Savi Cafe & Catering is the only restaurant in Madison where customers have to go through security to get there.
The cafe operates like a cafeteria, serving breakfast, lunch, and snacks Monday though Friday, and since it's inside the Dane County Courthouse, its customers are mainly courthouse workers, jurors, people who have a court date, judges, attorneys, bailiffs and police officers, said Norman Davis, who owns the business with Eric Gavins.
Savi opened in September 2017 and this is its first time participating in Madison's Black Restaurant Week, put on by the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce. It's now in its fourth year and taking place Aug. 11-18.
Anyone is welcome to pass through the weapons screening and visit Savi, its name derived from the common letters in both Davis and Gavins' last names.
"We just kind of played with it, and 'Savvy,' you know. We're savvy in the food business," Davis said. "It just all seemed to work."
Davis' main job is director for the city's Department of Civil Rights. Gavins, the former chef at Goodman Community Center's Ironworks Cafe, is the more hands-on partner at Savi.
"The thing that's unique about Savi is that we prepare everything from scratch," Davis said. "We don't use powdered eggs. We don't have frozen potatoes. We're in there chopping and cutting our potatoes everyday, cracking eggs every day."
The cafe serves the usual breakfast foods, as well as a breakfast special, which might be biscuits and gravy; a hot ham, egg and cheese sandwich on an English muffin; French toast; pancakes; or breakfast enchiladas, Davis said.
Unlike Madison Magazine's popular "Restaurant Week," started in 2007, where diners eat three-course meals at participating restaurants for a set price, Black Restaurant Week doesn't have a format. Instead, it's designed to draw attention to black-owned establishments.
Many of the restaurants, food carts and catering companies taking part will be offering Black Restaurant Week specials.
Savi's specials for the week will include Swedish meatballs with noodles, mixed vegetables and a roll on Monday. Davis is also doing chicken wings all week. Normally, they're only offered on Wednesdays.
The six other restaurants participating in Black Restaurant Week are: Anointed One, Buraka, David’s Jamaican, Falbo Bros. (on North Sherman Avenue), Kingdom Restaurant and McGee’s Chicken (Madison and Sun Prairie).
There are also nine food carts, including Martin Deacon's Jamerica, which is still operating on the Capitol Square, at Wisconsin Avenue and East Mifflin Street, after Deacon closed his Williamson Street restaurant in June.
Other carts are: Cafe Costa Rica, JD’s Soul Food, Jerk Paradise, Les Delices de Awa, Little Red Barn, Papa’s BBQ, Rib Masters and Sunrise Fast Soul Food.
Caterers and additional food businesses involved: BP Smokehouse, CocoVaa Chocolatier, Curtis & Cake, Food Junkies, Just Veggiez, Kipp’s Kitchen, Melly Mel’s, Mo’ Betta Butter Cookies, South Madison Farmers’ Market, Standford BBQ and Valice’s Sweet Potato Pies & Cakes.
For the first time, the chamber is hosting a "Taste of Black Restaurant Week" from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, 501 E Badger Road.
"We will have, all under one roof, a lot of the caterers and dessert preparers, -- folks that do a lot of office catering or picnic catering or church catering or dessert specialties," said Madison Black Chamber of Commerce President Camille Carter.
Vendors will be selling food samples for $2 each, so people can sample a variety of items, Carter said. The event will be primarily indoors, with the food carts outside.
Savi plans to participate in the Taste of Black Restaurant Week and also in the Taste of Madison (Aug. 31 and Sept. 1) for the first time. It won awards for its pulled pork and macaroni and cheese in the July Taste of Madison judging event. Both items are popular at the cafe, Davis said.
The cafe publishes a monthly menu and sends it to courthouse employees, jail employees, and City-County Building employees. Among the specials are lasagna, curry chicken, jerk chicken and barbecue.
When Davis moved to Madison in 1991 from Flint, Michigan, he worked in food service, among other jobs. In 2004, he and his wife, Tondra Davis, had a booth at the South Side Farmers' Market, where they sold Tondra's desserts. From 2005 to 2007, they sold the deserts from their own shop in Sun Prairie called Something Sweet.
A growing family made them get out of the sweet shop. "We knew how to get in business; We didn't really know how to get out," Davis said.
"We've kind of moved past that and that's one reason I was really excited about this opportunity," he said. "I knew I really wanted to be in business again."
Carter said the Black Chamber of Commerce continues to identify more restaurant entrepreneurs and food entrepreneurs, so that Black Restaurant Week continues to grow. "We're finding that our owners are more and more engaged year over year."