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The Milwaukee Road Depot at 640 W. Washington Ave. will have a new tenant. The Harvey House, a vegetable-forward supper club, estimates an opening date in September 2019. 

Two new faces on the Madison culinary scene are planning to turn a historic depot into a new kind of Wisconsin supper club.

Joe Papach and Shaina Robbins Papach have taken over a 5,000 square-foot space in the former train station at 640 W. Washington Ave. The Harvey House, currently set to open in September 2019, would be inspired by Wisconsin supper clubs with a seasonal, vegetable-focused menu.

Joe Papach is a 6-year alumnus of The French Laundry in Napa Valley. Shaina Robbins Papach is an educator who has worked with Edible Schoolyard and graduated from West High School in 1998. Joe has an 11-year-old son, Joseph, and the couple has two children together, 1-year-old Max and 2-week-old Charlie.

Isthmus first announced the takeover of the space that was designated for Gilbert Altschul’s taco restaurant, Bandit, back in June. Since moving to Madison a few months ago, the Papaches have solidified more details about their space.

“We feel lucky to have stumbled on the building,” Robbins Papach said. “There’s so much character. It’s so beautiful already.”

The Papaches are working with depot owner Roger Charly’s architect, James McFadden, and a design team from New York called Home Studios. Robbins Papach estimated that the restaurant will have seating for about 100, with an outdoor space in front of the building, a glassed-in extension of the bar and a train car that doubles as a private dining room. On the second floor, The Harvey House will have a private room for up to 40 guests.

Joe Papach's culinary credits also include the Michelin-starred Quince in San Francisco, and he will head up the kitchen. Shaina will handle the rest with the help of a general manager. The menu, she said, will be “a celebration of Wisconsin.”

“It’s a little redundant to say we want it to be seasonal and local, everyone wants that,” she said. “We want it to be a reinvented, vegetable-forward supper club.”

That means relish trays at the beginning of the meal, and soup and salad with the entrees. The price point will likely be on the mid- to higher side, “something you could go to a couple nights a week for a snack and a drink, or for a celebration as well,” Robbins Papach said. 

“It won’t be like you pick a starch and a veg. It will be composed and seasonal but with supper club themes,” she added.

They want Harvey House to have “that feeling of comfort and warmth and hospitality. We want to raise our family in the restaurant.”

The Harvey House takes its name from Fred Harvey, an entrepreneur who opened a chain of restaurants in train depots in the 1880s. Waitresses there were known as “Harvey Girls.” Judy Garland played one in a 1946 MGM musical of the same name.

Shaina also has a 94-year-old grandpa named Harvey Robbins who lives in Florida. The name is an homage to him too, she said.

“It’s going to take a strong wonderful team,” Shaina said. “California cuisine is a celebration of agriculture in California, and that’s similar to what we want to do in Wisconsin. We’re celebrating agriculture here. That’ll mean letting ingredients show through with really good technique.

“We’re really excited to be back here.”

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Since 2008, food editor Lindsay Christians has been writing about fine arts and food for The Capital Times. She loves eating at the bar, going to the theater, sparkling wine and good stories. She lives in Madison with two cats and too many cookbooks.