Indie Coffee: Breakout breakfast
It’s Sunday morning, you’ve eaten your way through some of Madison’s iconic campus-centric favorites, and it’s time to fuel up and hit the road. Instead of a drive-thru breakfast sandwich, stop at Indie Coffee, where the menu is small but perfect, and the coffee is strong. Parking is easy to miss, but it’s available on side streets or a few steps east of the cafe at marked spots in front of Budget Bicycle.
Indie opened in 2004 and has been run by the same community-minded folks since. The restrained but laid-back space is decorated with posters of bands and venues of local renown, and Indie often hosts small concerts and film showings inside or on its charming back patio (a recent concert was described by the barista as “dark folk cello”).
Their coffee beans are roasted by Viamo, a one-man operation in nearby Middleton. The house roast is a blend of dark beans with a smoky, intense character. The espresso drinks are expertly made: cappuccinos are balanced and petite and the strong espresso stands up to milk in a latte. Specialty lattes do rotate seasonally, and if you’re looking for something subtle and not syrupy, give them a try; they use real spices, not always Torani. Their menu boasts over 40 black, green and herbal teas, as well.
Indie Coffee’s bakery is eclectic in the original and finest sense of the word: it’s the very best of a diverse assortment. Layered pastries such as croissants and blueberry and peach danish are from Madison Sourdough Company, a well-established supplier of some of the best breads in town. Pecan-studded sticky morning buns come from El Bolillo, a panaderia across the lake in Monona. And the bagels are from New York proper, arriving half-baked to be finished in Indie’s ovens and topped with local butter or cream cheese. They might not be as fine as a “real” NYC bagel, but it might be as close as you’ll get in the midlands.
Just in case you did not get a chance to sample enough Madison beer, Indie usually has at least a half dozen local microbrew bottle selections. Count on Ale Asylum, Capital, and Furthermore breweries being represented.
There are breakfast sandwiches, salads and more here, but we always go for a waffle. They are airy, large Belgian-style waffles made to order and they come in buttermilk and multigrain versions. The buttermilk is excellent, but even if you are not a health nut, go for the multigrain. The texture is a little heartier which makes it more interesting as you alternate bites with your favorite morning beverage.
Waffle variations include the Red & White with strawberries and homemade whipped cream, cranberry and walnut, just walnut (the menu recommends you “tell your kids they’re bugs”), chocolate-chocolate chip, and the works.
For a lighter breakfast than Indie’s hearty waffles, you can trust in their bakery selection. Croissants from Madison Sourdough are among the best in the city, available in chocolate or almond/marzipan. The specialty seasonal lattes, such as this cardamom-cinnamon concoction, are subtle and not cloyingly sweet. Soy milk is an option for all beverages. And grab a pound of beans to go; they’ll grind them for you if you like.
Inside Tip: Little Free Libraries
Outside Indie Coffee, on the east side of the building (nearest the unmistakably bright yellow Franco’s Shoe Repair) is a new arrival: a Little Free Library. This unassuming wooden hutch is part of an international project of book-sharing. Each Little Free Library is planted by a patron, who seeds it with some free books in the hopes that a take-one-leave-one ethos will catch on.
If you’ve finished your latest paperback and don’t want to carry it back onto the plane as you finish your Madison adventure, check in here to see if there’s a treasure worth swapping for. See the Little Free Library web site for more information.