Everyone was sad when Cafe Montmatre on E. Mifflin closed. My relationship with the restaurant was short and sweet. Having been introduced at my brother-in-law and sister's wedding brunch, I liked the atmosphere and the food.
Flash forward to 2008 and I was new to Madison and invited to hear some music there on a Saturday night. As fun, young people came in and everyone danced the night away, I liked the venue.
I met friends there during several snowy storms and it felt cozy. And of course, what's not bad about being able to walk there? They had this great $5 pizza night. The bar was great. I guess things just got tough and then they closed.
Now we always heard of Underground Kitchen. The "collective" group who have catered numerous events around town. No owner. No head chef. They cooked up wonderful breakfasts at the indoor farmer's market. Well, now they are in Cafe Montmatre's space. And it is good.
Having checked it out through the windows numerous nights as I walk by with my dog, I have been very anxious to try it out. It always appeared busy as I peaked through the glass, everyone inside looked like someone I would be friends with (yes, there are also older people who dine there. I would want to be their friend, too)and the bar looked happening.
So, last Tuesday night, I did my walk by and it was busy. So I texted my bf and met him there. The only table they could give us was right by the door and it was cold. But we didn't care. I think they are working on getting something to prevent the cold air from coming in (actually, I believe the host said they are changing the entrance to the other door), but really, it was a non issue. It was busy.
I will note here that my dad taught us when we were young to always try and prevent cold air from blowing into a restaurant. For example, if there is a breezeway between two doors, wait until the first door is closed before you open the second. I think this is very thoughtful.
Back to Underground.... Our server was not your typical server. She was not outgoing. No extrovert here. She seemed more like a scientist than a sociologist. But she did know the menu quite well. We decided to try the polenta fries with homemade squash ketchup, romanesco & leeks in cream and the orecchiette as an entree. The appetizers were absolutely tasteful. I highly recommend the romanesco and leeks in the creamy stuff. I believe they also had some breadcrumbs. Romanesco is in the broccoli family, so you should be open to that type of vegetable. The dipping sauce (squash stuff) with the polenta fries was excellent. And the entree was our least favorite, but we were pretty stuffed. We each had a drink (I had a red blend, he had a beer). Our total was about $34.00 and the desserts sounded delicious, we were just too stuffed.
The atmosphere is great. I like the wood floors, the nice tables, it's brighter than it used to be, but still has that warm feel. The festive large squash decorations by the front door helped.
One thing I read before going there is that because they have an open kitchen (yeah -you can see them doing everything), your clothes smell. This is somewhat true, but it didn't bother me. Also, I think there is a communal table there, but we didn't sit on that side of the restaurant.
All in all, I loved the food (the usual - local and sustainable) and I loved the atmosphere. So I will be spending some more time there. I am very excited for the first big snow fall so I can get all of my friends there on a stormy night for some good food and drink.