by Emily Connor, Dining and Nightlife Editor
As the weather cools, Madison restaurants take a break from light summer sandwiches to focus on more warming cuisine. While these menu items can sometimes appear kitschy and contrived, my meal at the Coopers Tavern showed me winter menu items can most certainly be done in an interesting and tasteful way.
Located on the Capitol Square, the Coopers Tavern is a small, Irish-inspired pub restaurant. The extensive sandwich and soup collection immediately caught my parents’ eye, but it was the winter-inspired specialty drink menu that immediately intrigued me.
Upon entering, sparsely decorated wooden tables and a large bar area gave the rustic-inspired décor a laid back feeling. Our server greeted us promptly and suggested the Poutine as an appetizer. The deep-fried French fires covered in gravy and melted cheese curds sounded only mildly off-putting upon ordering. However, we were quickly won over once we indulged in the delectable dish. My father also enjoyed the Coopers Taverns’ chili. The standard winter staple was made with local Madison beef and New Belgium amber ale for a unique take on a cold-weather classic.
However, the delicious and dangerously good Poutine and chili hailed in comparison to the round of holiday drinks we ordered to complement them. The Coopers Tavern’s Winter Warmers menu listed a collaboration of festive items ranging from classic hot toddies to more original drink concoctions.
My mother enjoyed a Tom and Jerry, a unique holiday drink with a cream base, rum, and Korbel with whipped cream and nutmeg grated lightly on top. The drink had great flavor reminiscent of classic holiday tastes. However, it was quite rich, so sip this sugary creamy dessert drink with care.
My father ordered the Stocking Stuffer for dessert—hot chocolate with orange flavoring spiked with Korbel and garnished with a candy cane. He loved the orange flavoring and the strong brandy taste.
The Coopers Tavern provided a great winter meal with some delicious holiday pairings. Their unique Irish inspired winter menu is a perfect example of seasonal dishes done right.