A taste of childhood nostalgia was what Mike Hottinger was going for when he came up with the idea for a restaurant that serves grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He opened his first Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli in Milwaukee in 2018 and expanded to State Street in Madison in September. “It harkens me back to a simpler time when I was young,” Hottinger said. “I love peanut butter and jelly. It’s a great lunch.
Business owners struggle to keep doors open as COVID-19 pandemic continues
Kettle Black Kitchen is sandwiched between a coffee shop and a hair salon in the heart of Dudgeon-Monroe. Through the large window at the back of the restaurant, owner Brian Hamilton’s cherry red face is visible as he furiously mops the linoleum floor, a pot of parsnips bubbling on the stove beside him. A “Help Wanted” sign hangs in the front window. Hamilton’s restaurant is not the only Monroe Street establishment searching for staff members. Located just a few blocks away from the UW–Madison campus, the neighborhood’s row of restaurants is peppered with similar signs.
On March 15, a bill was introduced in the Wisconsin legislature to raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers across the state, though opinions differ among servers, restaurant owners, and organizations on whether it’s a good idea.
If you have lived in Madison for any substantial period of time, you have likely wandered among the produce-lined and organically-stuffed aisles of Willy Street Co-op. With three locations across Madison, the customer-owned grocery store has been filling the carts (and bellies) of locals since 1974.
Three-plus generations of success unfortunately don’t protect businesses like the co-op against a global pandemic, though. The upside of having ownership split among 35,000 individuals in this time, however, is reactivity.
“Because we are owned by people right here in our community, it plays an important role in our decision making process,” said Communications Director Brendon Smith. “We can be responsive to community needs in a way that chain stores cannot.”
When the River Food Pantry’s MUNCH program was initially threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, a staff cook took it upon himself to not only continue serving the typical nine neighborhoods on Madison’s north side, but also to depart from the typical PB&J or turkey sandwich option.
The Sherman neighborhood on Madison’s North Side is growing, but residents still notice a lack of healthy, local food. Many families in the area have young children, so the demand for affordable meals and produce continues to grow.
For the month of August, Short Stack Eatery in downtown Madison is partnering with Just Bakery to bring some of its signature goods to the table.
Madison-Area and Urban Ministry’s Just Bakery program, a 12-week employment training program, combines commercial bakeries with culinary education and jobs for formerly incarcerated people to build community ties. The program is mainly intended to aid former inmates with employment and ease their way back into community life. Short Stack Eatery, a local restaurant located on the State Street, has been known as a bustling hub is famous for its all-inclusive brunch since 2015. This month, something different is on their menu. “For OTM (Organization of the Month) this month, Just Bakery, we are going to sell some of their ice-cream sandwiches and include their food” on the menu, said Short Stack shift managerIsabel Mchugh.
As MUM’s Just Bakery Program and Short Stack Eatery got together, they found that they had common goals in serving and supporting the community, thus forged a collaboration.
Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin is launching a pilot program called “Helpful Harvest” to test the possibility of using an online free food ordering system to connect people who are qualified for receiving the resources.
The three-month pilot began in June, providing free groceries for anyone who submits an order through their website. Second Harvest officials hope the relative anonymity of online ordering helps people who might be reluctant to walk into a food pantry.
The Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired is hosting a Dining in the Dark event on March 21. The unique experience will happen on Charlie’s on Main in Oregon, and will start at 6:30 p.m. and end around 9:00 p.m.
The guests will enjoy an Italian inspired four-course meal while blindfolded prepared by chef Dave Heide, followed by a showing of “Sound of Sunshine Sound of Rain.” Dinner costs $60 per person and a wine pairing is available for $20, and proceeds benefit the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. “You have this really powerful opportunity to experience food through all of your other senses and to really have that exquisite multisensory experience with food,” said Denise Jess, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. “To notice what implications it has to not see the food, both in what the gift of that might be and what the loss of that might be.”
This is the second time Dining in the Dark is held at Charlie’s on Main, with the first time being in March 2018. The first time the Council held this type of event was about six years ago in Appleton at a restaurant called GingeRootz Asian Grille.