The highly anticipated Batch Bakehouse opened earlier this month in the former Pavlov's Pizza space on Williamson Street, near the Yahara River. Although the Batch website says it's located "in beautiful downtown Madison" -- which may be true insofar as it is not located in beautiful downtown Chicago, but as far as finding it in Mad Town, it's a statement that's a tad confusing. Never mind -- the super-friendly staff will make you feel welcome once you get there. You can see them hard at work making bread through the big glass windows behind the counter.
The space is spartan, with wire rolling racks holding the baked goods and an old-style wire crate holding a variety of mineral waters like San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna and European-style soft drinks like San Pellegrino's Limonata. There's no cafe section or any place to sit. Coffee is not yet available, but is coming soon. Even then, Batch is still going to be a carryout spot.
The bakery focuses on crusty breads -- baguettes, sourdough, ciabatta and the rustic Provencal loaf called fougasse (available in small, $2-$2.50, and large, $3.50-$4). There are also a few sweets -- blueberry muffins, currant scones, plain and filled (almond) croissants, morning buns (plain and vanilla swirl) and pain au chocolat (all $2-$3).
The baguette that I bought to go with the evening's dinner didn't last that long. It was a casualty of desk-side snacking throughout the day, for which it was -- even plain -- perfectly suited. (The crust was not the sort that you have to aggressively knife through and then gnaw.) And the last pain au chocolat of the day was not an onslaught of chocolate, but bursts of bittersweet balanced with the flavors of its pain -- a little salty, a little eggy.
Specials and new menu items will also be appearing, like a ham and cheese croissant and different cookies. More updates about the menu can be found on its Facebook page.
Batch Bakehouse is a member of the Ian's (of pizza fame) food empire. Warning -- the bakery is currently open only from Wednesday through Sunday and closes at 3 p.m.