Housed in a 1903 industrial warehouse where custom metal works (including the Tenney Park footbridge) were once forged, the Goodman Community Center provides art classes, childcare and other services. Its new Ironworks Café - a gorgeously retrofitted space well suited to breakfast or lunch lounging - is an asset to the neighborhood.
Sam Kincaid, Ben Hunter and Andrew Glaza of the Underground Food Collective run the restaurant; the rest of the staff is from the alternative educational program at East High. The Cafe uses as many local ingredients and fair-trade vendors as possible. Just Coffee supplies the java, and the cup is superb: piping hot and very strong. Teas are from Rishi.
Breakfast pays equal attention to sweet and savory. Add bananas to an order of pancakes, fresh raspberries to french toast. The made-from-scratch muffins are surprising. Corn with coffee frosting and banana nut quasi-biscuits were not the big puffy kind, instead rich mini-muffins. At four for a buck, you can chow down and still have enough change left to treat your co-workers.
"Eggs Your Way" includes mushrooms, bacon and toast. Two perfectly prepared eggs sunny-side up showed attention to every aspect of the process, rendering the yolk correctly without even slightly scorching the whites. Best plate of eggs I've had in years.
Dishes take a bit of time to emerge from the kitchen, but it is well worth the wait. Weekend brunches will be available beginning Saturday, April 18, and I predict a mob scene.
Currently the menu changes daily. For lunch I tried a hot ham and muenster cheese sandwich with Hawkwind Heat mustard from Baraboo and found it wickedly satisfying, even if there was a bit too much dairy - massive slabs of cheese are a force to be handled carefully. There was possibly even too much ham, although opinions on that score could differ greatly. The bitter greens on the side were a reassuringly healthful contrast.
The bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich is rough but sublime, or "messy, but worth it!" as my date put it. The sandwich is a welcome inversion of a typical BLT: Fresh avocado dominates; the crunch of the bacon just provides support to the tangy tomato and lettuce. "We get our bacon from Fountain Prairie Farm and Pecatonica Valley Farm," general manager Ben Hunter told me. The fresh baguette provides chewy substance, and roasted red bell peppers frame the plate.
Kids should like the almond butter and honey on multi-grain wheat sandwich. Rich, nutty and carrying earthy undertones, it's almost like eating not-too-sweet baklava. This works well with the apple side and a glass of milk.
Soups rely on available fresh produce. "We've done consommé with leeks and lake trout; we've done borscht and creamy parsnip soup; we've done Puy lentils with fennel and lamb sausage soup," reports Hunter. Vegetarian and vegan options are always available.
Ironworks has wisely chosen local food providers as a means to serve excellent edibles at low prices. The students working seem happy. And the emphasis on quality of ingredients is, in itself, an educational opportunity.