If Mid Town Pub in Middleton were a novel, it would be the textbook example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. Anchoring a mostly abandoned strip mall with a liquor store on one end, this locally owned eatery boasts some of the best food in the city, despite its outward appearance.
“Yeah, we get that a lot,” says Mid Town Pub General Manager Lacey Drury when asked if people ever express shock after walking into her friendly, colorful, hometown-style tavern after viewing it from the dreary parking lot on Allen Boulevard. “It’s fun to watch people’s faces when they come in the door. Their expectations completely change.”
Owned by Joel Egan since 2006, Mid Town Pub is the Middleton equivalent of the 1980s television series Cheers . It’s the place where everybody knows your name, and if she doesn’t when you first walk in, Tina, a rock star bartender and day shift leader, will remember it when you return. With a healthy mix of weekday regulars, business lunches, and families going out for dinner, Mid Town Pub is the place everybody wants to be.
Lacey started working at the pub as a bartender and waitress when she was just 19 years old, and today, 10 years later, she manages the place. When Lacey and Joel hired Chef Jesse Matz two years ago to run the kitchen, the trio tweaked an already-successful menu and turned it into an award-winning establishment. In 2015, Mid Town Pub was voted the Best of Madison Neighborhood Tavern and the Best of the Burbs Fish Fry. It’s easy to see why as the food speaks for itself.
There are two menus at Mid Town: one for Friday nights and one for the rest of the week. Friday nights rule at the eatery—just try finding a parking space in the expansive lot and it’ll be clear the seafood here is second to none. Customers may choose from cod, shrimp, crab cakes, or walleye, with many a choice in between. Most popular is the Beer Battered Icelandic Cod, fried in New Glarus Spotted Cow batter and served with slaw, garlic toast, tartar sauce, lemon wedge, and choice of side.
“People come in the first time because they’ve heard the beer battered cod is so good, but once they try the grilled cod, they never order anything else ever again,” Lacey says, referring to the restaurant’s Lemon Pepper Grilled Cod—yes, grilled on an actual grill. Customers may also choose from battered or coconut shrimp, hand-breaded walleye, or Chef Jesse’s famous Lump Crab Cakes. The cakes are served on a bed of greens with chipotle aioli, vidalia slaw, lemon wedge and choice of side. Clam chowder and French onion soups round out the special Friday menu.
Friday nights are not the only unique night of the week. In fact, every day has a house lunch and dinner special. Monday night is home to Grandma Drury’s Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. Recognize the last name? Yep, that’s Lacey’s grandma. “My grandma made the best scalloped potatoes and ham,” Lacey says. “Back on the farm, we used to make them with cream straight from the bulk tank.”
Tuesdays are Chef Jesse’s choice, with diners able to find the nightly menu on Mid Town Pub’s Facebook page, and spaghetti and meatballs are also available. Wednesday night features St. Louis-style ribs, seasoned with special dry rub and slow cooked until falling-off-the-bone tender. Ribs are served with a choice of three sides plus corn bread or baked beans. Thursday nights are Ma Pott’s Meatloaf, with the recipe coming from the former Pott’s Inn in Cross Plains, served with grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a dinner roll.
Saturdays and Sundays feature the pub’s most popular dish: fish tacos. Three flour tortillas are served with Chef Jesse’s famous pico de gallo, as well as his signature chipotle aioli and a choice of side. “Our fish tacos are our best sellers, and I know it’s because of the kitchen’s homemade pico de gallo and our chipotle aioli, both of which Jesse and his crew created from scratch,” Lacey says.
For a “pub,” Mid Town focuses just as much on food as it does beer, but it does both equally well. With 10 draft lines, more than 100 bottled craft beers, and 200 spirits, no one goes thirsty. Combine that with the weekend Bloody Mary Bar, with 30 different juice mixes and a buffet of fixin’s, and it’s likely you may have found your new home every night of the week.
The full menu, including one-third-pound burgers, brats, sandwiches, appetizers, wraps, pitas, and salads, is available open to close seven days a week. In the summer, Mid Town Pub also delivers on water! It is the only restaurant to deliver its full menu anywhere to boaters on Lake Mendota. Pub staff take orders, find out the make and color of the ordering boat, and its approximate location, and then deliver food in the Mid Town Sea Ray, right on the water. The restaurant also has a food stand at Three Foot Bay, where they sell prepared deli items to go.
“We have a great team who really pride themselves in creating good food and treating customers well,” Lacey says. “We’re a place where anybody can meet their friends or make new ones.”
Jeanne Carpenter is a cheese geek and food writer living in Oregon, Wisconsin.