In recent years, the sleeper town of Sun Prairie has become a pretty happening place.
With the arrival of delicious destination restaurants and big-box stores, not to mention a new state-of-the-art high school that opened in 2010, Sun Prairie is increasingly the place to be. Food Fight recognized this back in 2005, when it opened its ninth restaurant: Market Street Diner and Bakery, also home to Carl's Cakes.
To area diners who frequent much-loved institutions like Monty's Blue Plate Diner on Atwood Avenue and the Hubbard Avenue Diner in Middleton, Market Street looks very familiar. That's by design.
The retro '50s décor — lots of shiny chrome accents and vinyl upholstery — is not the only similarity with Monty's. Colorful vintage Fiestaware pitchers are on prominent display, "from Monty (Schiro's) private collection," according to Deb Riphahn, Market Street's general manager.
Market Street is "like Hubbard on steroids," said Ripahn, who's been running things for more than five years. "It's a similar design, but … a larger facility."
The clientele at Market Street include families and kids from the nearby high school. It should soon catch traffic from Sun Paririe's new hockey rink, which boasts two NHL-size ice sheets.
Market Street's larger size and up-and-coming location come with a few fringe benefits for diners. More seating and a large parking lot mean less waiting for a table and jockeying for a street spot. Market Street produces all of its own baked goods on-site, and does brisk wholesale business as well.
"Everything at Monty's comes from us," Riphahn said. "We also do 75,000 Meals on Wheels. We have a lot of extra things going on here because we have so much space."
Size doesn't mean that Market Street doesn't embrace its role as a small-town diner.
"We try to participate in all of the community things in Sun Prairie," said Riphahn, a Sun Prairie native herself. The Diner is a member of Dane Buy Local, with many ingredients sourced from nearby.
"Julie (Weidemeyer's) Vanilla Beanery — we use that in the bakery," she said. "We use Sundance Honey from Deerfield. And all of our dairy is local."
"We try to use the best ingredients we can to make the traditional dishes," says Riphahn." We cook from scratch."
The menu at the Market Street Diner replicates its sister restaurants' updated take on classic diner favorites, with an emphasis on freshness and local products.
Meatloaf and turkey dinners are staples; there is an all-you-can-eat breakfast and brunch buffet on Saturdays. A steak and blue cheese salad ($9.29), new to the menu, has proved surprisingly popular.
Just like at Monty's and Hubbard Street, it's hard not to get drawn into the pastry case, stocked with rows of picture-perfect pies.
"Even if they're too full," Riphahn said, "we try to get people to take a slice to go. We even do a skinny slice. Everyone can eat a half a slice of pie."