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Wednesday, October 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 49.0° F  Overcast
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Mickey's Tavern is now serving food
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Sometimes change comes slowly. Mickey's Tavern, the classic taproom at 1524 Williamson St., opened in 1902, and 105 years passed before patrons could order potato wedges.

But now there is food at Mickey's Tavern. "It's very exciting," says proprietor Jane Capito, who also owns the lunch counter Lazy Jane's, just down Willy Street. From a tiny kitchen in the rear of the rambling waterhole, bar goers can order salads and entrees (mac and cheese, rib eye steak), burgers and sandwiches.

"We're going to add vegetarian things," says Capito. "And you can always get the veggie burger."

Capito has owned Mickey's for 10 years. She is one of a cadre of Madison restaurateurs who cut their teeth at Ovens of Brittany, the late, lamented French eatery.

Running the Mickey's kitchen is chef Gil Altschul, Capito's stepson. "It's scary when you hire family members," she says. "But everyone loves Gil. He's so cool."

Why start serving food now? Capito hatched plans for a kitchen after the city imposed the smoking ban in 2005. "Mickey's was the smoking bar in town," she says. "And it's so nice now, because there's no smoke inside. But when there was no smoking, our sales really dropped. I was so worried! 'What are we going to do?'"

For inspiration she looked to another east-side bar. "The Harmony has wonderful food," she says, referring to the Atwood Avenue tavern. "And there were tons of people who didn't go because of the smoke."

She postponed the food plans, though, after a new patio out back improved business. "That was a real blessing," she says.

But now there is food at Mickey's Tavern. "Considering we never had food before," she says, "it's amazing we stayed open."

On or around Nov. 1, look to Hilldale Mall for a new branch of Pasqual's, the storied, Southwestern-themed restaurant that is a longtime Monroe Street fixture. The Hilldale site will make three local Pasqual's outlets, including the one at 100 Cross Country Rd. in Verona.

"I grew up going to Hilldale, way back in the day, when Macy's was Gimbels," says Pasqual's owner Benjamin Roberts. "I'm very excited to be a part of it."

The new Pasqual's menu will be much the same as the others', says Roberts, but with some higher-priced dishes added, "things that might not fit the quick-casual environment at the other locations."

A Madison native, Roberts began working at Pasqual's when he was 16. He bought the restaurant eight years ago. At Hilldale, he says, he hopes to bring the Pasqual's experience to people from the far west side. But will he reopen an east-side Pasqual's to replace the closed Atwood Avenue site? "Everyone wants to know that," he says. "I don't know yet."

This October, Just Coffee's cooperative worker-owners are celebrating their fifth anniversary with what they are calling Deep Fair Trade Month.

The coffee roasters at 1129 E. Wilson St. have arranged a series of events, including an Ethiopian coffee ceremony Oct. 21 at Ma-cha Tea House, 1934 Monroe St., and an Oct. 24 screening of the coffee-themed documentary Black Gold at the Barrymore. A birthday party is scheduled for Oct. 28 at the Wilson Street facility. (Visit www.justcoffee.coop for a full schedule.)

"It's been a really wild ride," says Just Coffee co-founder Matt Earley, who was inspired to start the cooperative as he worked with members of the Zapatista movement in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

"They said, 'Help us find fair markets,'" he says of Chiapas coffee growers. "I had barely heard of fair trade."

The Sandlot, 301 North St., is getting a new owner, Nick Zabel, and a new name: Dexter's Pub. Zabel learned the bar business at Regent Street's Big Ten Pub, where he worked for nine years. He is naming his new bar for bebop saxophone great Dexter Gordon.

Zabel is planning to change the menu - "more options to the fish fry, more salads" - and he is transforming the beer selection. "I'm a huge beer geek," he says. Coming to the taps: suds from local beer makers like Ale Asylum and Arena's Lake Louis, and from national microbreweries Dogfish Head and Great Lakes Brewing.

Microbrew is the next big thing for bars everywhere, he notes. "Craft sales are through the roof," he says.

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