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November 2012 food news: Roast Public House, Cheba Hut, MP Dining Company, Iron Cupcake Madison
From wood-fired ovens to hemp, it's always something

Credit:Al Lada

The foodscape on State Street, always fluid, is in greater than normal flux right now. The 500 block is in major shuffle mode.

New in the old Pic-A-Book space at 506 State is Forever Yogurt. The former Saz/Opa Lounge at 558 State is becoming an upscale wood-oven offshoot of Ian's Pizza to be called S2pizzabar. The old Taco Bell at 534 State is new home to Full of Bull, the beef sandwich, cheesesteak and burger purveyor that was formerly at the corner of East Wash and Blair Street. And the former Buffalo Wild Wings at 529 State is now Roast Public House, which has been described variously as a bar and grill, a gastropub and a from-scratch sandwich shop. Roast utilizes such local suppliers as Black Earth Farms, Cedar Grove cheese, Jordandal Farms turkey and Madison Sourdough breads.

Just down the block at 453 W. Gilman St. (formerly Asian One and King of Falafel) is the future home of Cheba Hut, gearing up for a late-November opening. Cheba Hut is a smallish, mostly Western states chain that serves toasted subs in three sizes: the nub, the pinner and the blunt. Yep, they go there - the names of the subs read like a script from a Cheech and Chong flick. Also on the menu are lots of munchies - i.e., desserts. Plus, hemp cream cheese and hemp brownies. Cheba Hut shells and roasts its own hemp seeds. Somewhere, Ben Masel is smiling.

There's also a dining boom going on in Mineral Point. Last week André Darlington reviewed Kusaka, a Japanese spot in the heart of Cornish pasty country. But that's not all.

In the former Chesterfield Inn space, the Paris-trained chef Charlie Socher (formerly chef-owner of Cafe Matou in Chicago) opened MP Dining Company last August. Cafe Matou closed in November 2010, in part because Socher was keen to spend more time in southwestern Wisconsin and wanted to open a restaurant here, spurred by relationships he'd forged with Dairy State farmers while in Chicago.

Socher takes advantage of the dining room's wood-fired oven for roasting meats and fish; the restaurant also bakes its bread there. The menu is focused on Socher's versions of American comfort food. Recent menu items included butternut squash soup and an eggplant and portobella dish with black beans.

"The menu changes almost daily," says manager Bill Penton. "Charlie's preference is to mix things up, keep it fresh."

But the most popular menu items are constants, says Penton: the slow-braised brisket, the pork chop, a wood-fired broccoli side. "There's always a chicken dish that always comes out of the wood-fired oven," he says.

MP Dining Company is open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday at 20 Commerce St. in Mineral Point (608-987-0006;

Good news, cupcake believers (those of you who have not moved on to pie, macarons, marshmallows, doughnuts or whatever else the new cupcake is thought to be these days). Iron Cupcake Madison is on again for the season. This time, the challenge is "Cupcakes for Dinner," in which amateur bakers vie for honor and prizes. Eaters can vote for their favorites.

A $10 ticket (at the door or via Brown Paper Tickets) buys you 10 mini-cupcakes; proceeds go to the Alzheimer's Association. It's 5:30-7 p.m. on Nov. 3 at the Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St. For more info, see or call 608-239-1804.

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