The new Victory Cafe, 2710 Atwood Ave., is having a very, very soft opening. Owner Patrick Downey says he was just too excited to stay at home while finishing touches were being put on the space, so he figured he might as well hang out at the shop and start serving people coffee. The espresso machine is in, the coffee is stocked, but the baked goods are still somewhat scarce, and the menu, for panini and the like, is still to be finalized.
But the coffee, from Milwaukee's Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company, is potent and made with care, and the service, super-friendly.
Downey moved to Madison from Brooklyn, N.Y., where the original Victory Cafe, in the Boerum Hill neighborhood, colonized that gentrifying area. The Brooklyn cafe is still open - all 200-some square feet of it, says Downey. The relatively modest 800-square-foot space on Atwood, formerly the icon shop, and once upon a time a neighborhood grocery, seems spacious in comparison. One wall is given over to small tables; the front window alcove to a kids' play area, with blackboard paint covering most lower surfaces and waiting for chalk decoration to fill it entirely. The ad hoc art display joins a pressed-tin ceiling, gold banquette seating and 1950s-style starburst light fixtures.
The baked goods will eventually come from the nearby Ironworks Cafe kitchen, but in the meantime, muffins and cookies are being baked by Downey's wife, Alison, including a crisp oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that's received a laudatory mention in Food and Wine magazine. (They'll stay on the menu.)
And the cafe will not feature Wi-Fi. Downey says he likes to see his patrons talking with each other, although if you do want to, say, work on your laptop, you can - without the distraction of the Internet. And if you want to read The New York Times, you can do it the old-fashioned way, on newsprint, speared on those thevictorymadison.com or call 608-240-0366.
A new food cart, Caracas Empanadas, will be parking at the corner of Park and Spring streets, serving specialties from Venezuela. Hours will vary - currently, chef/owner Luis Dompablo gives them as 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. The deep-fried empanadas, from Dompablo's mother's recipe, will be filled with ground beef and cheese, shredded beef and cheese, turkey and cheese, chicken, pulled pork, plain cheese or a vegetarian special.
The former Ancora at 1859 Monroe St. is now Gallup Coffee and Bakehouse, 608-285-5704; open 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
El Rincón Tico, a sister restaurant to Butler Street's Cafe Costa Rica, is in progress across from the BP gas station on Williamson Street. The new place will have a similar menu with different specials and, not surprisingly, more seating. It's hoped the new restaurant will be ready to open in two to three weeks.
Blue Spoon Cafe, 2831 Parmenter St., Middleton.