Tucked in the back of the iconic RJ Julia Bookstore, the RJ Café & Bistro is worthy of being its own destination site. Although housed within the same structure, the RJ Café is actually separate from the bookstore and, as of six years ago, is run by a separate owner, Kym Campbell.
RJ Café & Bistro is open from 10:00 am until 8:00 pm, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Official meal service ends at 7:00, but one can enjoy coffee and dessert during the last hour of business. While this may not be the biggest eatery in town (the Café seats just 20 inside, with another 20 seats available on the outside patio), its offerings are diverse and evince an attention to detail. The gourmet menu has a nice assortment of salads, sandwiches, flats (think artisan pizzas), paninis, and small plates from which to choose. Among the local favorites are the Ham & Goat flat and the Turkey & Avocado sandwich. Daily specials are offered, as is a kid-friendly menu. The majority of items are made on site, and substitutions and even customized items are happily offered to accommodate dietary needs and preferences.
In addition to the on site offerings, a few specialty items are brought in for the convenience and enjoyment of their patrons. Gluten-free breads from Still Delicious in Westbrook are on hand daily, with some of their gluten-free desserts and cupcakes making frequent appearances on the menu. A clean label cookie line is available for ingredient-cautious customers, and a selection of delectable cupcakes from La Rosticceria in Guilford can always be found in the case.
The beverage menu is equally ample, with something to please everyone. Local and organic coffee from Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters is served, alongside tea (both freshly made iced and hot), Italian soda, local soda from Foxon Park, hot chocolate, and sparkling water. A recent addition, the Café is now offering fresh cold brewed coffee, as well. For those who prefer something a little stronger with their meal, feel free to BYOB your favorite vino. The Café will even provide a fresh bowl of water for Fido if you choose to dine together on the dog-friendly patio, for those pet owners reluctant to part with the pooch while out and about.
If you’re taking your food to go, head to the counter and place your order. But, if you’re eating in, have a seat and relax. The RJ Café & Bistro offers full table service, so skip the line.
Great for a meal any time of year, RJ Café & Bistro is an especially attractive choice during the holiday season. Its convenient location makes it a great place to take a break from all of your downtown Madison holiday shopping. Although the menu remains constant most of the year, there are a few seasonal offerings. Roasted root vegetables make their appearance on the menu beginning in the fall, as do specialty holiday drinks, such as pumpkin spice, eggnog, and peppermint lattés. Kym has a terrific holiday shopping tip to share: Put your name on the waitlist at the Café and then go shopping. When you’re hands begin to ache from all of your packages and your stomach starts to rumble, your table will be waiting for you. If you’re short a gift when you get there, pick up a gift certificate, valid for any items sold at RJ Café & Bistro.