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Tip Top Tavern

in Madison, WI
by Jeff Muendel - January 2016

Photo Caption: Justin at the Tip Top Tavern

Justin at the Tip Top Tavern

Before the Tip Top Tavern reopened two years ago this month, it was not all that friendly. If you were looking for trouble, the Tip Top was a prime place on the Northeast side of Madison to get it. Today, above the corner-set front door, a neon sign reads “for every true lover of life,” and now the ambiance inside reflects that.

We’ll get to the food, but the environs of the new Tip Top is the place to start. It is decidedly positive. The vintage vibe of the old tavern has been retained while the bartenders and wait staff are generally engaging. Vinyl records often spin on a turntable behind the bar, and the single large television is usually set to a classic movie channel with the sound turned off. Weekend evenings sometimes offer live music (see the Max Ink calendar), and out back, there is a large patio area with full wait service. Owner Ben Altschul has done a great job of maximizing the favorable attributes of this classic property.

Given the copacetic ambiance, the food is almost icing on the cake. Best described as upscale bar food, it is a cut above many taverns in the city. The burgers are not as large as one might like, but the quality of meat and garnishings are top notch. The namesake Tip Top Burger is recommended. There are multiple sandwich options from the velvety grilled cheese to the Little Oscar (old-school fried bologna) to a decidedly Mediterranean-style (and delicious) tuna salad sandwich. But the Carnitas Verdes dish steals the show. With carnitas pork topped with spicy verde sauce, two fried eggs, and served with warm corn tortillas, it’s good for any meal. Don’t forget the soup either – good soup is hard to find, and this is good soup! Finally, the Friday night Walleye fish fry, while not all you can eat, will nonetheless give any fish fry in the city a run for its money in terms of quality and flavor.

Tip Top Tavern
601 North Street
Madison, WI 53704 608-241-5514

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