The new Sunprint Café is as sunny and bright as the old one was, with the same filling sandwiches, stuffed omelets and grab-and-go pastries (now made by Batch Bakehouse) for office workers in a hurry.
But there's plenty new at 10 W. Mifflin St., from a striking view of the Capitol to a more contemporary feel inside, with blonde wood tables and chairs, exposed brick walls, and a small beer and wine bar in the back.
Now, starting with three nights a week, chef/owner Susan Hendrix is flexing her culinary muscles with French-American dinner entrees.
“It's American with a slightly French accent,” Hendrix said. “The salads and sandwiches are all definitely new American. For the entrees, I'm going for something with a little French influence.”
Husband-and-wife team Susan and Jason Hendrix started looking for a new spot for Sunprint when their lease was up at 1 S. Pinckney St. in the US Bank building. They found it just blocks away, at the former Cameo Salon and Day Spa location. The old Sunprint closed on March 31.
Sunprint Café has a 30 year history in various locations (and with several names), holding a spot on the Capitol Square for almost 13 years. The Hendrixes have owned the restaurant since 2007.
“It’s been quite an adventure,” Jason Hendrix said. “Farmers' market Saturdays are pretty intense.”
Though Susan “got bored with just doing breakfasts,” Jason said, the couple has no plans to get rid of the salad and soup bar that rolls out cafeteria-style during the day.
“Dinner should be a lot more creative,” he said. “Around the area … everybody is kind of gearing towards pork.” Sunprint's first dinner menu featured fish, chicken and duck.
The Hendrixes' eventual goal is to offer dinners Tuesday through Saturday nights, with options that appeal to both the burger-and-a-beer crowd and folks looking for something “elegant” that has “a little more class to it,” Susan Hendrix said.
“During the day we are very much a businessperson’s hangout,” she said. “They come and read their iPads and newspapers, eat their lunches and breakfasts, have their meetings.
“In the evenings, we’re trying to attract people of that same group. We’re not looking for necessarily young people, but … people who might want to be a little bit more adventurous, but can still find their favorite thing.”
The challenge is to transform a quick sandwich place into a classier dinner spot. To that end, the Hendrixes plan to install a curtain around the soda machine (“it's much bigger and brighter than we thought it would be”) and put flowers and candles on the tables.
Those touches will better frame Hendrix's more ambitious entrees, such as dishes cooked “en papilotte” (steamed in parchment), seared duck breast, chicken in spicy clementine sauce and grilled fish.
Sunprint sources locally and seasonally when it's practical, but doesn't hesitate to put fat, fresh green beans or late-summer veggies on the menu even in early spring.
A locally sourced charcuterie plate ($13.50) featured 'nduja (spicy, spreadable sausage), a Tuscan-style salami called finocchiona and soppressata, all from Underground Meat Collective, as well as Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona, Roth Kase Gouda and Hook's Tilston Point Blue.
Dinner is still very new, and entrees themselves are still coming together. At a recent meal, “poisson en papillote” (salmon steamed in parchment, $19.95) was cooked perfectly, topped with a light citrus butter and served with wilted, slightly bitter greens.
And flavors married well among thick-sliced (but slightly overcooked) duck breast, a wine reduction sauce and thin slices of pear, served with a pilaf-style wild rice mix ($21.95).
Sunprint's surprisingly varied (and affordable, $7-9/glass) wine list was put together by Tom Loup at Vino Veritas and Gerald Wright at AVA Wine and Spirits, both Wisconsin-based wine distributors. It's spring, so time for whites: a gruner veltliner and a white Burgundy (chardonnay) are both quite good, refreshing and well-balanced.
Open for just a month, Sunprint's staff — most of whom came over from the old location — are still adjusting to both the new menu and the new space.
Jason Hendrix said a back room with a small bar and a piano may become a “stronger dining room” with some different furniture (and perhaps some different art; a Green Bay Packers flag on the wall doesn't really fit with funghi en papillote).
“I’m kind of just playing ideas off each other at this point,” he said. “We haven't made definite decisions.”
Susan is taking that tack with the menu, too.
“I don’t want to alienate our customer base,” she said, “the people we cater to on a daily basis and depend on.”