Belgian-inspired Cafe Hollander opened its doors this month as the most recent addition to the growing list of Milwaukee-based companies to establish roots in Madison.

From Colectivo to AJ Bombers, Milwaukee restaurant groups continue to tap into the community of food and drink aficionados on the isthmus. The arrival of Cafe Hollander shows Madison’s willing market for quality restaurants has not gone unnoticed by our neighbors to the east.

With a beer menu resembling a lengthy novel, the new cafe caters well to this capital city’s fondness of beer. A host to a number of craft-breweries, Madison always seems up for more establishments that serve Wisconsin’s version of liquid gold.

On the merits of its drink selection alone, Cafe Hollander stands strong among local restaurants advocating a similar bar/restaurant concept. Presenting an extensive selection of beers hand-picked from Belgium and Holland, Cafe Hollander takes on the role of The Old Fashioned or Great Dane of the west side, despite its Milwaukee roots.

The cafe’s food offerings are equally impressive. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, as well as weekday breakfast and weekend brunch.

During their first weekend serving brunch at their new Madison location, Cafe Hollander executed on all fronts. 

Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by a prompt wait staff that navigated us through the restaurant to the upper level seating. It was packed, but the cafe is also expansive and ready to accept large crowds of people.

After sifting through the list of brunch entrees, settling on an option becomes quite difficult. With an even representation of savory and sweet menu items, it’s perhaps best to visit Cafe Hollander in a group to taste both sides of the brunch spectrum.

In this case, my order of the chicken and cornbread waffle served as the perfect combination of both sweet and savory fare. Southern fried chicken tops a waffle that is more reminiscent of cornbread. When drizzled with a smidge of maple syrup (I also opted for the house-recipe white sausage gravy to be served on the side), the corn aspect turns sweet and makes the waffle almost cake-like in flavor and texture. The chicken delivers a welcome saltiness and makes for a heartier meal. The waffle’s sponge-like interior soaks up the sugary syrup yet maintains its exterior crunch, making this a unique interpretation of a classic brunch item.

In addition to the creative rendition of fried chicken and waffles, the menu touts house-made white cheddar cheese curds, omelets, French toasts, as well as burgers and classic frites.

While the grand assortment of beer and menu rich with Belgian-inspired items should be enough to encourage a trip to Cafe Hollander, the atmosphere is what will warrant a return visit. The restaurant is adorned with dark wood elements and open, garage style windows that serve as walls and flood the space with light.

Arriving just in time to coincide with a drop in temperatures, Cafe Hollander’s warmth offers a cozy retreat and is an inviting addition to Madison’s dining scene.