How was Madison getting by without a late night breakfast place near State Street?
Rolling into Sunday morning brunch at 11 a.m. unshowered and overtired is one of my weekend rituals. This means that I’ve essentially been everywhere. It’s not a humblebrag; Madison just doesn’t have nearly as many spots as the people are clearly clamoring for, as evidenced by insane wait times each weekend morning.
But in a sea of unchanging established brunch spots in the city, Short Stack Eats looks to fill a need we didn’t even know we had — pancakes, milkshakes and biscuits and gravy long after bar time.
It seems like the business perfect plan: serving breakfast food non-stop from 7 a.m. Thursday to 11 p.m. Sunday. The place is also located on the corner of West Johnson and North Henry Streets, absurdly close to a certain student newspaper office. Needless to say, I was faint with excitement when I got word of the restaurant’s soft launch, held last weekend.
When you enter Short Stack, you’re greeted with the quaint-meets-IKEA vibe of the space. Flower pots and other whimsical things adorn the windows facing State, and the large picture windows around two walls of the restaurant make the space feel sunny and light — basically the best possible setting for a weekend brunch.
My next thought: Damn, this place is going to be mobbed. It’s a fairly small space, and even though the soft open wasn’t widely publicized, we ended up waiting 15 minutes to be seated and another 30 minutes for our food.
My companion and I were greeted at the door and handed a “limited menu” for the soft brunch (the full menu will be available starting this weekend) and wandered toward the cash registers like lost, uncertain children in a brave new world. In an attempt to cover as much ground as possible in a single visit, I ordered the Trio – where you choose three dishes from a short stack of pancakes, eggs, breakfast potatoes, meat, toast and mixed greens. I opted for a stack of blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes because toast is so, so boring.
There’s not really a bar or dedicated waiting area where you can cool your jets while waiting for a table, so you end up hovering awkwardly somewhere near the kitchen doors.
When we were seated, my expectations were high. I had just shelled out $15 for coffee and my meal – a bit steep for breakfast (although free refills on coffee that turned out to be good is always a nice bonus).
When our food finally arrived, the smallness of the portion sizes was evident — my batch of scrambled eggs, while nicely seasoned with pepper, looked so lonely next to the scoop of breakfast potatoes on the expansive white plate.
Despite the small portion for the price, the breakfast potatoes were awesome: topped with cheddar cheese and onion and served with a visionary side sauce, Frank’s Red Hot sauce and sour cream. Use it on your potatoes. Use it all. It is life-changing.
The real star was the restaurant’s namesake dish. My blueberry pancakes arrived piping hot, with a healthy amount of blueberries sprinkled around the stack. The cakes were soft and fluffy with a light but not overpowering buttery taste. After a little searching, I found the blueberries in the middle of the stack, and it was so good.
After Short Stack works out the new business kinks (and beefs up their portions for the price), this place will be a downtown gem. The food is good, down-to-earth breakfast food, with interesting departures like pulled pork and cheesy grits and sweet potato oatmeal pancakes on the menu.
Next, I’ll have to test whether a short stack tastes even better at 3 a.m. than they did at 10 a.m. If so, Short Stack is a shoo-in for best new kid on the block.
Update (April 3, 9:30 p.m.): According to Short Stack Eats’ Facebook page, they will be open this weekend for late night pancakes: