The Food Fight restaurant group has made a minor fortune tweaking the American diner concept and seeding the Madison metro area with the results. From Monty's Blue Plate Diner to the weirdness that is Bluephie's, the group's menu portfolio is sprawling, geographically nonspecific, and approachable from (too?) many angles.
When DLUX opened last year, it felt like a slightly different direction: slicked up rather than folksified. Glammy and a little boozy. Food Fight managing partner Caitlyn Suemnicht designed DLUX, and her latest creation, Bassett Street Brunch Club, continues in that evolution while managing to swing back around to diner fare. It's a minor stumper, but I think it ends up working.
On Halloween, Bassett Street Brunch Club opened, officially exorcising the ghost that had been the defunct Casa Bianca space for, I swear, longer than it had been the funct Casa Bianca space. The ground floor of the new and fairly slick looking Hampton Inn and Suites (I mean, this isn't Beverly Hills or anything) is a good spot for the Brunch Club; both hotel and campus traffic feed into the area.
Like I said, this menu is big. Nothing's too complex, but in trying to do a classed-up broad diner menu, BSBC is actually taking a large bite it's going to have to chew. Doughnuts, fried chicken, hashes, eggs, a Reuben, pot pie, a banh mi (misspelled, of course), ravioli, tostada, a mezze platter, Indian roti served a la breakfast burrito -- that's a lot of plates to keep spinning.
There's a certain amount of food writer bait here, and I won't lie, the hook in my cheek from both the fried chicken and doughnut starter and the housemade sausage banh mi barely hurt at all. I'd have gone with a different style of doughnut; the hard, cruller-density cake doughnut didn't serve to contrast enough with the white meat chicken chunks, well-seasoned as the breading was. (White meat is a choice BSBC is going to have to tread carefully with, as it's way too easy to turn into jerky.) There was about an inch of extraneous too-doughy bun on both ends of the banh mi, but the ginger-scallion sausage and cucumbers were nice.
I see Bassett Street Brunch Club serving as the flipside of the DLUX coin; the latter is nightclub-all-day, the former is mid-morning-all-day. There's also a pretty strong similarity between BSBC and the successful (and packed) Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis: big, slightly fusiony menu, highly curated vibe, plus the Kitchen's preference for bedecking its servers in pajamas all day. Add to that the amount of hater pushback against Hell's Kitchen -- very "thank you for bringing something new to the scene, now get out of here because you're too successful and commercial," as my boy Elliot put it -- that sounds awfully familiar to the hate on Food Fight from some quarters in Madison.
Nobody's perfect, and it takes all kinds. Madison's got room for a millennial lounging spot with an aggressively nostalgic 80's soundtrack. If Bassett Street Brunch Club works -- and I think it can -- what's the problem if Food Fight's cutting the paychecks?