Field Table, one of the Capitol Square's newest food-based projects, is pushing to open its doors in time for the first outdoor Dane County Farmers' Market of 2016 this Saturday.
"We will try," said Andre Darlington, who co-owns Field Table at 10 W. Mifflin St. with his partner, Patricia Davis. "We want to be open for coffee and pastry."
After that soft open, Field Table is set to open in stages starting the week of April 18.
It's a hybrid project, a coffee shop/ cafe with Ruby Coffee Roasters and Seven Cups Chinese tea, a lunch counter with both grab-and-go and table service, a small cheese counter (for in-house consumption only), a cocktail bar, a dinner spot and a produce market.
What ties them together are the things downtown-dwelling food lovers like Davis and Darlington haven't had easy access to before: organic, fresh, close-to-the-source food, available even on days when the farmers' market isn't set up outside.
"It's a lifestyle thing," Darlington said. "It's a concept thing — I hate the word concept. You just literally can't get organic local food downtown. We wanted a place for staples.
"This is something I've seen in other cities. People can come in and grab something from grab-and-go, or grab salad for tonight or a lemon. You can put a meal together."
Megan Belle, formerly of Harvest Restaurant and Batch Bakehouse, will be in charge of Field Table's bread and pastry, which may include a loaf of bread and baguettes for carry-out. Breakfast grab-and-go at Field Table is set to include things like a yogurt parfait and a breakfast sandwich.
"One thing that has popped up is that we'll be doing doughnuts," Darlington said. "That's by popular demand. People keep saying there should be doughnuts on the Square."
Chef Shannon Berry has credits at Nostrana in Portland, Oregon and Aquavit in New York. She'll be the executive chef, with assistance from former Graze sous chef Irvin Castro.
The menus are still being confirmed. Lunch should fall in the $8-$12 range, with salads, soup, a savory waffle and a grain bowl.
Field Table's grain bowl, for example, could include marinated kale, sea vegetables, avocado, garnet yams, black sesame, garlic-tahini sauce and teriyaki almonds.
A butcher's sandwich would change frequently. A small cheese counter is set to stock 12-14 cheeses, available on cheeseboards and in a "cheesemonger's sandwich."
Ideas for Field Table's dinner menu incorporate global flavors with local ingredients: a scallop crudo with sunflower oil and shiso (an Asian herb); pork belly with star anise and braised bok choy; skewers of flank steak with romanesco, a roasted red pepper/ almond sauce.
Diners might also see "farm chicken" with cider and greens, clams with beet tagliatelle, trout with kale, fennel and lemon, and a bone-in tenderloin.
There is a token burger. Davis and Darlington, a former restaurant critic for Isthmus, know better than to leave that off.
The best thing, Darlington said, is that sweet peppers, carrots, ramps and radicchio on the menu could also be available as carry-out produce. If some of those lettuces and radishes aren't selling, fine, they can put them in the day's specials.
"The idea is we're bringing fresh produce in for people to buy retail," he said, comparing Field Table to a "super-bodega." "The same produce accessible to customers is available for chefs to use."
Still, it's likely to be a loss-leader for Field Table.
"The produce was never meant to make money as retail," Darlington said.
At night, the focus will shift from coffee to cocktails and wine. Field Table will have an 18-seat bar, "around the size of Sardine or Merchant," Darlington said, with eight taps, six for beer and two for keg wine.
Along the left side of the wall will be a line of banquettes. Mike McDonald, most recently of Blue Jacket in Milwaukee and the bitters company Bittercube, is running the bar program.
Ultimately, Darlington hopes that Field Table will reflect "the way people are eating now," with less protein and more organic ingredients.
Even the Island Creek oysters, he said, will be ordered weekly from the east coast, out of the ocean just a day before they arrive on Madison's Capitol Square.
"I like being one heartbeat away from the source," Darlington said. "It's pricier to do things that way, but we're going to try."