Notes from afield: A magical land where there’s a bar in the Hy-Vee

A view from the barstool. At Hy-Vee.
A view from the barstool. At Hy-Vee.

Readers: As you are no doubt aware, here at the ol’ we keep a pretty narrow focus on northeast Johnson County. But even when we’re not in the greater Perfect Village metroplex, our finely tuned journalistic eyes are still scanning the horizon for stories.

Such was the case this past weekend as I sojourned north to Madison, Wis., to meet up with some college friends and take in a football game — and chanced across a place I could scarcely believe existed.

As we drove to campus on Friday night, we passed a newish grocery store near my former roommate John’s house.

“You all have Hy-Vee up here now?” I asked.

“Yes,” John replied. “That one’s got a pretty good bar in it.”

“WHART?” I screamed. A Hy-Vee…with a bar in it? I was having a hard time getting my head wrapped around what that would look like. So on the way back to John’s house after the football game Saturday, I convinced my carmates to make a detour.

From the outside, the place looks like a pretty standard Hy-Vee:


…and when you step inside, you wouldn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary:


But tucked back in the front corner is a glass door that reads “Market Cafe.” And through that door sits a pretty nice little bar:


I ordered a New Glarus Spotted Cow and took a few sips, watching a football game on the televisions mounted on the bar wall:


It didn’t take long to forget we were sitting in the middle of a grocery store; it was, in fact, a very nice place to have a drink and watch football. Then we got a text message asking if we could pick up some lemonade. I excused myself for a moment, found the frozen foods section, paid for two cans of concentrate, and then headed back to the bar. Where I took a few more sips of beer and watched some more football.

You’ve got to give those Wisconsinites credit: It really was the ultimate in Saturday afternoon shopping convenience.

UPDATED: A helpful reader tells us that this phenomenon is not unique to Wisconsin — that, in fact, I could have saved a lot of driving time if I’d just gone to the Hy-Vee at 95th and Antioch…can anyone confirm?