Madison Cuisine occupies an interesting food history niche.
The restaurants of Madison’s past are often fondly remembered; re-creations of menus of yore have ranged from Rennebohm’s famous Danish for a UW-Madison class reunion in 2012 to a tribute to Restaurant Magnus served last spring. So it would seem there’s more than enough public interest to warrant a history of the topic, as Madison A-Z bloggers Nichole Fromm and JonMichael Rasmus have written. Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine was published in June by the History Press, a producer of hyper-local books intent on “preserving and enriching community by empowering history enthusiasts to write local stories for local audiences,” according to the press. Madison Food joins other titles in the press’ “American Palate” imprint that drill down into regional and niche histories, such as Nashville food trucks, the history of Cincinnati chili and the story of the Howard Johnson’s restaurant chain.
Fromm, a librarian, and Rasmus, who works for the Wisconsin Lottery, have not attempted an A-Z approach here; rather, restaurants appear more loosely grouped according to themes, like “farm to table,” “77 years ago,” “African American restaurants” and “burger joints.” While this is not a systematic history of dining in Madison, there is much good information about legendary and not-so-legendary eateries of the past and present. Little-known or mostly forgotten tidbits include the fact that the Capitol Cafe (in the basement of the Capitol) used to be an actual restaurant, and that the building that houses Mickies Dairy Bar was designed by renowned Madison architect Frank Riley.
Particularly helpful is information on the long story of the Ovens of Brittany, Italian restaurants’ diaspora from the Greenbush and a rundown of Madison’s soul food restaurants in the South Park Street neighborhood over the years.
The couple spent 15 months doing research, says Fromm, noting that their march through all of the area’s restaurants over the past decade “laid a pretty good foundation.”
Speaking of “capital cuisine,” the storefront at 785 University Ave., in University Square, is getting a new eatery. According to a sign in the window, “Madison Cuisine” is its name, and the cuisine in question will be sushi, “Chinese food,” Philly cheesesteaks, teriyaki and hibachi.
Jon Reske of Fourcap Real Estate, who is coordinating the multi-restaurant project at the former Savidusky’s Fur Quarters at 829 E. Washington Ave., reports that the rest of the funds to get back to work have been secured. Construction is slated to rev up again on July 6. “As soon as construction resumes, it should take six to seven weeks to finish the project, then one to two weeks to open the restaurants,” Reske says. He’s “sad that we’ve lost the better part of the summer, but considering this will be a 30-year Madison institution, I am trying to keep things in perspective.”
Sunprint on the Square, 10 W. Mifflin St., has closed. The cafe, once located in the ground floor of the U.S. Bank building, 1 S. Pinckney St., moved to the Mifflin location in March of 2013. Chef-owner Susan Hendrix says that the cafe had experienced “issues since the move” with “not being as busy as we’d like. It came to the point where we had to make a decision.” Sunprint will continue catering, and Hendrix says she hopes delivery service will be in place by fall.