How much anticipation had built up for the opening of Mad City Frites on State Street? On the "soft opening" on Dec. 2, the store's entire initial supply of 160 potatoes were gone by the end of the night.
Even though each batch is made to order, customers don’t have to wait long for their order of frites to come up. Raw potatoes are cut into thick wedges, then tossed it with seasonings. (Owner Taylor Beebe is keeping her blend of seasonings a secret).
The potato wedges are then blanch fried, cooking the potato through at a lower temperature, then shock fried at a higher temperature. The result are frites soft on the inside, and perfectly crispy on the outside. The frites are then served in a cute, traditional paper cone that fits into circular holes in the tables, leaving both hands free.
Vegetarians and even vegans are safe at Mad City Frites: the frites are cooked in soybean oil, and are completely gluten free. The only thing that may not be vegan are the sauces. There are 10 unique sauces, each named for a Madison landmark or famous event.
A regular sized frites order is plenty for a snack, priced at $4.50 and served with one sauce. A large-sized order, enough to serve a couple of friends, goes for $5.50, and comes with two sauces. Additional sauces cost $1, and a combo of three sauces is $2.50. In the $6 Poutine dish, frites are partnered up with some good Wisconsin cheese curds and covered in gravy.
Personally, I had a hard time choosing between the “Campus Queso” sauce, which combines warm cheese and PBR beer, and the “Mad Sauce,” the shop’s signature sweet and sour sauce. Eventually I asked for the best-seller, which turned out to be the “Mad Sauce”, and was just as tangy as promised. Ketchup, mustard, and malt vinegar are also available for no extra charge.
Beebe has been delighted at the popularity of her frites. With the shop open late at night Thursday through Saturday, the frites have become a big draw as after-bar food. During the day the shop has almost a coffee shop feel, with free wifi and outlets set up for studying, and easy-listening oldies play over the sound system.
The music selection was a suggestion made to her by one of her employees — Beebe partly shapes her brand new, start-up company on suggestions from all employees, in what she calls “a collaborative environment.” The sauces were all trial and error, pulling from her culinary preferences and experience, as well as suggestions and requests from employees and customers.
During that Dec. 2 soft opening, it was just Beebe and her mother working the shop. Since then, a full staff has been hired and trained and many kinks worked out. Last week, as part of the official Grand Opening, Mad City Frites debuted some new flavors: a wasabi ginger sauce, a roasted red pepper sauce, and loaded frites with the beer cheese sauce, topped with bacon and fresh green onions.