SALUD!MADISON'S HAPPY HOUR GEMS
By Rachel Werner | Photographed by KAIA CALHOUN (TOP LEFT), PHOTOS COURTESY ROMAN CANDLE (CENTER LEFT AND BOTTOM RIGHT) AND DLUX (TOP RIGHT AND BOTTOM LEFT.)
Savoring the happiest of hours around Madtown can be an epic quest. And the following locales are worth an after-hours crawl any day of the week, serving up affordable and inventive spreads, a welcoming vibe and a good cocktail, or two.
An intimate, hipster and a cash-only establishment, Alchemy is a true townie stop on Madison’s near East Side. Mostly known for its locally sourced micro-menu, this café serves up one inexpensive house cocktail, along with discounted tap brews and half-price small plates at happy hour. One not-to-miss nosh is The Batch Bakehouse Grilled Bread—delivered sliced, toasted and paired with rotating selections of creamy pâtés like parmesan leek. alchemycafe.net.
Glam meets diner at DLUX. Though the interior screams metropolitan thanks to the sleek illuminated surfaces and the semi-circular booths obviously designed to hold three gals (along with five of their besties), the food is full-on comfort from the alcohol-infused milkshakes to quarter-inch thick burgers to one of the most playful happy hour combos on the Capitol Square—Spuds and Sparkles, a $6 tater tot and sparkling wine pairing. Of happy hours here, says Food Fight Chief Creative Officer Caitlin Suemnicht, “expect creative drinks and tasty appetizers in a modern, trendy setting. The large square-shaped bar in the center of the room is a great setting for bantering with bartenders and people watching, and during warm weather months our patio with a Capitol view is always bustling.” dluxmadison.com.
Bathe in elegance accentuated by a killer view of Lake Mendota at Augie’s Tavern in The Edgewater Hotel. Hosting happy hour Sunday to Thursday, a daily classic cocktail such as a Sidecar or a Manhattan nicely complements the flavors of Executive Chef Joe Heppe’s nibbles.
“I like to have fun with the happy hour dishes I create—taking traditional bar food like wings and infusing them with something unexpected, like Wisconsin maple syrup, sherry vinegar and gochujang,” he explains. “The oysters offer a bit of nostalgia, throwing it back to oyster dishes featured on Edgewater menus from the 1950s and ’60s and the Augie’s Burger is a great opportunity to feature local purveyors by including an aged cheddar from Hook’s, Stalzy’s Deli breads and beef from Fox Heritage Farms.” theedgewater.com.
Located on lower Monroe Street, the newest neighborhood lounge of the popular pizzeria chain The Roman Candle features a big ash bar (made from ash trees reclaimed from Emerald Ash Borer sites), big screen TVs and urban décor throughout. Although still quite family-friendly, it’s the most grown-up Roman Candle yet with 21 craft taps, including five tap lines dedicated to small batch cocktails and the generous pour of premium spirits in every drink. The cocktails are also delivered in jars and dubbed with trendy monikers like PaLoMo, a strong tequila punch, and the delish pear mule Monroe Doctrine. “We have taken inspiration from our ‘Culture of Crust’ ethos,” says owner Brewer Stouffer, “and we make everything from scratch by squeezing the citrus, making our own syrups and sour mix, and using fresh botanicals. This is our first location to go all-in on the casual bar. We’ve taken it to the next level.” theromancandle.com.
Thank goodness it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!