Duo is expanding its local business scale with a new family-friendly restaurant

Kyle Johnson and Gwen Shales are attracted in many directions these days. But fortunately for this team of restaurant husband and wife, two of these directions are only one block from each other. In March, Johnson and Shales, who own Kin-Kin Coffee and co-run the popular Johnson Public House for the past decade, made a long-held dream come true by opening the East Johnson Family Restaurant. What began as a new potential venue for Johnson Public House has become a casual, family-run eatery serving food inspired by the couple’s culinary passions.

These passions range from a wide range of fried cauliflower to a snack to a spicy hot fried sandwich with chicken legs – and a hot dog. Yes, a hot dog. In fact, many options with different garnishes.

Initially, people were like a hot dog? What? ‘ Says Johnson, smiling embarrassedly as he sits at one of the cozy tables at the East Johnson Family Restaurant about an hour before the doors open and the piquant dinner begins on Friday. “But they’re becoming a popular item that is ordered not only by the kids who come in, but by everyone, so it’s fun.”

Fun is a big part of the atmosphere, of course, but the culinary pedigree is also solid. Maggie Ruvers, a former Forequarter, helped Johnson and Shales refine the menu as a consultant. Michael Davis works as a chef.

“What’s special about JPH is the all-inclusive atmosphere there – anyone from any area of ​​life can come in and feel comfortable and get quality food and quality drinks,” says Johnson. “We wanted to deliver it here as a full-scale restaurant version.”

Three dishes to try

Three chances Eggs Benedict

Photo by Sharon Vanorny

You can order Benedict’s eggs in three ways for lunch at the East Johnson Family Restaurant. There is a version with home-dried trout and a Florentine version with kale, but for Johnson the basic version is where it is, with eggs, ham and holland. Chef Davis’ poached eggs are something of practiced beauty, perfectly round and cooked, creating a photo-quality yolk delivery system that is poured onto a mountain of ham, Dutch and English muffins. Available only on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

Say cheese (burger) The family’s favorite burger


Photo by Sharon Vanorny

There is often a sweet simplicity in the types of food that Johnson and Shales are attracted to, and this is evident in one of the appetizers that Johnson insisted on being a centerpiece on the menu – a sour, sloppy, classic burger. Johnson won’t call the thin pie a break, but it’s strong enough to withstand home-made American cheese, pickles and a special sauce. Combine it with ordering thick and crispy french fries and it can just become your favorite.

Like magic Fried cauliflower

a plate of cauliflower

Photo by Sharon Vanorny

The word “fried” is a complex misconception when it comes to fried cauliflower. You’re probably expecting something heavily battered and crunchy, but the truth is closer to lightly breaded and fried – even better to serve as a stage for the real star of this show: a thick, neon-orange alepo from Aleppo with pepper fermented with hazelnuts. The level of spices is more than enough – and makes you look for anything else you can find on your plate to drink it after the cauliflower is gone.

From the ground up
The building that houses the East Johnson family restaurant remains both an unfinished business and a work of serious love. Parts of the unsightly brick structure date back to 1890 and created more than a few unexpected obstacles on the road to modernization. “We thought the construction would be pretty easy, just a demonstration on the floor and then start building,” laughs Kyle Johnson. “But we had to rework the whole front. We think the only original things now are the two side walls in the main dining room. We stayed under dust for about eight months. They plan to add a mural on the outside, a patio behind the building and several tables on the sidewalk in front.

Find the East Johnson Family Restaurant: 824 E. Johnson St., 608-285-5826, eastjohnsonfam.com

Aaron R. Conklin is the author of Madison Magazine.


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