Chatter about the bright red signs announcing "bocadillos/sandwich" in the windows of the Cardinal Bar, 418 E. Wilson St., is increasing as word spreads about who's behind the nascent eatery and what's going to be on the menu.
Cafe Cortadito will be the latest from Madison restaurateurs Chris and Prentice Berge, chef Joey Dunscombe of the Weary Traveler, and chef David Oliver of Natt Spil. Berge restaurant projects have done much to change the face of Madison dining over the last decade. Among the Berge projects: the now-departed Restaurant Magnus, the Blue Marlin, Barriques, and the aforementioned Weary Traveler and Natt Spil.
Chris Berge has been a forward thinker and blue-sky thinker when it comes to new concepts for Madison dining. In 2010, he proposed building a seasonal eatery on the southwest bike path and later that same year planned to create a bike-centric gastropub called Velo Bahn in the former Magnus space to cater to arriving and departing travelers at the then-in-the-works high speed rail station to be located across the street. When newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker scotched the train, scrapped too were the plans for Velo Bahn.
Cafe Cortadito is going to be sort of "a coffeeshop," says Prentice Berge, serving mostly sandwiches out of what was the coatroom at the Cardinal Bar.
"Right now we're really buried in stuff," says Prentice. "Chris is over there today doing a major install, counters and equipment."
Joey Dunscombe, reached at the Weary Traveler, says that the restaurant is "Chris' brainchild." Chris came up with the menu; Dunscombe says he's developing recipes. "The menu's basically sandwiches, churros (a fried pastry akin to a doughnut) with chocolate, and croquettes. A simple menu."
There will be a shelf for patrons to order within the Cardinal coatroom and a takeout window on East Wilson Street, but no tables or table service, says Dunscombe, though people will be able to eat it within the Cardinal. But primarily, "it's walking food."
Prentice says that the initial planned hours will be 3 p.m.-3 a.m. Tues.-Fri., and opening earlier, 9 a.m., on the weekends to "catch the farmers' market crowd." The opening is slated for mid-April.