Midwest Living Review
The Plaza Tavern's Plazaburgers are legendary in Madison and often voted among the city's best. The bar-restaurant opened sometime before 1930, although it wasn't until 1963 (when new owners came on board) that the Plazaburger was unveiled: a hamburger that came with a special sauce. Well, who can resist a secret sauce? Customers began gobbling up the patties, and a legend was born. Today, that special sauce, which the menu describes as "sour cream-mayo based" (and doesn't taste like much else), isn't so special. Nor is the Plaza. The bar sits just off Madison's famous State Street and two blocks off the Capitol Square. Though clean, it's old, featuring worn linoleum flooring, dated booths (and tables and chairs) and a dark bar. There are some arcade-type games, plus an interesting Old West dude standing in a phone booth. The affordable menu features hamburgers, chicken and cold sandwiches. While the dishes are rather plain -- and plainly served -- they come hot and well-made. No mushy hamburger buns, overcooked fries or soggy pickles. The patties were nicely cooked (not too dry), and the side fries and cheese curds were good, too. For a non-fast-food chain, the menu items are a deal: fries cost $1.75, the famed Plazaburger $3.75. But the Plaza's ambience is mediocre at best. Madison's habit of voting these burgers some of the city's best year after year is simply nostalgia.