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New eatery has left a mark on Madison’s food scene
Mint Mark opened in late 2017
The backstory: It’s the restaurant chef Sean Pharr always wanted – and the reason he moved back to Madison after stints in some well-known Chicago kitchens. With the help of partners Chad Vogel, Gwen and Kyle Johnson and Travis Knight, Pharr opened Mint Mark, a small plates restaurant, bar and cafe that has quickly won acceptance in the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood after opening its doors in late 2017.
The vibe: Mint Mark makes the most of its small interior, boasting a jungle vibe via the bold, leafy wallpaper behind the bar plus warm wood tones. Pharr and the team lovingly remodeled the space (formerly housing Mermaid Cafe) from tile to ceiling. The name is an ode to the even further removed tenant – an antique coin resale shop.
The menu: The dinner menu consists of small but powerful plates, including pierogies, escargots drenched in butter and a mishmash board featuring cheese and made-in-house pickled items, jam, pâtes and more. The most surprisingly delicious dish is Pharr’s cauliflower, finished with a bagna cauda sauce and golden raisins. “It’s sweet, savory, sour, rich, acidic, crispy,” Pharr says. In the morning Mint Mark becomes a cafe with Gwen and Kyle Johnson (of Johnson Public House) slinging Kin Kin coffee and delicious breakfast sandwiches. On Fridays, Mint Mark serves a fish fry and on-tap Old Fashioneds. And with Chad Vogel (of Robin Room) and Travis Knight (of Natt Spil) as the brains behind the bar menu, ordering cocktails here is a must.
The must-try: Mint Mark’s biscuits are a mouthwatering triple threat. In the morning, they’re served with jam or used to envelop breakfast sammies; at lunch and dinner, they’re offered with a sinfully delicious garlic honey drizzle or fried in butter as croutons for a kale salad; and for occasional late-night offerings, a piece of fried chicken and bread and butter pickles snuggle between two warm biscuits.
The bottom line: Pharr characterizes Mint Mark as a vegetable-forward eatery enacting classic French technique with Italian intent. “We really try to do everything by the book, but at the same time, everything’s just a few ingredients.” Influences aside, Mint Mark – which offers some of the city’s best coffee, top-shelf cocktails and simple food with complex flavors in a fun, intimate setting – is full Madison.
1929 Winnebago St., 285-5096
Andrea Behling is managing editor of Madison Magazine.
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