There are still a few spots at Nook for dinner Wednesday night, when the tiny Atwood Avenue fine dining restaurant opens to the public.
The tasting-menu restaurant is designed with a dinner party feel, said Julie Przybylski, who owns Nook, 2138 Atwood Ave., with husband Noah Przybylski.
The dining room, which only seats 12, is about 600 square feet. There's an equally small space downstairs with a restroom plus a lounging area that has some cookbooks and a couch.
Przybylski (pronounced Sha-bil-ski) calls Nook warm and inviting. "We want it to feel like you're in our home, but you're not in our home."
Upstairs, the dining room and kitchen are one room, so the commercial equipment takes away from the homeyness a bit, Przybylski said.
"We definitely want to make it a very welcoming place," she said, noting that the space is a mix of warm colors: blues, browns and greens with copper decor accents.
There are six, two-top tables that are so close together they're almost touching, and Przybylski said they plan to eventually "grow into one larger table when the time is right."
Nook offers only tasting menus, the “pre-theater,” five-course menu with a 5:30 p.m. seating for $35, or the "performance” nine-course menu with a 7:30 p.m. seating for $75. Beer and wine pairings are extra. The restaurant is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.
The opening week five-course menu features tomato soup with lavender and cream; a salad of romaine, herbs and lil' croutons; chicken with celery, lobster cream and kaffir lime leaf; bran, honey butter and fall fruit; and a pumpkin spice crunch bar.
The same dishes and more show up on the larger menu. Some of the menu items will change each week, Przybylski said.
If they get enough advance warning through the reservation process, the Przybylskis can accommodate vegetarians and those with other dietary restrictions, she said. "Vegans are tougher, but, again, we need lots of notice."
The couple had a series of soft openings Thursday, Friday and Saturday to train waitstaff. Thursday was just servers so they could taste the food and wine. Friday they did a friends and family nine-course meal, and Saturday they served both menus.
There are also still opening for the Thursday and weekend dinners. Reservations can be made on the restaurant's website, nookmadison.com.
In 2014, L'Etoile moved to an almost exclusively prix-fixe menu, but later began offering a la carte items in addition to the seven-course tasting menu, as it does now.
Nook gives the Near East Side a fine dining option where there are few. The closest contenders geographically would be Mint Mark on Winnebago, and A Pig in a Fur Coat on Williamson Street, Przybylski said.
Both Julie and Noah Przybylski are sharing chef duties and each has a long restaurant and cooking background.
Noah is from the Stevens Point area, and Julie is from Cleveland, Ohio. They met cooking at the famed French restaurant Everest in Chicago in 2004, and moved to Madison two years later to "start a family and actually have a life," Julie Przybylski said.
Both initially worked at Harvest, with Noah working up to sous chef. Noah then worked at Brocach and the Madison Club before becoming chef at the Downtown retirement community Capitol Lakes.
Julie Przybylski had part-time jobs at Blackhawk Country Club and Meriter Hospital, but spent the past 12 years at the Learning Gardens, a daycare center in University Research Park. She developed a sophisticated lunch program there.
"People hear daycare and they think chicken nuggets or spaghetti and meatballs," said Przybylski, who with Noah has a 4-year-old son.
She made a lot of the daycare's food from scratch, and got plenty of positive feedback. "It's kind of a hidden gem," she said.