You’ll notice I use the term “townie” on my headline. Some people may take that negatively, but I mean that affectionately. There are a ton of amazing townie bars in Wisconsin, and I love visiting them!. What it basically means to me is that all of the locals go there, and they go there for a reason. Townie bars are usually a little off the beaten path, and typically don’t have amazing food. After looking at the menu at Club Tavern in Middleton my expectations were pretty low for their food because it seemed like a quintessential townie bar menu with generic appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and the token salad listings.
When we walked in to Club Tavern the expectations for the food went down even more. The door to the grungy storage room was open and 100 percent visible right when we walked in, we had to wait at the front door for a decent amount of time (as employees walked right by) to be told we could sit anywhere, the booth we chose to sit at was sticky and my seat was crooked, it was super dark inside and the decor was definitely odd. The highlights of the dining room were the tin ceilings, the exposed brick (except the brick right by my seat that had a bunch of garbage shoved in it) and the cool round booths in the front.
I decided to go with the Ragin’ Cajun burger that had “haystack onions,” bacon, pepper jack cheese and Bourbon Street mayo on top. Again, I wasn’t expecting much with this burger, but when the massive portion arrived my expectations got a little higher. The burger was massive with a great blackened, spicy, crispy outside. The downfall to the burger were the “haystack onions,” which was a pile of generic fried onions on top. The onions were not exceptionally good, and were completely unnecessary. Once they were removed, the burger was pretty fantastic. The bun was soft, the rest of the toppings were fresh and in good proportion with each other. The fries absolutely sucked. They were barely seasoned, not crispy and definitely came out of a box. The shining glory on the plate was a completely unexpected tomato and red onion relish with a housemade balsamic dressing on top. The chef who delivered our lunch seemed extra excited to explain it to me when I asked him what it was. The relish was a great compliment to the heavy burger.
The service was kind of 50/50. Our waitress didn’t seem to care at all that she had a table, and it really wasn’t busy. My water was only filled after it had been empty for quite a few minutes, and she was very absent between taking our order and bringing our bill. The other 50 percent of that equation were the two visits from what I can only assume was the chef and the owner. The guy who brought our food out was super nice and answered my questions about the relish with excitement. Another guy came to ask us how our food was and was also super nice. Our waitress could learn a thing or two from those two.
FOOD NOTES: Don’t discount this townie bar in the middle of Middleton. I can’t vouch for their entire menu, but based on the specks of glory in my meal, there are probably some pretty impressive things hiding amongst the traditional bar food. The fries were the most disappointing part of the meal. I am a french fry lover to the end, and it takes a truly special burger to overshadow poor fries. The Ragin’ Cajun barely makes up for the dumpy french fries I was served, but I would go back to try other options on the menu. Club Tavern needs to amp up it’s sides and appetizers to the level of their amazing burger and that unexpectedly amazing side of relish.