You may have noticed it already on your daily walk up State Street, but Mike Hottinger of West Allis, Wisconsin has expanded his flagship restaurant “Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli” to the University of Wisconsin campus.
After opening his original store three years ago in 2018 outside of Milwaukee, Hottinger’s success has allowed him to franchise a location in the heart of downtown Madison. Moving into the building previously known as Frutta Bowls, construction had been underway on the establishment since early summer and opened its doors on Sept. 18.
Officially open for one month in Madison, owner Mike Hottinger said he wanted a place where people could hang out — a destination that wasn’t a bar for those that craved to do something a bit more niche. The idea of a PB&J spot had been in his mind for a few years before deciding to go ahead with it.
While some might scratch their heads in confusion or intrigue as they pass by the brightly painted storefront, Hottinger knows his target audience and predicts his central location in Madison will do well.
After all, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a cornerstone of American culture and the cravings stretch beyond just young children and broke college students. Anyone can enjoy one of fifteen options, or try their hand at building their own grilled creation. With a choice of nut butters, jams and jellies and bread, the mix-and-match possibilities are endless.
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The Peanut Butter and Jelly Deli offers fresh nut butters, made in-house daily, as well as a wide variety of jam and jelly options to satisfy any crazy combination you can come up with. For those that prefer a salty and sweet pairing, you can even add bacon for an additional charge of $2 or curate a fancy grilled cheese with the few savory add-ons.
It is not your typical Skippy and Smuckers on Wonder Bread, and for a relatively cheap price — taking into consideration the premium ingredients — it is worth a try.
Sandwiches start at $3.25. Menu items feature clever names such as “The Big Apple” and “You’re Killing Me, Smalls.” I ordered Hottinger’s favorite, “Strawberry Lover,” and the “King.” The sandwiches were grilled in a panini press for an extra bit of pizzazz.
The Strawberry Lover consisted of chunky honey roasted peanut butter and strawberry jam, as well as fresh strawberry slices. The King was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which included banana slices and bacon, inspired by none other than the king of rock and roll himself — Elvis Presley.
The store’s jams and jellies are not made with grocery store ingredients but with high quality and locally sourced products — and the bread is brought in fresh from local bakeries.
PB&J Deli has also expanded into retail — they offer their jams and nut butters in around 30 to 40 grocery stores. Hottinger said retail was what kept the business afloat during the pandemic. Their sodas will also soon hit retailers.
The West Allis location also serves a cream-based rum liqueur that is brewed in Madison at the Yahara Bay Distillery. So if you are 21 plus and enjoy Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey, you can indulge in Hottinger’s latest peanut butter and jelly inspired creation of four different flavored liqueurs derived from their own nut butters, jams and jellies.
Overall, the atmosphere was very lively but relaxed. The shop was filled with students and families engaged in conversation and spending quality time with one another. The landscape of State Street may be forever changing but the one thing it is most known for is its status as cultural hub and the glue to our campus community.
Hottinger said he is “thrilled to be part of the … vibrancy of State Street.” And we are just as thrilled to have him.