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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 76.0° F  A Few Clouds
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FOOD AND DRINK

Flour power: Happy accident: 4 & 20 Bakery and Café
Madison's second wave of high-end bakeries


Credit:Chris Hynes
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"Mandy can do amazing feats of baking," says Scott Spilger, co-owner at 4 & 20 Bakery and Café. "She works harder than anyone I know, and she wants to do it seven days a week." Mandy Puntney is at the heart of this new enterprise, which is a partnership between Spilger and Puntney's fiancé, Evan Dannells. Formerly a baker for Monty's Blue Plate Diner, she makes huge biscuits, ginormous pies, decadent Oreo-like cookies, and wildly popular Nutella-filled pastries that resemble Pop-Tarts.

4 & 20 was a happy accident, conceived when Spilger and Dannells wanted to open a restaurant but knew they would also need an off-site kitchen. They leased the 4 & 20 location and, when the space for the restaurant site was delayed, decided to open the bakery storefront at their current location at the beginning of the year.

The residential area near East High School is populated by many younger couples who bought during the real estate boom, but who often have to drive or bike out of the neighborhood for food. There were no bakeries or cafés.

But in the few months since opening, there has been steadily increasing foot traffic at 4 & 20. "We have a core group of high-school-aged foodies who come in, but mainly it was just an underserved area," says Dannells.

"There is this romanticized idea of the shopkeeper who lives down the street," adds Spilger, "and in this case it is really true." Like the couples at Batch, who also live near their bakery, Dannells and Puntney live mere blocks from the business.

Being invested in the neighborhood has led to Dannells hire a nontraditional high school student from the "Work and Learn" program - after meeting the director of the program, a customer who lives a few houses away.

"Having this kind of student worker is something I am passionate about," says Dannells, "and not only because I myself identify with a nontraditional high school experience. It's also just one way this bakery is connected to the nearby community."

Spilger, the former general manager for Café Soleil, and Dannells, a former sous chef at L'Etoile, are both earnest and extremely savvy regarding their culinary business endeavors. Dannells is currently working a few days a week at JenEhr to enrich an ongoing relationship with the farm, and Spilger is busy working on their plans to open a restaurant at another location.

"You work really hard and you don't get rich," says Dannells of their fledgling business, "but if you establish your reputation and have integrity, you're set."

For baker Puntney, the rewards are more immediate. She began baking at a young age for her parents' parties at Kansas State University, saved up her allowance to buy her first KitchenAid mixer, and has never stopped since.

Originally, the most popular items at 4 & 20 were morning buns and chocolate cookies, but recently Puntney has been re-creating commercial items like Pop-Tarts, Oreos and Almond Joys. "At first I made them just to have a bit of fun. Now they are so popular that I find myself pulling pop-tarts straight from the oven."

Puntney is motivated by the intimate connection with the customer: "I just like to see people smile. That is why I'm a baker."

To put in your bag: Try a pop-tart if you're lucky and early enough to snag one. The Oreo cookie is a must. Also order a savory item on one of Puntney's oversized biscuits.

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