Thony Clarke and Lora Garrett have closed their tiny but popular Butler Street restaurant, Cafe Costa Rica, and merged it with their year-old Willy Street restaurant, El Rincon Tico, and are calling the result Cafe Costa Rica.
“There have been a lot of issues with El Ricon Tico as far as people being especially not happy with the service there, and just trying to be in two places,” said Garrett, Clarke’s wife and business partner. “We had bitten off a bit more than we could chew.”
At the same time, they had outgrown the Downtown space and decided to consolidate their efforts at the larger, Willy Street space. “People have been more happy with Cafe Costa Rica, so we decided that that’s what we would try to” focus on, Garrett said.
While no one would mistake Cafe Costa Rica for fine dining, she said, the couple was trying to do something even more casual with El Rincon. “And it just wasn’t playing. The community just wasn’t really responding to it. So we thought we would take what does work and put it in the bigger space.”
Cafe Costa Rica’s last day on Butler Street was Sept. 29. Garrett and Clarke hope to do another grand opening on Willy Street this week.
They moved some of the furniture from the old location to try to recreate its feel as much as they can, Garrett said. A local artist helped to transform the front room on Willy Street, she added.
“It’s hard to create that little tiny, intimate atmosphere,” Garrett said. “We’re trying our best.”
The dinner menu will be straight from Cafe Costa Rica, but the lunch menu from El Rincon will remain pretty much the same. “We may try to incorporate a couple of new additions,” Garrett said.
Cheba Hut offers 'green' dining option
A new sandwich shop is moving into a Downtown space that has entrances on Gilman Street and University Avenue and struggled most recently as Asian One and King of Falafel.
Richard J. Wooton, 30, is hoping to have Cheba Hut open by the middle of November at 453 W. Gilman St.
Cheba Hut was founded in 1998 in Tempe, Ariz., near Arizona State University. It spread to other college towns over the years, and now has 15 locations in six states: Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, California, New Mexico, and Iowa. Wooton’s will be the brand’s 16th, and the first one in Wisconsin.
It thrives on counter-culture decor, and many of the menu items have stoner references (the founder was a fan of “Cheech and Chong” movies). There’s hemp cream cheese and sandwiches named after marijuana — Thai stick, Panama red, Acapulco gold, and AZ homegrown.
If the Gilman Street shop succeeds, Wooton envisions another one in the Willy Street neighborhood and eventually one in Milwaukee. The Madison store is Wooton’s first business venture.
Cheba Hut will prep all its meat, veggies, cheese, sauces, and munchies in-house everyday, Wooton said. “Our food is fresh and we put love into it.”
The shop’s service and laid-back environment encourage customers to hang out and relax, he said. “We like to do things differently at Cheba Hut. To us, it’s more about the interaction than the transaction.”
Posters of jam bands such as the Disco Biscuits, Phish and Widespread Panic, all from Wisconsin shows, have already gone up on the walls.
Cheba Hut offers more than 30 toasted subs and “munchies” like “goo balls,” made from Rice Krispies, peanut butter, honey and cocoa. Wooton promises a selection of craft beers as well as Kool-Aid on tap.
The restaurant’s top selling sub is the “White Widow” with chicken, bacon, provolone, mushrooms, and homemade ranch sauce. Wooton said his personal favorite is the “Dank,” a pizza sub with Genoa salami, pepperoni, provolone, Parmesan, and homemade marinara.
“If you really want to one up the Dank, add our homemade jalapeno cream cheese,” he said. “You won’t be disappointed.”
Vegetarians can choose from six subs, including the “Majic Mushroom,” made with portabella mushrooms, green bell peppers, pineapple, pepper jack cheese, and a homemade teriyaki glaze.
Cheba Hut is comparable to other fast casual restaurants with an average meal costing about $10 when you count a 12-inch sub, drink, and chips or munchie, Wooton said. The restaurant “serves up premium sandwiches, so we can’t do $5 foot longs nor do we want to.”
Wooton grew up in Appleton, and moved to Madison at 18 to attend Madison Area Technical College. He has a bachelor’s degree from Edgewood College and a master’s from University of New Mexico.
Lane’s Bakery will move
It’s official. Chuck Lane, the co-owner of Lane’s Bakery, signed a letter of intent to reopen the 58-year-old bakery that had been at its 448 S. Park St. location for 25 years.
The new bakery will be in the city-owned Villager Mall on the south end of Park Street.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” said Lane, who closed the former location Sept. 28. The plan is to have the new bakery open by May 1.