The Icon features best of old Hollywood glamour

The Icon, located on the 200 block of State St., features pleasing decorations and eclectic drinks.

Image By: Conor Murphy

Disappointment tends to hang heavier after having high hopes for something or someone. I write not of ungrounded expectations, rather of expectations that are based on past experiences. Unfortunately, The Icon, a tapas bar located directly across from the Overture Center on State Street, is the subject of my disappointment.

Upon stepping inside, I found my seat between two women, Courtney and Nani, who had invited my friend CC Vang and me to join them. I settled in without a greeting nor any inquiry of what I'd like to order from the staff—this was certainly not the arrival I imagined, but perhaps a few minutes of waiting first was necessary. Naturally, I greeted the women and we steadily began to converse. The atmosphere was as tranquil as ever. I had a familiar desire to scan the galley-style room and admire the 1970s music and film-themed aesthetic. Facing in from the entry, dining tables are to the left, fancied with high-back, cherry red benches lined under large black and white images of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, The Temptations and Muhammad Ali. Opposite the tables is a chic dark red counter, complemented with lights hanging from the ceiling with red and yellow sconces, and simple black stools. Admiring the smooth coffee-brown colored floor and ceiling, it's clear that refinement is a priority in their design.

I scanned the room and conversed with my acquaintances for another five minutes after sitting, still with no welcome. With no other guests except my party of four, three likely friends at the counter’s end and an exiting couple, I would expect either the young lady drying glasses or the gentleman organizing a few bottles to provide some sort of salutation.

Often in life, you must take initiative to get what you want, whether it’s something major or minor. As such, I politely paused my growing conversation to alert the young lady behind the counter that I would like to order a drink. She nodded while raising a finger and said to give her one moment. Okay, I thought. After she disappeared into the kitchen, I was left with a deepening conversation and no sign of her return. Of course I was annoyed, having to repeat my request later to finally receive service. 

Returning my attention to my acquaintances, our interactions became increasingly enjoyable. The conducive atmosphere of The Icon fostered our intimate experience. Though my picky criticism may not be the “be-all, end-all” of the bar, in areas of service, one chance for a satisfying impression is often all you get.

I've realized that The Icon is a place I might enjoy on my own, or shared with the company of one other person. Beyond the admirable theme of design, I must commend the appropriately creative menu. The drinks are named after various movies, with options such as the “King Kong” cocktail or a vodka special named “The Godfather.” I felt pleasingly challenged to order such drinks on might of name alone, and in paying attention to the overhead hip-hop and jazz instrumentals, and the old grainy films projected on the back wall—I didn't even realize the projector camouflaged into the ceiling—the consistency of the design shone through. I encourage any visitors to stay for a while to allow their senses to search the room for the many, but not overwhelming, details, like the film wheels above the door, the center hanging disco ball or the Broadway feel of fairy lights hanging down the windows.

I wouldn't say The Icon is a spot for most of the young student community. For one, the few food items on the menu are a bit expensive for their snack-like sizes. I ordered Spanish tortillas and got six cubes on a 4-by-6 inch plate. The tidbits of tortilla were undeniably tasty, just a bit small for the price. Of course, what's offered is likely intended to just be a small something to tag along with the drink; however, college students are often in search of a decent price range when going out.

During my five visits I consistently saw an older crowd, beginning in their late 20s, and more Madison residents than UW students. Guests were dressed in collared button shirts, leather jackets and strapless or spaghetti-strapped dresses; the colors of their clothes were always dark. For the simple souls like myself, this is the ideal atmosphere for an small gathering, especially a date. Unlike the previously visited Wando's, conversation was kept intimate, laughs were conserved and guests were seated, qualities I always appreciate when going out. My second encouragement is for guests to take their time with drinks here and speak with thorough conversation. I managed to hear the gentlemen ahead of me excitedly speak about the human body and enjoying a full life with Wisconsin pride. I smiled, and considered joining his conversation.

I do like The Icon, but my expectations have been readjusted. I will continue to admire the wonderful aesthetic and try more movie-themed drinks, and will likely still choose the establishment to end nights out with my girlfriend. Nonetheless, the service of an establishment is its backbone, and in that area The Icon appears crippled.

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