Kyle Nabilcy is, among other things, a food writer. Jenni Dye is, among other things, a Dane County Board member. We'll be visiting a restaurant, cafe, or bar in each of the county's 37 board districts in a feature we're calling...
The Hunger Danes.
Yes, there really is a Tricia at Tricia’s Country Corners. Wait, let’s step back: there is a bar in Madison called Tricia’s Country Corners. It’s been there, in one form or another, since 1923. And yes, there really is a Tricia.
Just inside the boundary of District 16 (Kyle's home district), at the slightly warped intersection of Femrite Drive and Buckeye Road, is a rather large building with a long front porch and a longer history. You know it’s gonna be good when the bar’s website has a History section. In this case, general store/fueling station turns slowly into tavern, is bought and remodeled in the 1980’s as a straight-up Western bar, now has a full stage setup for musical acts.
Now, in a rougher town, you could see this place being the kind of venue that plays both kinds of music, but this is a nicely-polished bar. Coming from Madison, you’re likely to drive past Stillman Valley Farms which is full of cute animals and must put most people in a good mood simply by proximity. A nearby table was talking about threesomes -- loudly -- so yeah, there’s a comfort level here, kind of like a clubhouse.
This is bar food, so don’t expect a chalkboard with farms and produce at the front door. But the website for Country Corners proclaims burgers hand-pattied fresh every day. And bar food or not, this menu is sprawling: sandwiches, melts, baskets of fried food, even Sunday breakfast.
For us, the menu stops at hand-pattied burgers. Say no more.
We started out with some completely serviceable cheese curds. No empty shells of breading, nice and hot, and a very thick ranch dressing. A sort of deconstructed Awesome Blossom is there, too, but a classic Wisconsin bar begs a classic Wisconsin appetizer.
You want a bar burger to be juicy, maybe to the point of slightly greasy. You want it to be thick; it doesn’t have to be massive, but it should be a little messy. (They are, after all, frequently eaten with one’s back to the room, with only the bartender to see and judge us.)
Jenni opted for the Zesty Bacon Burger. As a basic BBQ bacon cheeseburger, it could have used a bit more “zest” -- pepperjack instead of American cheese, maybe -- but for less than $5, who’s complaining? Kyle couldn’t resist the One and Only Country Corners Burger, because come on. It has slices of ham and two kinds of cheese. You want a slightly ridonk bar burger experience, this is it.
A couple quibbles. This is not Brasserie V or Graze or Sardine. You may really crave a pink burger, and maybe it was the red-tinged lighting, but these burgers were on the rare side of medium. Our server never asked for a preferred doneness, so volunteer your preference if you’re not down with a medium-rare bar burger. Or do what Jenni was too chicken to do this time, and order the too goofy to be real chili salad.
Also, guys, this is the 21st century. Put a damned Ale Asylum beer on the tap list. Buy a couple sixers of Central Waters. Something. The “extensive beer list” (their words) was pretty much every permutation of Miller, Bud, Coors, and Mike’s Hard Whatever, and almost all bottled. Yes, there’s often a perception of classism with so-called craft beer, but man. Bottles of Capital Amber and Guinness were as good as it got.
So Country Corners is there, and it’s been there for a long-ass time, and maybe some of its habits die hard. But it’s got charm, and a prize wheel on the ceiling -- yes, the ceiling -- that a short woman who’s worked there for decades needs a broom handle to spin. If you need a burger with your football or country music, you can do much worse than Tricia’s Country Corners.
And! Free lemon Jello shots came around and there’s nothing wrong with that.