Dining June 09, 2019
The Classic Wisconsin Steakhouse With 90 Years Of Fascinating History
There’s a restaurant in Wisconsin that has some of the most fascinating history you’ve ever imagined. Tucked near a park and a sports bar, you could drive right by this place and not have any idea how much cool stuff and delicious food is hiding inside. Wonder Bar has been serving Madison in some form or another since 1929.
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Without the glowing red neon sign, you might drive past Wonder Bar thinking it's just another apartment building.
But this gorgeous old brick building has a history you never could have imagined. Opened by Eddie Touhy with money from his brother, Chicago mobster Roger "The Terrible" Touhy, Wonder Bar served as a welcoming home for associates that found it smart to spend time outside of Chicago at times.
Roger Touhy made major money through gambling and bootlegging in Chicago.
To help his brother expand his business, help find a home for some unclean money and move alcohol into Wisconsin, Wonder Bar was a very smart move.
It's rare for a bar to have opened amid Prohibition and still be running 90 years later, but unsurprisingly, this place found a way around that little problem and flourished.
This steakhouse is in the Wisconsin supper club model. It's all dark wood, cozy interior, great drinks and totally amazing steaks.
With such a stellar background, Wonder Bar really kind of sells itself.
Ninety years of history means there are both accurate retellings of history and amazingly embellished tales. There's a rumor Eddie is buried in the fireplace upstairs and that the basement was used for strong-arming and physically reminding folks who the mob felt needed to be reminded. It's said there was once a tunnel that ran to Lake Mendota as well as removable bricks in the turrets that would allow Tommy guns to be stuck out.
Staff members report instances of specters hovering near the bar, laughing when no one else is in the building and slamming doors around the building.
There's a portrait over the fireplace that's about 60 years old. Some believe that the young woman in it haunts the restaurant.
The building and the menu haven't changed much in the past 90 years.
Giant porterhouses and T-bones still dominate, though the prices have gone up just a bit since they sold for about a $1 a plate back in the 1930s. Chilean sea bass is also popular, as are sumptuous and decadent desserts.
Wonder Bar is a true Madison classic with an amazingly varied and fascinating history.
A meal here is one of those Madison must-dos. There's history oozing from the walls here and you'll love experiencing a meal that's unlike any other in the state.
Get yourself gussied up, come hungry and soak up the atmosphere of a time gone by at this one-of-a-kind, historic and delicious restaurant. A meal at Wonder Bar is a full dining experience.
Address: 222 East Olin Avenue, Madison, WI,53713.
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Have you had the opportunity to have a meal at Wonder Bar? Let us know about it in the comments!
If you love learning about Wisconsin’s organized crime history,
you have to read about this Northwoods spot where a shootout went down.