Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery, which brought the neo-cupcake revival to Madison when it opened on the East Side last May, is expanding its menu, recently introducing dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Burgers and intriguing varieties of meatloaf such as turkey, pesto and feta or chorizo with pepper jack (plus no-meat loaf with mushrooms, nuts and vegetables) are part of the lunchtime menu. The new evening menu adds a list of well-chosen, seasonal dinner specials, with wine and beer available.
I can't think of a better way to brace for winter than a hot bowl of cassoulet, the rustic French stew. The base of the Daisy cassoulet ($14.99) is white beans with a generous amount of pulled duck, plus a chunk of pleasantly smoky sausage and undercurrents of bacon. Fewer herbes de Provence are used here than is often the case, but the dish is simply and pleasantly seasoned, and served with a big piece of crusty French bread.
Three roasted vegetable enchiladas ($9.99) have enough body and character that you'd never miss the protein. The coup de grace is a piquant tomatillo-avocado sauce. The enchiladas are served with a big serving of whole black beans, pico de gallo and sour cream.
For fans of cilantro, the Cafe Beef Steak ($14.99) is a good choice. Three small medallions, sliced horizontally, are stuffed with jalapeno, garlic and plenty of cilantro. An intense wine spice further pulls it together in terms of flavor. The meat wasn't especially tender when I ordered it, but the way the meat was cut and prepared compensated for that successfully. It's served with two types of gold and purple fingerling potatoes and sauteed seasonal vegetables.
The Gazpacho Tuna Steak ($12.99) is oddly named, since gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup and there isn't any soup in this entree. The tasty dish features a moist, evenly grilled fillet topped with minced vegetables that include red pepper and melon. It is also accompanied by the fingerlings.
Entree salads ($8.59) are made with spring mix, and include a Parmesan crisp and a house-made roll. The avocado and orange salad has an especially effective, if summery, tart vinaigrette. In addition to the ingredients in its name, there's a sprinkling of toasted slivered almonds.
The No-Meat Loaf ($9.99) is reminiscent of the "Diet for a Small Planet"-style fake meat served in early vegetarian restaurants with its nutty, crunchy texture. This version contains walnuts, almonds and crimini mushrooms and an unobtrusive roasted red pepper sauce. The dish is topped with a beautiful swirl of fluffy mashed potatoes.
Along with the arrival of dinner, Daisy has expanded its sweets menu beyond cupcakes (of which they usually sell at least 180 a day, in about 15 varieties). "Mousse-duos" - two types of mousse in a dessert for one person - and pies baked in Mason jars are now available as well. The pecan "pie" ($4.99) bears an uncanny resemblance to a cupcake because of its cylindrical shape, but ranks among the best of its kind because of its classic taste and skillful execution. It has an amazingly light crust, lots of salty nuts and a not-overly-sweet syrup mixture.
Restaurant: Daisy Cafe and Cupcakery
Location: 2827 Atwood Ave.
Hours: Breakfast and lunch 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; espresso and cupcakes 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
Specialties: Bistro menu
Prices: Dinner menu: Burgers $8 to $9; salads $4 to $9; soups $3 to $5; entrees $10 to $15
Noise level: Loud
Credit cards: Accepted
Bottom line: Dinner is a welcome addition to the cheery little restaurant with its mismatched furnishings. Reasonable prices, good service and it's a good place for vegetarians and families.