The restaurant space at 15 N. Butler St., next to Capital Fitness, has housed a number of small restaurants and coffee shops since it debuted in 1999, most recently Cafe Porta Alba, which closed March 29. It's reportedly looking for new digs.
Coming soon to the newly expanded space is Old Market Bistro, spearheaded by "Kipp" Thomas of Kipp's Down Home Cookin' on Monroe Street. But if you're looking for rotisserie chicken or mmmmm-hmmm, yes, that kitchen's super-creamy macaroni and cheese, the menu at the new restaurant is going to be "totally different," says Kipp.
Before he moved to Madison, Kipp was head chef at the classic, now-defunct Coffee Trader on Milwaukee's north side. He's trying to borrow some of the best of that establishment's food and vibe (and that of its adjoining bar space, Henry's) for the Old Market Bistro. He recalls the Coffee Trader as "a place to be seen," but also with excellent food that was "all made right there."
The Butler Street space is being remodeled, expanding from roughly 1,100 square feet to 2,200 square feet to establish a breakfast bar for the morning that will double as an area for after-dinner drinks, cordials and desserts in the evening.
Let's hear more about that breakfast, please. "My roots are in breakfast cooking and making creative menus. I'm very creative with eggs - scrambles, skillet dishes, with real eggs, Egg Beaters and egg whites." Egg whites, yes. "Because of the presence of Capital Fitness next door, we're going to be geared somewhat toward healthy eating."
The bistro will also retain Cafe Porta Alba's pizza oven (for one thing, it can't easily be moved), so pizzas will definitely remain part of the mix, with create-your-own the order of the day. That holds true for pastas, too, and sandwiches: "We'll have signature dishes, sandwiches and steaks, but we want to say to folks it's also possible to have it your way," Kipp says.
The name Old Market Bistro stems from the area's past as the site of the city's first markets. Kipp and his staff are even getting into the area's micro-history: They've tracked down a dessert recipe from the city's late, great supper club the Simon House (now Creative Learning Preschool), also on Butler Street.
Valet parking and babysitting (a service already available at Cap Fitness) for parents who want to have a respite while dining but avoid hiring a babysitter are also in the plans. Kipp wants a fine but casual dining atmosphere that will appeal to everyone from recent college grads to seniors, "and keep it affordable." He's hoping for a mid- to late-May opening.