MonkeyshinesIn a word: There's a little monkeytarnish.

The specs: #00975   
6209 McKee Rd., Fitchburg 53719
Details at Yelp, Monkeyshines Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Official web site, Facebook

Latest Monkeyshines news and reviews at

JM ate the nachos.
Nichole ate the "Monkey melt."
The bill was $, or $/person, plus tip.
JM gave Monkeyshines a B; Nichole gave Monkeyshines a B- (see our grading rubric).

Monkeyshines is one of those hit-or-miss neighborhood-type sports-oriented bars where things could go really well, or they could go downhill in a hurry. This one walked the line between those two extremes. The big thing we missed is that, according to Facebook, they cure their own bacon. We should have gone for breakfast!

The atmosphere was literally cold (maybe because the thermostat hadn't yet been adjusted for fall) but the place was friendly enough. Kind of loud, but spacious and clean. The menu is actually pretty extensive, being comprised of several burgers, sandwiches and wraps, along with a small breakfast menu that includes something called the "garbage can lid."

NachosMonkey melt

Nichole settled on the Monkey Melt, a burger on marble rye topped with Swiss cheese, onion rings, and French onion dip. It was OK. JM got another standing bar order of his: nachos. Usually, he finishes most of them and takes the rest home (which makes for soggy leftovers, usually), but the portion size here was a little more right-sized for one sitting.  They were nothing special, though, and he wouldn't likely get them again.

Indeed, the whole Monkeyshines experience was a little on the underwhelming side, but again, maybe we missed some good points. That's the main drawback of our one-visit method.

Bonus book bit: Argus, & an event

Hey! Monday night, 10/26/2015, come hear JM, along with writers who eat out for a living, talk about that at "Cap Times Talks" - 7pm at the High Noon, 701 E. Washington. Now, a bonus post.

Lots of words didn't fit into Madison Food. Here are some more of our favorites that we didn't want to be missed. Our writeup of our A to Z visit to Argus was posted back in 2004.

The Argus building at 123 E. Main St. was erected in 1847 and housed the Wisconsin Argus newspaper, which in 1852 merged with the Wisconsin Democrat. The next century saw a succession of various businesses. In the 1870s, it was a combination bakery, candy store, saloon and restaurant. By 1919 it was home to the offices and showroom of Fox Motor Sales, where customers could see the latest in automobiles, and in the 1930’s it was the Service Barber Shop.

Fox Motor Sales ad, 4/22/1920

On April 9, 1950, Art Metcalf’s New Bar-X had its grand opening and ushered in a new phase of life for the building with live music and "flowers for the ladies." Other bars followed, notably the Pourboy Club in the 1970s and the Salad Bar in the 1980s. By the 1990s, the building was in need of some refreshment itself. Fortunately, the new owner, Cliff Fisher, had a sense of history and his renovations kept the building’s character. The northeast side of the Capitol area was undergoing a renaissance from scruffy to yuppie, and the new Argus was part of that.


In 1997, Todd Dukes, the bar’s manager, bought the business from Fisher. Dukes continued to cultivate Argus as a choice weekday lunch spot and evening watering hole for politicians and business people and leveraged new technology to do so. Argus was one of the first venues in Dane County to embrace an internet jukebox. In 2002 Dukes had an electronic ordering system installed that shaved minutes off rushed lunchers’ wait times, by having servers enter orders on handheld devices that transmitted orders wirelessly to the bar and basement kitchen. And the menu of grilled sandwiches, homemade soups, and fresh salads kept customers coming back.

Since 2005 Argus has been owned and operated by Rick Brahmer and Gwen Cassis. When they took over from Dukes, they announced that their new name for the historic bar would be Tonic, but building owner Fisher was among the many who objected and convinced them to retain the name. They also kept the faux-antique clock overlooking the patio, which Fisher had installed when he ran the bar. Unfortunately, the wiring is so complicated that setting the time is nigh impossible, and sometimes the clock’s hands are stuck at ten o’clock for weeks at a time. Fortunately for eaters, Argus’ lunch menu is still all right, and probably more often than twice per day.

Selected references

Adams, Barry. “Argus Bar to Get a New Name.” Wisconsin State Journal, February 10, 2007.
Darlington, Tenaya. “Summer Food Forecast.” Isthmus, July 18, 2003.
Davidoff, Judith. “Recipe for Success: A Restaurant Renaissance Is Revitalizing Downtown.” Isthmus, July 29, 1994.
Levitan, Stuart D. Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.
Stein, Jason. “Argus Food Orders Go Digital.” Wisconsin State Journal, June 7, 2002.
Strohs, Warsaw, Denice Williams, and Walter Shorty. Beer Drinking in Madison : A Complete Guide to Madison Taverns. Madison: Warsaw Strohs, 1983.


In a word: Ha Long Bay for the Bay of Bengal.

The specs: #00974  
 515 Junction Rd., 53717
Details at Yelp, Minerva Indian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Official web site, unofficial Facebook

Latest Minerva news and reviews at

Barry, JM and Nichole ate poppadum with relishes, the chicken tikka masala, lamb madras, dosas, and idli, with a couple mango lassis.
The bill was $56, or about $18/person, plus tip.
JM gave Minerva an A-; Nichole gave Minerva an A (see our grading rubric).

If we were to judge a book by its cover, Minerva would be a place that we'd probably avoid. To the eye, it seems like a cross between 80s accounting office, a dystopian nursery, and a half-hearted attempt at an incense store in a Mountain West college town. But that's just not true.

If there is a book to judge Minerva by, it is their menu. Thorough and complete, it covers the entire range of Indian cuisine. Thankfully, we had two wise advisers: our helpful server, who was generous with recommendations for a feast for three, and our delightful companion, Barry ("Mr. Mustard"), who also shared his knowledge to help make this a great meal. Since we only went once, we cannot tell you if everything is as good as what we had, or if there are portions of the menu best to be skipped. We can say that the portions that we tried were tried and true. 

The dosas are a house specialty. Since Minerva opened about two years ago, we've also noticed these delicious, soft, crepe-like treats popping up on Indian buffets here and there - but can anyone tell us if that's because they really did just start appearing, or it's just us experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?


JM got his baseline chicken tikka masala that was basically everything he wanted from that dish. Like most iterations of CTM, it was buttery and covered in a rich and deep sauce, but this sauce was better than most he's had around town. Barry's choice of lamb madras was probably the best dish on the table. Nichole's choice, the idli, a tambour of rice with stuff in it, was just OK.


Our comparison to Ha Long Bay is twofold: 1) both menus are lengthy, highlighting a specific region's cuisine while also offering the other "standards" of the broader category of cuisine that customers might look for; and 2) you wouldn't have thought we needed another quality place with similar cuisine so close (Lao Laan Xang for HLB, Swagat for Minerva), but here they are and they're doing a great job. So please, Madison, find this place and go there.


Madison Food coverOur book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is out. Updates here, and some bonus bits on Porchlight and Argus.


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