Wisconsin Union introduces new, casual dining space

Unions Commons to serve soups, sandwiches and casual fare with a counter service cafe at The University Club.
Union Commons dining room with up close of vase of flowers and tables in the background.
Photo by Emma Waldinger
Union Commons

The Wisconsin Union will introduce a new, casual dining concept on the first floor of The University Club. Union Commons will open for service on Jan. 23.

The University Club had historically operated as lodging, private club and academic space at different periods in time. University of Wisconsin–Madison took over The University Club space just before the pandemic after it dissolved due to financial concerns, fulfilling an agreement made between the university and The University Club years ago.

During the height of the pandemic, it was used as a Covid testing site. The University Club has been closed to the public for over three years now.

This summer, Wisconsin Union staff began upgrades and renovations. The building was deep cleaned, repainted and many old fixtures were removed, although historic couches, tables, light fixtures, chairs and architectural features are still intact.

Two counter service spaces, including a spot to order casual fare and a cafe, will be open between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. A fixed menu will include daily soup specials prepared at Memorial Union, toasted sandwiches like caprese and pesto chicken, packaged salads and snacks. The café will offer espresso drinks, coffee, tea and housemade pastries.

The space will be open to UW–Madison staff, faculty and students, along with the Madison community. Wisconsin Union director and associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs Mark Guthier says that “faculty and staff who used this space missed it over the last three years.” With Union Commons, students and the larger Madison community will now have greater access to The University Club space than before.

Eventually, Wisconsin Union plans a larger renovation of the space to update accessibility and service features. It will reconsider introducing table service back into the space at that time.

The University Club is located at 803 State St.

Emma Waldinger is associate editor at Madison Magazine.

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