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Java Den at 1022

Java DenIn a word: Not your father's office coffee.

The specs: #0574  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Isthmus, Madison Coffee Fellowship; official web site, Facebook.

JM ate the turkey panino and a chocolate chip scone with a Sprecher root beer.
Nichole ate the veg panino with a cupcake.
The bill was $20, or $10/person, plus tip.
JM gave Java Den a C; Nichole gave Java Den a C+ (see our grading rubric).

Latest Java Den news and reviews

There's a quote attributed to Maya Angelou that goes "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Sadly, Java Den made us feel like we were reliving the jetlagged morning a few years ago when we felt brilliant and adventurous for using a long layover at the San Francisco airport to check out the city, but got off at the wrong BART stop and instead of seeing anything interesting ended up crabbing at each other in a crowded, overpriced chain bagel place in the financial district.

It's not their fault. It looks like Java Den's serving a captive audience of business school students in a restaurant dead zone. The nearest other eats are probably the Good Food Cart if you're lucky, the new Qdoba on Regent and Park, and another coffee shop half a block away.

To Java Den's credit they're serving that zone well: bakery from Elegant Foods, La Brioche True Food, Cupcakes-a-GoGo and Kickapoo Coffee are all excellent sources, if not exactly bargain-conscious. Our lunch was two panini (picked from the four remaining at 11:45), a scone, a cupcake, and a root beer.


The sandwiches were, in JM's words, "trying to be all Mediterranean and stuff." The bread was very heavily infused with olive oil. Nichole's veg panino had fresh mozzarella, crisp red onion, and tomato with a delicious - but again, highly lipidic - spread of some sort of salty, pinkish aioli that hinted at anchovies and maybe red peppers. Good, but twice as heavy as it should have been. JM's turkey panino swapped out the mozzarella and for that was more balanced, he felt.


We ate our desserts anyway because as it turns out, three tablespoons of olive oil may be a lot of calories but is not all that filling when hidden in a couple pieces of bread. The chocolate chip scone was dry in a good, biscuity-crumbly way, that paired fine with the root beer.

Nichole had been looking forward to trying Cupcakes-a-GoGo's cakes for a while. This was one of a half dozen of two flavors on offer; the vanilla with cream cheese frosting and blueberry mousse won out over chocolate. The clever individual-cupcake packaging looked like Darth's helmet so much that we expected it to hiss when opened. The cake was fine; a little too moist, in that the heavy mousse (which came across as so much more frosting) pushed through the structure at first bite.

So why didn't we try the coffee at a coffee shop? The ordering process somehow went FUBAR (Nichole blames her indecision, caused in part by arriving overcaffeinated). She ended up waffling and then declining the barista's suggestion of a complimentary Americano, which is just silly of her; water is good for you. If she weren't blogging this visit, she might have taken the perk - but the upshot is, we still have no idea what the coffee's like at Java Den, and we apologize.


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You didn't happen to end up at Posh Bagel in SF did you? If so, I have a different story that ends with my significant other and I "crabbing at one another in a crowded, overpriced chain bagel place in the financial district."

I would just like to add how much I LOVE Java Den and that (if I was grading) I give it an A+ every time I visit, which is usually just for coffee. It is definitely in a dead zone which is why I love it so much. Plus the baristas are friendly and nice and remember names! I work on the west end of campus and even though I may have to push my way through students, it's worth it every time for that delicious black gold served with a friendly smile.

The coffee is good and strong. It's very close to the Chemistry building, and those grad students need coffee. I personally prefer indie coffee, but that's because indie opened my first year of graduate school and Java Den opened my last. Like the library, it benefits from a location where there is little else.

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Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

Madison Food coverInfo about our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is here, or read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook.



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