Small is Good at Bradbury’s Coffee

The coffee and crêpes at this downtown café go a long way

When Jill Makoutz and her husband Josh opened Bradbury’s Coffee in January 2007, they decided to sell drinks in three sizes: eight, ten and sixteen ounces. Their distributor warned them they were making a mistake.

“He said, ‘You have to sell twenty ounces,’” Jill recalls. “‘That’s where the money is.’”

But the Makoutzes like to think small, preferring a single espresso, potent and perfect, to a mediocre latte the size of your head. That credo extends to their café. Floor-to-ceiling windows lend a lofty feel, but the footprint is a scant six hundred square feet. On Saturdays, five employees work the counter, frying eggs and pulling shots in a space the size of a cubicle.

From the start, the tiny kitchen dictated the menu. They couldn’t swing a full breakfast, so the couple stuck to crêpes, which Jill fell in love with while teaching in Croatia. The menu rotates frequently and is inspired by local, seasonal ingredients; spring favorites include asparagus with egg, ham and swiss, or strawberries and mint dolloped with mascarpone.

But the couple’s first passion is beans, having been, as Jill says, “entrenched in the coffee shop scene since adolescence.” They buy theirs from Kickapoo Coffee, in Viroqua, and bring in guest roasts from companies like Sightglass (San Francisco) and Heart (Portland). Their menu features less familiar drinks, like the flat white (one part espresso, two parts milk) and piccolo (equal parts espresso and milk). And even the most casual coffee drinker will enjoy a cup brewed in a Japanese siphon, where a globe of water is heated over an open flame. It feels like chemistry class, and produces, Jill says, “the best coffee, hands down.”

Delicious coffee means brisk business, but the Makoutzes are content to stay small, demurring when customers ask them to open a second location.
“This just works,” Jill says. “Everything is just enough.”

Bradbury’s Coffee, 127 N. Hamilton St., 204-0474.

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