7 dive bars that are more than meets the eye

These neighborhood joints offer great food or a...
7 dive bars that are more than meets the eye
Le Tigre Lounge. 

Although dive bars may bring to mind an unglamorous hole-in-the-wall, many neighborhood joints offer great food or the Packers game in an otherwise low-key locale. Basil foam, an in-house mixologist and fine Italian wines might not be on the menu, but PBR tallboys and classic jukebox hits probably are. Here are a few favorites.

Villa Tap
Bought by two locals in 1978, this north-side tavern is known for good, no-frills bar food, a strong fish fry game and an ample local beer selection. It’s a popular stop after a Mallards game. Check out the baseball cards laminated on top of the wooden bar, or perhaps leave a message for someone on the chalkboard walls in the bathroom. 2302 Packers Ave.

Woody and Anne’s
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. 2236 Winnebago St.

Le Tigre Lounge
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. 1328 S. Midvale Blvd.

Caribou Tavern
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. 703 E. Johnson St.

Ohio Tavern
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. 224 Ohio Ave.

Irish Pub
This State Street staple is still owned and operated by the Mackesey family, who opened the tavern more than 30 years ago. Known as a great place to catch the game or play a round of darts, it also boasts cheap eats, and a darn strong Irish car bomb. 317 State St.

Village Bar
This neighborhood bar has boasted a famous patron–Jerry Seinfeld–but its real claim to fame is its friendly, lively vibe and great food. Known for a basic but delicious burger (try it with fried onions), the Village also serves homemade chili. 3801 Mineral Point Road

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