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Catacombs Coffee House

In a word: $3 hot, organic, local lunch - not to be missed.

update 9/21/05: the Cat is closed.

The specs: #0070 
The lunch plate was potato pancakes and salad, and JM also tried the cheesecake and a Knudsen spritzer.
The bill was $8.50, or $4.25/person, plus tip.
JM gave Catacombs a B+ ; Nichole gave Catacombs an A+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest Catacombs news and reviews

Catacombs, in the lower level of the Pres House off Library Mall, is Nichole's favorite place for lunch downtown (as written about in a distinctly amateur way here, here, here and, oh, here [Nichole's even dumber old blog done gone away- ed.]). The kitchen is staffed by volunteers and managed by rotating teams, led by Tim Vollmer, Dietrich Gosser, Jonny Hunter, Ben Hunter, and Kaleen Enke.

According to Jonny, baker Mary White is "probably the best baker in Madison," and we can't find any evidence to the contrary. Jonny also told Nichole that Catacombs staff have worked at L'Etoile, Turtle, Ariaga, Sophia's, Elegant Edibles, Savory Times and Eldorado Grill - several more reasons to make the effort to stop by during the week for this one-of-a-kind meal.

Catacombs entryway

Nichole was worried for JM on this trip. His limited tolerance of vegetables might be a liability at this venue. Not to worry. The potato pancakes (or were they croquettes?) were warm, complex and satisfying: skin-on fingerling potatoes, carrots, and onions, mixed with pepper, turmeric, anise, and other spices and daubed with sour cream and applesauce.

Catacombs entree

For JM's taste, the croquettes might have benefited from being thinner and crisper, and he would've liked the option to choose his own condiments. More telling is that we both cleared our plates with gusto. The excellent cheesecake was a perfect complement to the April 2005 issue of Games.

Cheesecake and crosswords

If you're a foodie or a supporter of sustainable agriculture, you'll love Catacombs, and you don't need us to tell you why. If this whole idea is new to you, start exploring at Catacombs' Food Manifesto; Wikipedia also has an overview. For more reliable and thorough treatment, try the LII, UW's Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies, REAP Food Group, or the Chef's Collaborative. It's all good.


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