Neighborhood joints—especially local diners—help define certain parts of town. It’s easy to see how a diner can bring a community together, because they actually do within cozy confines at a comfortable booth, table or barstool, elbow to elbow. That’s exactly what Ogden’s North Street Diner does in the Eken Park neighborhood on Madison’s east side.
Opened in early May of this year in what was once a two-bedroom apartment on the corner of North Street and Commercial Avenue (kitty corner to the Tip Top Tavern, a neighborhood steady) is now a bustling breakfast and lunch-time business that feels like it has always belonged to the neighborhood.
The place is colorful and fresh with lots of natural light from a wall of large windows. A handful of bar seats face a gleaming white subway-tiled wall. It’s apparent that a lot of love and craftsmanship went into the remodeling. According to co-owner Cari Scott (with co-owner/husband Will Tracy) who owned this space when it was an apartment, they gave it a “complete and utter gut job down to the cinder block walls.”
The aroma of coffee (Milwaukee-based Colectivo) brings you through the door where you are greeted with the wake-you-up scent of bacon frying, onions and vegetables caramelizing on a stove top and the most enticing of all smells—butter.
That would be the fruit pies. Every day, Tracy makes one or two specials. It could be cherry, blueberry, apple or perhaps blackberry. Individually portioned, Scott says they are baked to bubbliness in a jumbo muffin tin. The apple pie can be ordered with a slice of Hook’s five-year cheddar melted on top. And of course, a generous dollop of whipped cream is always encouraged, and no one here will judge you if you decide to have one of these pie babies for breakfast.
There’s a large chalkboard with daily specials along with a consistent menu that Scott describes as “classic breakfast and lunch favorites made with quality (and local when feasible) ingredients.”
If you go, some more to know …
Tracy and Scott named the diner after their 8-year-old dog, Ogden, a loveable old English bulldog.
Hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ogden’s is closed on Tuesdays. The website isn’t up yet, but the best way to keep in touch with specials and updates is by the Ogden’s North Street Diner Facebook page, or call 608-467-3930 during business hours.
The cherry pie is Scott’s father’s favorite pie. Her grandmother was the pie maker in the family and both Scott’s mother and father agree that Will’s pies are “just as good as we remember Grandma’s pies to be.”
However, the piecrust is Tracy’s mother’s recipe. She once won a blue ribbon for pie at the Merced County Fair in California’s central valley.
Both Tracy and Scott were long-time employees of Jane Capito, owner of both Madison’s long-standing Lazy Jane’s Café and Mickey’s Tavern. Capito was a “great source of support” to the couple in opening this diner, Scott says, and they consider her a “mentor and second mother.”
The couple lives in Eken Park with Ogden. Scott was raised from the time she was a little girl in this neighborhood. Her mother’s side of the family—her grandmother and uncles—had homes close to each other that she often visited. Her uncle worked in a little grocery store (that was actually in the current location of her diner) that she says had been there since the 1950s. She remembers buying 25-cent candy there and says, “Owning a diner in this neighborhood is something of pride, especially for my mother’s side of the family.”
In an effort to “be part of the community,” Scott says, they are having a free Halloween event for young trick-or-treaters and their families who happen to pass by. From 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Ogden’s offers candy and cider for the kids; coffee for the grown-ups and a bathroom break for anyone who needs it.