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Argus Bar and Grille

in Madison, WI
by Mike Huberty - March 2009

Photo Caption: The Argus Bar and Grille in Madison, WI - photo by Rokker

The Argus Bar and Grille in Madison, WI - photo by Rokker

Madison’s Argus Bar and Grille endeavors to be something a little different on Madison’s Capitol Square. It’s not only the oldest commercial building in downtown Madison (built in 1847, but no haunted stories yet!) but also also create an affordable bar and grill in an area of the city not known for being welcoming to the budget-conscious. The bar has been called The Argus (a Greek word meaning “vigilant guardian”) since 1990 and it’s namesake was a newspaper, The Wisconsin Argus, that was run out of the building in the early 1900’s. Current owner, Rick Brahmer, took over the place two years ago.

“I’ve been doing this for almost thirty years now.”, Brahmer says, “I used to run the Paradise Lounge and then we moved to Colorado and opened a place with live music. We had our first child and came back to Wisconsin to be close to family.” And he brought live music to the venue, hosting Thursday night shows in their “Underground” section of the downstairs of the establishment. Most of the music so far has been bluegrass, blues, jazz, americana, and folk, but the plan is to expand music to Tuesdays and Wednesdays as well. According to Brahmer, the stone walls of the Underground make it difficult for anything too wild and loud, so mostly acoustic music is featured. Daniel Walkner from Clovis Mann has been one of his favorites lately, but he says that he mostly stays upstairs to tend bar so he doesn’t get to enjoy the music as much as he would like.

The Argus has nightly drink specials and is popular because their kitchen is open until Midnight. Brahmer says, “We have quite a mix. In the daytime, it’s professionals, but in the evening it’s a lot of younger people and especially a lot of people from the service industry because we have food until midnight and they get off work later.” Over sixty sandwiches are featured at The Argus and one of Brahmer’s favorites is RC’s Identity Crisis (a popular buffalo chicken sandwich.)

For bands interested in performing at The Argus, currently the best way is to contact the bar and as for Rick. As he says, what sets the place apart is “the character and feel of the place. It’s just got a really nice feeling and history. A good space with old stone walls and dripping with character. If you’re looking for a laidback scene with an affordable price, quality music and food, we’re your place.” For more info go to

Argus Bar and Grille
121 E. Main Street
Madison, WI 53703 (608) 256-414

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