Proximity obviously has a lot to do with which coffee houses we'll frequent. For people who are passionate about coffee, the coffee itself will override proximity. And then, there are coffee houses that appeal to us for other, more ineffable reasons.
Maybe it's the seating, or the sandwich menu, or the art on the walls, or the available newspapers; or its tendency to be lively, or conversely a quiet place to read or have a heart-to-heart with a friend.
Of all the coffee shops I've been to in Madison, there's something I just like about Indie Coffee, on Regent Street. Indie isn't very convenient for me, but I love its terrazzo floor, its chocolate waffles, and the way it's a quiet place to meet -- at least in the midday. I also admire Indie's eclectic evening programs of film, video, music and occasional reading events.
It's not pretentious, it's not cookie-cutter, and it doesn't wear its quirks on its sleeve. Service is friendly and the place is clean, too. But since this is a column about food, I'll leave the venue description at that and skip over to the food.
Indie serves breakfast all day, and its small breakfast menu consists of Door County granola with yogurt ($3) and Belgium waffles ($3.25) available in buttermilk, multigrain, or chocolate. My preferred flavor, the chocolate waffle, arrives crisp and never fails to please in its simplicity. Goes well with coffee, but also, on a hot day, iced blackcurrant tea.
Lunch is served from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and consists of two salads and a handful of sandwiches, but with enough variety among the items so that the menu feels larger.
The grilled cheese sandwiches are cheddar on a hearty white bread ($3.25), and for an additional $1, it's worth it to add tomato and basil.
These may be the simplest items on menu. The most arresting is probably the honey, fig and goat cheese sandwich ($6) with the aforementioned ingredients and spinach on grilled cinnamon raisin bread. If you love goat cheese, this savory-and-sweet treat should end up lodged permanently in your memory. Other sandwiches range from kids' faves (PBJ, $3.25) to the adult (like the turkey and walnut wrap, with gorgonzola, $6) and several more veggie sandwiches with the option to go vegan.
The two salads ($5) are just as satisfying. The Big Salad takes a spinach base and adds walnuts, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese; the Grecian, also based on spinach, borrows its other ingredients from the traditional Greek salad.
While sandwiches are only available until 2 p.m., premade case sandwiches can be grilled at any time. And don't forget those waffles -- they're not just for breakfast any more.