Bars: The Plaza


How cliché. I went to the Plaza for the first time since moving in practically next door and who do I run into other than Danny Spirn of the Critical Badger and Mac Verstandig, the flamboyantly right wing former editor-in-chief of the Badger Herald. After reminding Verstandig about the last time I had seen him – which featured Verstanding in a new McCain-Palin polo, pontificating to the herald office about Florida’s unbreakably red character – I went to the bar to inquire about drink specials, but more importantly, the famous Plaza burger.

Drink specials weren’t that bad. Top-o-the-line rum cocktails for $2.50 on a Tuesday night and $2 off pitchers. Top shelf rum is cool, but when you offer that deal, it makes a guy like me imagine an even cheaper drink with rail rum. Just a suggestion. I think I’m going to make that one in person as well, since the staff seemed very friendly – and oddly sophisticated.

The burger was pretty good, although it’s not very big. There’s some kind of ranch sauce they put on it. The Plaza definitely has cheap bar food, which, believe it or not, is something that quite a few Madison bars lack.

During the day the inside of the bar is an eye sore. A long hall of white floor, almost completely devoid of sunlight. But at night there’s something that happens to the Plaza that brings out a certain charm that apparently has worked for decades. It’s garnered somewhat of a cult status in certain Madison circles, as noted by the Critical Badger.

Good food, good drinks, good people. Now that Ramhead is closed, I can comfortably say the Plaza is the best bar on my block.


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10 Responses to “Bars: The Plaza”

  1. Paul Axel Says:

    The Plaza Sauce is I think a sour cream based sauce with dill. Not sure about the ranch dressing.

    Yeah, Plaza’s good stuff. I need to get out there more. Maybe this weekend.

  2. Ordinary Jill Says:

    I’m not sure the Plaza wants to attract customers who are too cheap to spend $2.50 on a rum drink. After that unfortunate stabbing incident last year, I suspect they’re trying to class up the joint a little bit. Kudos to them for introducing more students to top-shelf rum. I may have to make a trip to the Plaza again some Tuesday night.

    And I have to say, I won’t miss the Ram Head. They got rid of their only decent bartender last year, and it was all downhill from there.

  3. Jason Smathers Says:

    I think it’s a good thing, at least for Craver’s sake, that Ram Head is closed. Otherwise, he’d be a 200 pound alcoholic by Christmas. You can’t live between two bars, a video store with a netflix-type plan and a hot dog place (not to mention across the street from a greek restaurant and not gain at least 20 pounds.

  4. Jason Joyce Says:

    In 1992, pitchers of Bud were $3.50 at the Plaza and the lineup for bubble hockey often featured luminaries like Jessie Garcia, currently host of the Mike McCarthy show. Playing pool there meant dealing with a pair of angry Vietnam war vets, one in a wheel chair, who would curse you out over minimal etiquette violations. It was the Herald war room then, as well.

    I was just there for lunch last week and think the daytime is just as good a time as any to be in there. The sun shines through the front window and politicians roll up their sleeves to attack their burgers.

    The coolest thing about the Plaza is that they’ve never had beefy bouncers, preferring to just alternate bartenders working the door. Go figure: They almost never have to worry about breaking up fights.

  5. The Sconz Says:

    Smathers – I have reaped the benefits of all those places except Acropolis or whatever that Gyro place is called. I really have no desire.

    Joyce – Ditto on the bouncer thing. It’s really great having a bar without dealing with a guy who’s had an inferiority complex since his days as a second stringer on the ’92 offensive line.

  6. Brad V Says:

    One of my favorite nights at the Plaza rolled around in what must have been fall of 2005.

    One Thursday night witnessed multiple staff members in the bar from each of the four newspapers operating on campus at that point.

    One could’ve whistled a Clint Eastwoodish tune…the place wasn’t big enough.

  7. The Sconz Says:

    Four? Some of us youngsters aren’t familiar Brad. The Herald, the Cardinal, and, I’m guessing, the Mendota Beacon? Which one am I missing?

  8. KB Says:

    @Joyce–They don’t have to worry about fights, except, you know, that one time.

  9. Erik Paulson Says:

    The Madison Observer

  10. Irish Frog Says:

    Love the Plaza, practically lived there (on week nights) when I lived on Henry for 2y. It was incredibly weird when Madison banned smoking. I’m not a smoker, and I’m a big fan of the ban….but when I walked in there it was like looking into a new bar. I had never seen the back of the Plaza from the front door, the nicotine haze had always prevented that. Never realized it was so big 🙂

    And I always go with the half-pitchers.

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