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Johnson Public House

Lemonade and vanilla sugar rollIn a word: Like a pub for coffee drinkers.

The specs: #0724  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Espresso in Madison, 77 Square, Wisconsin State Journal, Yelp; Facebook, Twitter, Johnson Public House on Urbanspoon

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JM ate the grilled cheese with a lemonade.
Nichole ate the portabella sandwich with salad and a pourover Los Delirios.
We split a Batch vanilla swirl.
The bill was $22, or $11/person, plus tip.
JM gave Johnson Public House a B-; Nichole gave Johnson Public House an A (see our grading rubric).

Once when Nichole was little, her grama gave her a bowl of creamy soup and said there was a surprise at the bottom. Instead of finishing the soup, the kid asked so many annoying questions ("is it a penny? is it a pebble?") that her grama, exasperated, stubbed out her Chesterfield and dumped the soup down the drain to show the kid the Smurfs painted on the bottom of the bowl.

The cups at Johnson Public House are like that. The coffee is very good.


The sandwiches are great. A grilled portabella could have been a vegetarian cliche but on Batch ciabatta with lemony mayo, fresh yet stringy mozzarella, a tender mushroom cap, roasted red pepper slices, and oregano, it was well-balanced. The side salad seemed like a farmer's market mix dressed with a light vinaigrette and coarse-ground black pepper and salt.

Grilled cheeseJM's grilled cheese was a mild, nongreasy cheddar on semolina bread with sesame seeds. It was a little rough on the mouth, but the texture was light. The strawberry and blueberry garnish on each plate was adorable.

He was not as big a fan of the Hubert's Lemonade from Hansen's. The flavor was lemony and sweet enough, but there was a floral note to it too. We noticed rebiana, a stevia extract, on the ingredients list and (not having much experience with stevia-derived sweeteners) wondered if that might be the source.

The service was expert. We also liked that the patio was pet- and bike-friendly and that the game shelf included Settlers of Catan. We'd come back.


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A great cafe with much-better-than-average food, pricey but delicious coffee, and most importantly, beer. Great place to eat and drink while studying and people watching.

I find their use of sliced hard-boiled eggs in the sandwiches--instead of eggs cooked a la minute--pretty ingenious. It doesn't necessarily make their food delivery faster, but it cuts down on the error rate of cooking eggs to order, and eliminates the need for griddle space.

I love my gooey yolks, but I'll take JPH's technique if it makes it easier for them to succeed and profit.

My main take-away from the Johnson Public House is the unofficial dress code. Men, you may choose two accessories from this list: hat, beard, vest, plaid button-down, cuffed jeans, vintage spectacles, ironic suspenders. Women, the hipster look is less defined, but try to capture that nerdy-but-cool vibe; consider dresses, floral prints, birds, beat-up boots, grandma gear, oversized 90s jumpers, shaved head.

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