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Our Favorite Bars in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, has plenty of beautiful gardens, fascinating museums, and delicious cheeses at every corner, but it’s also known for its craft beer.

beer drinks clinking at bars in Madison Wisconsin

So if you’ve ever wondered where to get a drink or if there are any fun places to go out — I’ve got you covered. Check out my list of the best bars in Madison, Wisconsin, below!


602 University Ave, Madison, WI 53715
Phone: (608) 256-5204
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Wanda’s is an energetic and cheerful bar near the Chanel Museum of Art. It’s one of those spots you may end up staying in for hours on end.

I like going here on the weekends to dance the night away after sharing a strong fish bowl with friends or on a weeknight whenever they have a “bacon” night and give away free bacon!

The Plaza Tavern

319 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 255-6592
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The Plaza Tavern, close to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, is a down-to-earth bar and grill with daily drink specials and creative burgers.

I highly recommend getting the Plaza burger with a side of onion rings and a nice glass of whiskey.

Mason Lounge

416 S Park St, Madison, WI 53715
Phone: (608) 492-3350
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If you’re looking for a bar with a simple yet intentionally-crafted design and mellow vibes, Mason Lounge near Brittingham Park may be the spot for you.

I appreciate the lovely setting, but I love even more that they always have over 15 microbrews on tap!

Essen Haus Restaurant and Bar

514 E Wilson St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 255-4674
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Esen Haus Restaurant and Bar is a spacious yet cozy Bavarian restaurant near Law Park with super satiating German eats and imported beers.

They have polka dance nights with live polka bands, which always makes for an entertaining evening, and I love their selection of high-quality German beer that gives me the courage to get up to dance!

Paul’s Club

204 State St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 257-5250
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In the Mansion Hill Historic District, Paul’s Club is a boisterous watering hole where you can play your favorite tunes on the jukebox and order excellent-tasting draft beer.

I am obsessed with the tree that takes center stage in the middle of the room, as it gives the bar a funky and unique vibe.


523 State St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 251-1020
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Mondays, in the State-Langdon area, are known for their stiff drinks and heavy pours. I appreciate being able to just order one or two drinks here and feel a buzz.

Of course, even though it’s called Mondays, you can go any day of the week and order your favorite well drinks or beers in this college bar.

The Red Shed

406 N Frances St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 256-2214
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The Red Shed is an unfussy, cozy bar with a familiar family-like atmosphere, and it’s located right off University Ave.

I like hanging out here on a casual weekday to play darts or football with my friends while drinking their strong and tasty Long Island Iced Teas.

Memorial Union Terrace

800 Langdon St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 265-3000
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Memorial Union Terrace is a fantastic bar due to its live music nights, delicious bar bites like brats and curds, and convenient location near Lake Mendoza, where you can watch people on kayaks and sailboats.

I love going with friends and ordering pitchers of beer to share, especially during the summer when we can sit outside and enjoy the day for hours.

Mickies Dairy Bar

1511 Monroe St, Madison, WI 53711
Phone: (608) 256-9476
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It should be no surprise that there are bars in Wisconsin specializing in dairy, and the best one is Mickie’s Dairy Bar.

This local spot near Camp Randall Stadium is the perfect place to go for a lovely weekend brunch. I like to order their egg scrambler topped with a mountain of cheese and drink a milkshake on the side.

Paul’s Pel’meni

414 W Gilman St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 467-3234
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Paul’s Pel’meni is a popular Russian restaurant and bar in State-Langdon, near the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

They have delicious dumplings, or pelmeni, my favorite menu items to get here, but they also have a bar that serves very reasonably priced beer.

Ian’s Pizza

Multiple Locations
Phone: (608) 257-9248
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Ian’s Pizza is a chain pizza place that is popular with college students due to its large and filling slices, late-night hours, and low prices.

Their mac and cheese pizza pie is to die for, but if you’re vegan, you’ll also appreciate their vegan nights on Mondays.

Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry

317 N Frances St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 259-0000
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Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry is a hamburger and tap beer spot near the Chazen Museum of Art and Nicholas Recreation Center.

I love this local joint because of its eclectic yet comfortable space and tasty tap beers. I recommend their cheese curds, the Melting Pot burger, or the bison burger.

Mickey’s Tavern

1524 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 251-9964
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Mickey’s Tavern, on the Yahara River near Studio 513, is another amazing bar in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s known for its local, friendly neighborhood feel.

They play great live music, and it’s fun to sit on the patio or go inside for a fun game of pool. I also like going for brunch because of their tasty Bloody Mary.

Dexter’s Pub

301 North St, Madison, WI 53704
Phone: (608) 244-3535
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Dexter’s Pub, near Demetral Park, is one of my favorite sports bars due to its craft beer selection alone.

They always have so many options that it can be challenging to choose, but you can never go wrong here! Plus, their trivia nights make this spot even more fun to hang out at on a weekday.

Greenbush Bar

914 Regent St, Madison, WI 53715
Phone: (608) 257-2874
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If you’re looking for a spot to get both excellent thin-crust Pizza and a great selection of high-quality spirits, look no further than Greenbush Bar near the Kohl Center.

I like pairing both wine and spirits with my Pizza here, depending on what I’m feeling that day. But I almost always get their signature pizza with Nueske’s bacon and gorgonzola — yum!

Madison Labor Temple

1602 S Park St UNIT 106, Madison, WI 53715
Phone: (608) 255-2065
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Madison Labor Temple is a non-profit organization that serves as a meeting place for unions in Madison.

They have a bar called the Labor Temple Bar that’s open from Tuesday to Wednesday starting at 4:00 pm and has well-priced food and drinks.

Bassett Street Brunch Club

444 W Johnson St, Madison, WI 53716
Phone: (608) 467-5051
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One of my all-time favorite spots to get weekend brunch with friends in Madison is Bassett Street Brunch Club.

I like going to this retro-styled diner, located between Kohl Center and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, to get their Chorizo Chili Bomb Burrito, mimosas, and delectable homemade donuts.

The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company

123 E Doty St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 284-0000
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The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company is a low-lit brewpub that maintains a vibrant atmosphere. Located near the Dane County Farmers Market, this pub is popular due to its changing roster of craft brews.

I love having different options each time I go and chilling out in the outdoor beer garden area with friends.

Come Back In

508 E Wilson St, Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 258-8619
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I love bars with cheeky names, and Come Back In is certainly one of my favorites. This old-school joint near James Madison Park offers both local and German beers, but I love the tasty German options the most.

I also appreciate enjoying myself (or embarrassing myself) during their lively karaoke nights or dancing the night away when they feature live bands.

Final Thoughts

As you now know, Madison has plenty of fun places to get drinks, hang out with friends, go for date night, or grab some late bar bites.

So the next time you’re in this city, be sure to check out one of the best bars in Madison, Wisconsin. If I missed any of your favorites, let me know about them in the comments below!

Best Bars in Madison

  1. Wando’s
  2. The Plaza Tavern
  3. Mason Lounge
  4. Essen Haus Restaurant and Bar
  5. Paul’s Club
  6. Mondays
  7. The Red Shed
  8. Memorial Union Terrace
  9. Mickies Dairy Bar
  10. Paul’s Pel’meni
  11. Babcock Dairy Store
  12. Ian’s Pizza
  13. Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry
  14. Mickey’s Tavern
  15. Dexter’s Pub
  16. Greenbush Bar
  17. Madison Labor Temple
  18. Bassett Street Brunch Club
  19. The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company
Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Paul Kushner

I have always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. My restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time I turned 17 I was serving tables, and by 19 I was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.

In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, I opened my first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

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