedly haunted tavern is a landmark in the Atwood Avenue neighborhood. History runs deep: The tavern was the third bar to open in Madison after the repeal of Prohibition, and was originally a bank—there’s still a vault in the basement. Now the bright Blatz sign calls you in to enjoy a brew, play a game of pool and check out the owner’s spooky mask collection.
Caribou Tavern – 703 E. Johnson St.
On most levels, the cozy ’Bou is a do: Many folks come for the ’Bou Burger, a flavorful, extra-large beef patty perfectly cooked and topped with cheese and lots of extras. The only don’ts: In true dive fashion, wine lovers need to find an alternative, and the bartender doesn’t muddle.
Excerpted from original listing published in Madison Magazine, March 2016.