Open Book Cafe

In a word: Open and shut.

The specs: #00998   
In the Helen C. White Library, Goon Park, Madison 53706
Details at Yelp, official web site

Latest Open Book Cafe news and reviews at pinboard

JM ate the sweet roll and a lemonade.
Nichole had an almond steamer.
The bill was $5, or $2.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Open Book Café a C-; Nichole gave Open Book Café a B+ (see our grading rubric).


Open Book Café is the foodservice outlet in the College Library part of Helen C. White Hall. Often open 24 hours, it fuels undergrads and others in the vicinity with Badger Market grab and go snacks, and lots of coffee. We went late at night (for us - 9pm!) and it was hopping. Lucky for us, we blend in well enough - maybe double the typical age, but harmless enough to pass and place and order and sit looking out the spiderweb-bedecked windows at a dark lake.

Their take on the college eatery was a little bit same-old-same-old (Nantucket drinks represent the smallest improvement over convenience store beverages, and the sweet roll was more brick than bakery) and a little bit above average (Nichole ordered an almond steamer [it was past bedtime, remember], which wasn't on the menu, but they made it for her anyway, and it was good.

On a pass fail rubric - though Nichole does in fact often stop here for coffee when in the area - for outings together we'd probably give this place a pass.

One Barrel

In a word: Roll out the apps.

The specs: #00997   
2001 Atwood Ave., 53704
Details at Yelp, official web site, Facebook, Twitter

Latest One Barrel news and reviews

JM, Nichole and Nino split a pretzel, pizza, and a sausage and cheese plate. 
The bill was $30, or $10/person, plus tip.
JM and Nino gave One Barrel a B+; Nichole gave One Barrel a B (see our grading rubric).

There's a new brewing place on the near east side that serves light repasts with their beer. (What do you mean that's not enough information?)

It is easy to say that the extremely local brewpub that makes its own beers is a little too Madison for the mid-teens, but it is kind of true. The number of times we mixed up Next Door and One Barrel in our memory only underscores the problem. That said, One Barrel does a nice job curating other local foods rather than trying to reinvent the wheel by having its own chef and kitchen.

Nino did try the beer which meant getting a Behemoth which was a nice beer. He'd have liked to have tried the coffee beer, but knew that high caffeine content would not sit well, and sadly no one could tell him how much caffeine might be in the brew. Nichole and JM stuck with water, as One Barrel is so beer focused that they don't really have anything else to drink.

On to the food... the pizza is prepped at Fraboni's, and is a pretty nice balance while being very traditional. There was a penguin pizza on the menu, but since there was no info about the 'berg the bird grew up on, we just got a tasty sausage pie.

Pizza hands

The pretzel was served with a couple of kinds of proper mustard which were very nice and complemented the beer and pretzels atmosphere quite well.


The cheese and sausage were fancier than what we'd just had at Olive Lounge, though the sausages were difficult to cut, even with a sharp knife provided. This added some tabletop drama.

Cheese and sausage

Since the kitchen mostly consists of a pizza oven and a microwave, the whole aesthetic here is more laid-back and low-key with an emphasis on gemütlichkeit. That said, the place was the opposite of busy. As Nino put it, "I wanted to like it more, but it felt like they were still getting used to being open." There's nothing wrong with One Barrel, but being in the hot zone of places we'd rather hit, it seems like give our druthers we'd probably stop somewheres else.

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