Tipsy Cow is your ace in the hole when you're on the Capitol Square and don't feel like waiting around to get into the Old Fashioned or The Coopers Tavern, two places that are always crowded.
The new restaurant's signature Tipsy burger rates as high as any of Madison's iconic hamburgers, and the chili also is among the finest in town.
Tipsy Cow has been open nearly two months, and on nice days its outdoor seating area draws a good crowd, but inside it's strangely easy to score a table.
For a tavern, it's got a bright, inviting atmosphere with sweet, spotted curtains and alternating lamps and plants in the windows.
The formidable Tipsy burger ($8) had two hand-formed, quarter-pound patties from Knoche's butcher shop on the West Side, 5-year-old cheddar along with brick cheese, two strips of Nueske's bacon well-cooked and criss-crossed over the top, grilled onion, and "Tipsy" sauce (like a spicy Thousand Island) on an excellent, soft bun. Mike's (as in Banas) sweet, homemade pickles come on the side and are an interesting treat. The meat is moist, tender and exceptionally tasty.
The burger comes a la carte, which allows diners to test out any of a long list of appetizers, from fried cheese curds to fried string cheese, buffalo wings to hot soft pretzels and fat onion rings. There are many types of french fries: cheese fries, blue cheese and bacon fries, truffle fries, chili cheese fries and beer-battered fries.
A friend and I couldn't pass up the super-crisp truffle fries ($8), tossed in white truffle oil and served with garlic aioli for dipping. They were very good, and the serving was extremely generous, but we hardly made a dent in them. Next time we'll split a small order of beer battered fries for $2.
The three bean chili ($5 or $7.50), with black, red and pinto beans, was a triumph. Not only did it boast Jordandal Farms ground pork and ground beef, there was also smoked bacon. It was beautifully topped with cheddar cheese, white onion and a swirl of sour cream. The remarkable flavor, due largely to smoked serrano peppers, was second to none.
The cobb salad ($9) was also meaty, with crispy bacon crumbles, Whitetail ham and turkey. There was perfectly ripe avocado, a ton of blue cheese, and a New Century Farm hard-boiled egg. My friend and I, however, were both unimpressed with the green goddess dressing, a type of dressing we both generally like.
There are a number of desserts, simple yet unusual for a tavern that serves food. Forget the big, dry marcona almond & bittersweet chocolate cookie ($2.50), and go instead with the square, moist brownie a la mode ($5), which is served indulgently with ice cream and caramel sauce.
While we ate, a number of people stopped outside to examine the menu posted on the window. None of them ventured in.