Finally, the 'For Lease' signs aren't in the first floor windows.
I mentioned the saga of 2009 Madison food retrospective, and how all previously scheduled opening dates had come and gone. On Tuesday, all the plans and delays came to fruition, as general manager Peter McElvanna, former manager at Brocach, staged one last soft open to pound things into shape. What once was Sucre, and McDonald's before that, is finally ready to open to the public.
McElvanna has totally reclaimed the space from the austere whiteness of Sucre; exposed brick and knotty wood dominate the interior. There's a snug at the end of the bar -- an honest-to-god, fully-enclosed snug, not an homage to one as at other Irish-themed restaurants in town. It has an independent sound system speaker and a service window that opens directly onto the bar. It's perfect for lunch meetings and informal parties.
The menu is still a work in progress, but this early lunch incarnation offers the four food groups: soups, salads, sandwiches and starters. Lots of carbs on the starter menu, with pretzels, frites, and a poutine that will make lonely Canadians and fans of gravy-soaked cheese curds very happy. A Sconnie egg deviates from the Scotch norm by wrapping the egg in Knoche's Meat Mart bratwurst. Even the salads looked sumptuous, with a Brussels sprout, bacon, and blue cheese salad and a complex spinach salad named Amy (after McElvanna's wife and partner in operating Coopers).
My Reuben sandwich featured some of the best corned beef I've ever had. Nothing I've had in town has been more reminiscent of the best qualities of real kosher deli smoked meat. The house burger was tall but not massive, and bite-sized "wee burgers" will be on the finalized menu for about a buck apiece. Outward indications promised a better grilled cheese than was delivered; the whole thing needed a bit more zing from either the cheese, the bread from Madison Sourdough, or both.
The dinner menu wasn't available to view, but main dishes promise to be under $14 and straightforward in construction. No overwrought quail eggs on foie gras medallions or anything. A full Isthmus review of the tavern's food will follow after Coopers has been open for a decent interval.