Madison’s newest cafe and music venue had a soft opening on Tuesday, Feb. 26, giving the community a glimpse of The Winnebago’s potential as a welcoming neighborhood hangout. For the past several months, brothers John and Jacob DeHaven have been remodeling the former Norway Center (near the corner of Winnebago Street and LaFolette Avenue) into a new cafe and venue, aiming to create a space combining art, music, food and community. Originally intending to call the place the Winnebago Arts Cafe, they have settled on simply The Winnebago.
The front room is the cafe space, and it has a comfortable, homey vibe. There’s lots of dark-stained woodwork, exposed brick and an art deco style of tile flooring. The back room — the venue — is cavernous, with a stage, full bar and vaulted ceiling that gives the space a sense of grandeur. The owners are aiming to pay homage to the jazz clubs and dinner theaters of the 1920s, where people could enjoy a meal while watching the show.
If the first week of music scheduling is any indication, The Winnebago will host an eclectic mix of live music, including a tropical electronic artist Kainalu on March 15 and queer punk band Gender Confetti the next night. (Regarding booking, the venue’s website has an open call for “all artist performance concepts.”)
The Winnebago will have a full breakfast and lunch menu in addition to serving Kickapoo Coffee and Rishi Tea and rotating daily specials; on Tuesday, the specials were market quiche and biscuits and jam. And while it’s too early to be critical of the kitchen, we can officially vouch for The Winnebago’s sourdough french toast and orange juice.
But don’t take our word for it. The Winnebago is open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The bar’s soft opening is tonight (Friday, March 1) from 4 p.m. until midnight, with happy hour until 6 p.m.