If you've been putting off a visit to Madeleine's Patisserie on the near west side of Madison, don't. The tiny cafe, with its black-and-white tile and dark wood trim, reminds me of konditorei in Germany. I know, it's called Madeleine's Patisserie, so it's supposed to be French, but I've never been to France, and at any rate, the patisserie's slogan is "a Midwestern bakery in the European tradition" -- so even the owners are not splitting hairs.
This near-west side bakery/cafe, at the intersection of Glenway, Speedway, and Mineral Point, is not like so many of the expansive coffeehouse and office-away-from-home sites built these days; it's intimate, just the place for an indulgent coffee break.
First off, the breakfast (or lunch) egg puff, a rosette of rich, buttery puff pastry enveloping a baked egg (with flecks of red pepper and with or without turkey ($3.25) is worth driving across town for. Yes, it's rich, but not too rich. It has a kind of peasant sturdiness paired with a melt away delicacy. The turkey is tasty, but not necessary; the egg and pastry can carry this one.
I would say something like "You'll never go back to the Egg McMuffin," but face it, you will in the future end up at an Interstate exit in the middle of nowhere eating an Egg McMuffin. But while you're doing so, you'll be thinking of Madeleine's egg puff. Madeleine's also serves excellent buttery croissants and quiches (ingredients vary daily) but I always return to the egg puff.
The pastries also vary daily. You'll see continental choices, like the namesake Madeleine, as well as more American (or Americanized) treats: cheesecakes, scones, chocolate cookies, bars, whimsically decorated cupcakes, mini biscotti....In a nod to the season, you may find the superb pumpkin cheesecake ($4.50), which is not leaden and over spiced, but light, yet with a definite pumpkin flavor, topped with a rosette of whipped cream and grounded with an almost candy-like buttery graham crust.
The Hungarian apricot bar ($1.50) pairs a sweet crumb base with a thick apricot layer and ground nut topping. It's not as sweet as some similar bars, letting the apricot take center stage, as it should.
For lunch, Madeleine's has a soup of the day, or filled croissants/croissant sandwiches, or sometimes a salad of the day, although not every day (but usually once a week). Call ahead to check for daily features. The bakery also handles several European breads on a rotating schedule, including baguettes and brioche.
Coffees and teas are by Alterra; juices are also available. And anyone who comes in on Halloween in a costume gets a free cookie.