11 food concepts popping up within Madison businesses
Amid the pandemic, many food concepts have opened within previously established locations.
Wisconsin has already perfected what you could call the original pop-up — the beloved supper club open only after 4 p.m. — so why not try to tackle all iterations of limited-time-only grub? Our fast-moving world has chefs and business owners creatively adapting by setting up shop short term or in spaces that aren’t technically theirs. Some of these businesses within businesses serve in-house only on certain days of the week, while others inhabit their own nook in a space, so be sure to check hours ahead of time.
Ahan at The Bur Oak
Drunken noodles, fried chicken tom yum soup, massive bowls of pho … nowadays, all of these Asian-inspired dishes can be gobbled up through curbside pickup and takeout. When concerts at The Bur Oak start back up again, you can also enjoy Ahan during a show. Folks can order online to satisfy a curry craving or a hankering for hot basil pork. While we aren’t sure how long Jamie Hoang and Chuckie Brown’s Ahan will be operating out of this event venue, the comfort food joint is sure to keep dishing out delectable options for some time. Soothing broths filled with local ingredients, house-made Lao sausages and other mouthwatering specials await. 2262 Winnebago St., 867-4001, ahanmadison.square.site
Destination Cadre at Cadre Restaurant
Since everyone’s travel plans got nixed this past year due to the pandemic, our aspirations to traverse the globe will have to exist solely within the culinary realm for now. Luckily, French-inspired restaurant Cadre on University Avenue has brought in Chef Eddie Chwae to take our taste buds on a journey with the “Destination Cadre” series. Past destination nights took diners to Turkey for tavuk (chicken) shish kebabs and Mexico for tamales and posole. Other folks took a trip to Korea for vegan Ssäm — a dish of marinated tofu, shiitake mushrooms and Asian pear — and the Guangdong province of China for some steaming-hot dim sum. It may not be the same as jumping on a plane and exploring culinary destinations, but at least you don’t have to go through security, right? 2540 University Ave., 819-8555, cadrerestaurant.com/destination
Duck Lips Hot Chicken
Hatched in October, Duck Lips Hot Chicken is rounding out gastropub cuisine with its crispy fried chicken creations. Housed in Merchant’s kitchen, Duck Lips serves its chicken in three styles — traditional fried, Nashville Hot and Japanese Katsu — in addition to non-poultry options of crispy tofu and walleye. Platters and wings are plentiful on the menu, but treating yourself to a thick chicken sammy with poppy seed coleslaw and house-made chips on the side is ultimate self-care. Lip Dip, which is a sweet chili and blue cheese dipping sauce Duck Lips makes in-house, is an extra decadent way to spice it up or cool it down, depending on how you look at it. Add some homemade pickles on top for peak crunch factor, and finish off the meal with a serving of caramelized upside-down peach cake. 121 S. Pinckney St., 716-7339, ducklipsfriedchix.com
Heritage BBQ & To-Go at Heritage Catering
You’re probably familiar with the family of Heritage establishments, including Dan Fox’s Heritage Tavern. But did you know you can dig into some house-smoked barbecue from Heritage Catering in Fitchburg? Brisket, ribs, barbacoa, pulled pork and artisanal sausages all can be found with indulgent sides like pork cracklin macaroni and cheese or cornbread stuffed with bacon and candied jalapeños to seal the deal. While ordering, you can also add Fox Heritage Farms meats to cook at home. Curbside pickup and delivery are available, so feel free to put on your bib and get messy wherever you are most comfortable. 5957 McKee Road, Fitchburg, 283-9500, facebook.com/HeritageBBQ.ToGo
Hot Chicken Thursdays at A Pig in a Fur Coat
Why’d the chicken cross Willy Street? To get to a pop-up dinner at A Pig in a Fur Coat, of course! OK … the joke might not land, but Hot Chicken Thursdays are definitely worth grinning about. Every Thursday, Chef Tyrone Barnes takes over A Pig in a Fur Coat’s kitchen for his dinner night, where he slings some super-spicy, super-crispy hot chicken. Side dishes rotate depending on seasonality and what Barnes is feeling, but Southern favorites like jalapeño cornbread and succotash have been offered previously. This certainly differs from the east side joint’s typical cuisine, but change is good, especially when perfectly cooked chicken is on the line. 940 Williamson St., 316-3300, apiginafurcoat.com
Rotunda Cafe at Monona Bank
The gorgeous Monona Bank building on Atwood Avenue got a facelift recently, as the rising popularity of online and drive-thru banking left 18 indoor teller stations largely user-less. The previously underused area where there were six stations was revamped into a cozy coworking and lounge space, complete with its own cafe serving food and drinks. Run by Paul and Kim Schwoerer, owners of Oasis Café and Paul’s Pel’meni, Rotunda carries goodies from Batch Bakehouse, Madison Sourdough and Rusty Dog Coffee in addition to dumplings, meatballs and other family specialties. Complimentary Wi-Fi, printing facilities and rentable conference rooms are also available outside the cafe if you need to escape your work-from-home environment for a few hours. Who would’ve thought your next spot to hunker down in would be at a bank? 1965 Atwood Ave., 286-1271, facebook.com/rotundacafeatwood
The Tailgate Foodie at Karben4
Paying attention to social media pays off, especially if it lets you know about pop-ups like this partnership between local taproom Karben4 and elevated tailgating cuisine company The Tailgate Foodie. Spontaneous meal kit distribution and kitchen takeovers are just part of The Tailgate Foodie’s business model, but these events are great opportunities to taste fancy grill-out dishes exactly the way they were intended to be made. While folks can follow along with recipes online using their own jar of The Tailgate Foodie’s branded spice blend, there is something special about sinking your teeth into someone else’s creations. Menus are seasonal and dependent on Karben4’s beer pairing, but past specials have included a cranberry brat burger, juicy barbecue meatballs, Nashville hot chicken, sloppy Joes and other food coma-inducing meals. 3698 Kinsman Blvd., thetailgatefoodie.com
Keep your eye out for event listings and delivery times for these frequent pop-up restaurants.
Plant-based catering? We are in — and you should be too, if you live within 25 miles of Madison. Just Veggiez re-creates nonmeat versions of some classic meals, including deep-dish pizza, fried chicken drumsticks, macaroni and cheese, gyros, Reuben sandwiches, tacos, fish fry … you get the gist. The Just Veggiez food truck pops up from time to time, and the Goodman IronWorks building frequently hosts the catering company for pop-ups on the weekends. 209-5070, justveggiez.square.site
Level 5 Donuts
Madison’s vegan doughnut shop, Level 5, is frying up plant-based treats in many a flavor. With drop-off times at Johnson Public House, Ledger Coffee Roasters, Twisted Grounds and The Victory, be sure to plan ahead so you can snag your favorite dunkable confection without worry, as Level 5 frequently sells out. Simple doughnuts like vanilla or lemon poppy seed are an elegant bite, but don’t underestimate quirky creations like mango con chile or matcha. (Also, extra points for vegan custard filling!) facebook.com/shantytownmadison
No Coast Creamery
It may be chilly outside, but we believe it’s ice cream season year-round. While you can pick up pints by appointment, catching No Coast Creamery at a pop-up event feels like summer regardless of the weather. Flavors are always changing, but the classics of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate are showstoppers nonetheless. Looking for a flavorful punch? Check out concoctions like the Tropical Trio of toasted coconut ice cream, passion fruit caramel and macadamia cake. 409 Clemons Ave., 309-642-4124, nocoastcreamery.com
Attempting to learn how to make your own bread was a fun quarantine activity, but not everyone can keep up with the hobby. Luckily, you can pick up Origin’s loaves of many forms and flavors at various Madison locations, including the Willy Street Co-op and The Heights Kitchen. Focaccia, baguettes, flours made of oats, corn and polenta — the possibilities are endless when you’re a master baker like Origin owner Kirk Smock. 931 E. Main St., 381-2125, originbreads.com
Sam Jones is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.