Library Cafe and Bar

Subway and LibraryIn a word: Check it out.

The specs: #00945 
320 N Randall Ave., 53715
Details at Yelp, The Library on Urbanspoon
Official web site

Latest Library Cafe and Bar news and reviews at

JM ate the Texas burger with fries and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the corned beef sandwich with chips and a Gray's root beer.
The bill was $25, or $12ish/person, plus tip.
JM gave Library Cafe and Bar a B; Nichole gave Library Cafe and Bar a 647.9577583 and an A- (see our grading rubric).


The Library is situated right at the split where University stops being University and Johnson Street starts coming the other way. Over by WID, you know? Though the Library hasn't been covered by the 070 folks much, we found plenty to report back on. The name, is of course, another of those great old bar-disguise names.

MOM: Where were you all night?

KID: I was at the Library.



The overall vibe of the Library was not 130ish at all - it was pretty warm and cozy (and that was due to more than the fact that one of the tables is actually a fireplace). Bookshelves lined all the walls and were packed with thrift-store hardcovers and the odd textbook. We had last been here, long ago, when it was Cool Runnings, and we were glad that the place is being well taken care of. Service is semi-158.1-style, order at the counter and take a seat.


Of course, in Wisconsin, drinking is practically a religion. The Library does indeed have a pretty lengthy beer list and a full bar with the requisite nightly drink specials. We were pleased to see the full coffee bar as well, though we both stuck to soft drinks - lemonade, of course, and a Gray's root beer, which was a rare treat.


Maybe decorating a bar with real books attracts nerds, but the crowd at the Library definitely appeared more studious - and more versed in 395.53 - than those at the campus area bars we've been to (Wando's, Church Key, Chaser's, etc.). The couch set-ups were great for fostering interpersonal communication.


It is hard to describe the Library's corned beef. Though delicious, the meat arrived scattered across the thin toasted bun in giant hulking cubes that made the sandwich nearly uneatable though the Swiss cheese and whole grain mustard added some enjoyment.



The bill was correctly tallied.


Now, on to the meat of this post. The salt and pepper chips arrived fresh and seemed like about the best execution of this idea available.  They were tasty and disappeared quickly. Meanwhile, JM's far more processed fries were the opposite of good. They were cold, thin and had not give.  He would have gladly traded them for Nichole's chips and he doesn't really like chips, but these were icky despite the technology that went into bringing them to this table.

The art of assembling a decent BBQ burger was, fortunately, on display.  JM's Texas Burger came with cream cheese! sautéed onions! chives! and all of these flavors did work together.  Unfortunately, a thin commercial patty is an unfit canvas for recreational burger eating and the untoasted bun was a little less than fun.  He'd eat it again, but wouldn't seek it out. Other menu items, and there are several, look maybe a little better.

Texas burger


As mentioned before, the Library was thoughtfully decorated. There must have been music, but we can't remember what was playing.


We enjoyed the Library's books - we found an old copy of Jay Leno's Headlines and had a few aimless laughs. It was like having a funny friend entertain us before dinner.


And with that, we were history.  If we found ourselves needing lunchtime coffee (Nichole) or west campus student-budget eats (JM), we might return just because the rest of the campus-area competition is so meh.  So you may want to add this location to your map.

Edible Book Festival 2015

The Edible Book Festival is coming to Memorial Library on April 13! Come see and vote for your favorites - and if so inclined, make your own edible book! The entry deadline is Friday, April 10. More details are on the event's website.

You can check out our reports of previous years here - 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 - and below, enjoy a brief history of the event that we wrote up for our book, but that sadly just didn't fit.

The Edible Book Festival is a free public event put on each April by UW-Madison Memorial Library in celebration of National Library Week and the International Edible Book Festival.

The Edible Book Festival first came to UW-Madison in 2006 for the centennial celebration of the University's School of Library & Information Studies. Two years later, Memorial Humanities & Social Sciences Library began hosting the event. Anyone can submit an entry, and past edible books have been made by a diverse assembly of community members, organizations, and University faculty, staff and students. The public is encouraged to attend and vote for their favorite entries. Figures from the Madison food community are also invited as guest judges to award prizes in categories such as "Most creative use of ingredients," "Best entry based on a children's/teen book," and “Funniest/punniest.”

Entries celebrate some aspect of books and reading. Some interpret the plot, characters, settings or themes from books in ingenious ways with fruits and vegetables, bread, pretzels, cookies, and candy. Others take the concept literally, crafting book-like objects from cake (a common format) or even using phyllo dough, matzoh, or custom-made bologna as "pages." Even ebook readers have appeared in recent years. Humor is often a part of the best entries, from the highbrow to groan-inducing wordplay.

The history of the "edible book" festival goes back to Thanksgiving 1999, when librarian Judith A. Hoffberg was at a dinner with some artists. Their common interest in book art fired their imaginations, and they started talking about making books out of real food. The themes of eating words, playing with food, and sharing stories inspired the idea of a loosely-organized festival, which grew into an international event. Edible books have been celebrated annually around April 1st since 2000; the date is both a wink at April Fool's Day and a nod to French gastronome and wit Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Béatrice Coron, a cut paper artist, was instrumental in creating an online home for sharing in the "ephemeral global banquet." Today edible books are created in dozens of countries and shared on the Books2Eat website and Facebook page.

Bonus content

A couple things we wrote recently ran elsewhere. Recollection Wisconsin, the digital library portal, hosted an online exhibit on the history of McDonald's in our state. And today Isthmus ran Catching up with the Eating in Madison A to Z bloggers, in which we spill the beans about a book we wrote.

So welcome and/or welcome back, and thanks for reading!

Madison's with capitol

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