The Dayne 33 pulled pork sandwich is one of many standouts on the wide-ranging menu.
Bar food in Madison means locals gathering to raise a glass, before, after or during sporting events. Taverns serving mainly fried or grilled down-home American food, and pitchers of beer have survived the proliferation of “gastropubs” without too much trauma. These days Madisonians can pick from bar food that ranges from basic to fancy. Lucky’s 1313 Brew Pub is close to Camp Randall; has a well-established chef, Kipp Thomas (formerly of North American Rotisserie, Kipp’s Down-Home Cookin’ and, more recently, Pooley’s); and a brewmaster, Grant Johnston, to handle on-site beer making. This means a solid set of options. The menu probably won’t blow away anyone who has upscale expectations, but it should keep hungry sports fans, families and late-night beer drinkers satisfied.
Lucky’s is a large space — it was formerly a service garage and a bus station, constructed around 1930 — with plenty of seating, window views of Regent Street, and room for the capacious brewing gear that operates on site. Getting a table is no problem, barring intense game day situations. For that, they are prepared: I counted 17 flat-screen televisions. This is a good place to catch a game. Vintage traffic signs, along with beer and garage memorabilia, decorate the exposed brick walls. Giant metal fans rotate lazily, and the old “Foreign Car Specialists” sign adds flavor.
Beer: There’s loads of it. Five are brewed on-site (and dozens more are available on tap and in bottles) The house-brewed beers are quite good, and varied — the Madtown Hops IPA pushes the hops up front, a contrast with the 1313 Big Red Ale, which pushes the hops back quite a bit.
The menu is huge. The heart of it is a long list of sandwiches and burgers, but there are also salads and wraps and a handful of flatbreads. Six entrees are served after 4 p.m. (chicken cordon bleu, coconut grilled chicken, country fried steak, pork chops, salmon and gnocchi).
Kaminsky’s Frank is a Chicago-style hot dog that gets it mostly right, celery salt, sport peppers and all, but it’s overstuffed with a too-fat pickle wedge. This is a full meal. The Dayne 33 is a knockout sandwich, pulled pork spiked with citrus and slathered in coleslaw. The French dip is kind of heavy and solid in just the way you want it to be, substantial enough to dunk into the jus.
The 1313 black bean burger doesn’t try to be meat, but is satisfying, topped with crisp red onions and slices of avocado. (Three items are listed as “vegetarian”; there are no notations on the menu indicating items that are vegan or gluten-free.)
The Linebacker and the Lucky are the most popular burgers, both straightforward. The Wake Up burger is topped with a fried egg, hollandaise sauce and paprika. The Popper Pepper is yet more creative, with cream cheese, jalapeños and giardiniera. It reads on the menu as if it will be way over the top, but it isn’t; it’s a delicious burger. Don’t add condiments to this one. Do get a side of fries with your sandwich, though — the straight-cut fries are seasoned lightly and not overly crisped.
On the downside, the Reuben is thick and juicy enough, though nothing stands out enough to make it among the city’s best. And for the fan of the blackened chicken sandwich, the offering here disappoints by any metric. The sandwich did at least sport well-cooked bacon, romaine and tomato, smothered with battered fried onions, but the chicken wasn’t blackened at all. A side of waffle fries helped — but it’s a sad situation when the side upends the sandwich itself.
And speaking of sides, Kipp’s famous mac ’n’ cheese is on the menu. And Fridays, it’s Kipp’s fish fry, with a choice of walleye, perch, cod or catfish.
The servers were universally competent, friendly and timely, dispensing helpful advice on the large menu. There were a couple of strange things, like tap beer arriving in a plastic cup (are we at a kegger?) and not being offered a glass at all for a bottle of beer. Then there was the time the menu was cut down to a single page with only a few items available, due to the wrestling tournament. But overall the experience is reliable.
This is quality bar food, and the menu should offer something to everyone. Lucky’s 1313 knows its audience: the sports fan. The eatery is clear-eyed about its goals and achieves them.
1313 Regent St., 608-250-8989; luckys1313.com, Kitchen hours 11 am-10 pm daily; bar open later, $8-$22