Check out Roast Public House on State Street

J had a Friday-night special, the fish fry sandwich, with fries and coleslaw right on the sammy with the battered fish. Yum. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

J had a Friday-night special fish fry sandwich, which included fries and coleslaw right on the sammy with the battered fish. Yum. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Roast Public House is a welcome change on Madison’s State Street. As I noted previously, they’ve moved into the location formerly occupied by an underwhelming chicken-wing chain that moved to University Ave., giving us instead a lovely, locavore sandwich shop with a nice beer selection that doubles as a college bar on the weekends.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

As Nick Brown writes for MadTable,

Co-owners Doug Hamaker and Henry Aschauer actually met six years ago at a fraternity event as incoming freshmen, and after graduation both were working in sales in the recycled metals industry when they began brainstorming.

“We just started talking every day about the idea of opening a sandwich shop,” says 24-year-old Hamaker, a New Jersey native (Aschauer is from Maine), adding that the original vision was more of a hole-in-the-wall-type take-out spot rather than a restaurant with a full bar. “But we found this space and we thought maybe we can find more of a mix.” The two enlisted the help of Hamaker’s father for the business end, and they signed on a childhood friend, Andrew Greenberg, to run the kitchen.

Isthmus hasn’t posted a review yet, but Lindsay Christians of 77 Square has had her say:

Among chef Andrew Greenberg’s 15-sandwich lineup are cult-worthy options like the turkey spinach dip panini ($8), made with juicy turkey and a generous layer of cheesy spinach dip on toasted sourdough. A succulent white cap roast beef ($9), topped with melted mozzarella and caramelized onions, needed no au jus to keep it juicy.

On both the roast beef and a hearty chicken francese ($8), crunchy/chewy baguette added texture and helped the sandwich travel well.

The California avocado ($8) with Swiss was creamy and filling enough to make even a devoted meat-eater forget it’s vegetarian. And salads, including the parmesan-topped Roast Caesar ($2 side/$3.50 small/$5 full), tasted fresh and well-dressed.

Ben Munson of The Onion’s AV Club Madison (not available online) also had lots of good things to say:

Aside from the extra TLC Roast instills into its food, the restaurant prides itself on sourcing locally whenever possible…

The “Roast” Beef and the Guiness Stout Beef Brisket were both elegant and tasty enough, but the Giambotta—with slow-roasted pork shoulder and cherry pepper pork gravy—really stood out. But all paled in presentation to the fantastic Grilled Chicken “BLT.” As beautiful as it looked, it tasted even better, representing the “B” with a bacon jam, a heavenly sauce sent to this planet to reward mere mortals with maximum bacon flavor.

For the undergrad view of this addition to the campus end of State, check out Niko Ivanovic’s take in Moda, the student-run UW style magazine. (And yes, the photo there is an uncredited lift from the MadTable page…. Kids these days and their loosey-goosey media habits.)

J and I have been there a few times and really enjoyed our meals, even though they were still sorting out minor kinks, e.g., upon entry as a novice, it’s not entirely clear what to do or where to go to get food. (Hint: head to the back for the counter that’s opposite the bar.) Chef Andrew spoke to us the first time about the delicious special we each had, a pork-belly reuben, comprised of Black Earth braised and crispy pork belly topped by bacon-and-sauerkraut Russian dressing. (Yes, it was as drippingly good as it sounds.) He then remembered and warmly greeted us when we made a repeat appearance the following week. The food is clearly made with love and care, and with ingredients as good as these, the prices seem quite fair. I’m looking forward to continued visits to explore the rest of the menu, along with the tasty and ever-changing specials.

Check out the MadTable and 77 Square links above for some nice pics, and take a look at Roast’s menu here.


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