The Diner Done Right

by | Jan 13, 2016 | 0 comments

Amid all of the funky and fun pubs and eateries on Madison’s east side, Willalby’s Cafe stands out as one of Williamson Street’s top eclectic treasures. I went there to hang out with owner Nate Prince on a recent, balmy spring day. Despite the bright midday sunlight that was literally blinding, inside Willalby’s it could have been 10 a.m. or 10 p.m. The funktified high-luster lacquer of the knotty pine paneling, red, vinyl-topped spinning counter seats, and old-school booths all suggest years gone by and also that new hipster vibe that practically oozes out of the cracks.

And then there’s the “unicorn corner” (or unicorner as the staff refers to it) that Nate put up by the service window. Now I’ve seen some top unicorn art in my day, but Nate’s understated collection really gives you something to talk about while sipping hot diner coffee and devouring pancakes. “It [unicorn art] just sort of happened; it really wasn’t planned or anything,” Prince stated demurely. I don’t know—where I come from, that kind of unicorn homage rarely just happens.

Like many Madisonians, Nate pursued a classic education suited perfectly to the service industry: he was a geography major. (I get it—I’m personal chef who was a business comm major with an English minor). Any hoots, as he was telling me his story and the story of Willalby’s, it was obvious that the world of geography missed out on a solid catch. Nate had been cooking there for 10+ years (one day a week for extra fun money) well before he was approached by the former owner with an offer to buy the place in 2010.

“It was crazy. She offered me the restaurant in May, and I owned it by mid-July!” Nate told me. “I had to work days and then also late nights on the weekends for a while to pay off the note!” Eventually the late nights became a thing of the past (a sad day for many of us because going there after 11 guaranteed both excellent food and people-watching). These days, Willalby’s is strictly a breakfast joint (6 a.m.–2 p.m. during the week and 7 a.m.–3 p.m. on the weekend).

So after taking the reins of Willalby’s, Nate took the menu and really made it his own. I love the waffles, but Nate tells me I need to try the banana-walnut pancakes. His own personal favorite is the Fair Oaks Skillet. Word has it that the Hart’s Content Omelet (no idea who Hart is) is more than noteworthy, and my wife loves the Bomblet Omelet. Several good vegan options are also on offer, including a killer French toast. I also consider myself to be a bit of a connoisseur of diner coffee, and Willalby’s delivers.

The only thing I’ll warn our readers of is that if you come in on Saturday or Sunday mornings, you’ll sometimes experience a bit of a wait for your food to arrive (think very small staff). We like to think of it as a funky, family outing—bringing along a paper (yes an actual newspaper for sharing) and catching up with one another. So if life finds you on Madison’s East Side, check out Nate and Willalby’s. Not a hipster? Doesn’t matter. Willalby’s is a quintessential come-as-you-are place—no full beards or retro ‘80s neon specs required. What is required, however, is cold, hard cash (no plastic accepted). Hope we see you there sometime.

Article Tags

Madison Opera - Salome
Ravyn Entertainment
Rutabaga - Summer

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rutabaga - Summer
Ravyn Entertainment
Madison Opera - Salome

Latest News

The Ballet Boy

The Ballet Boy

Ja’ Malik, Madison Ballet’s new artistic director, plans to shake up conventional ballet while creating space for underrepresented communities to have a place on the stage.

Monkeypox in Wisconsin

Monkeypox in Wisconsin

A new virus brings old stigma and fear to an already pandemic-weary population. What you need to know to protect yourself and your community, and how we can still prevent a larger outbreak, according to local experts and organizers.

Freedom, Inc. announces staff changes

Freedom, Inc. announces staff changes

Freedom Inc. has recently had a shift in their leadership with the departure of co-executive director M Adams. Co-executive Director Kabzuag Vaj sent out a letter that outlined how the organization has been working during the pandemic and George Flyod and Breonna...

Our Readers: Jack Sanders, Madison

Our Readers: Jack Sanders, Madison

I am an artist. I am disabled. In my experience, surviving this world as a queer disabled person is an art form all on its own. Most of the time my art lives in conversations, daily routines, in the ways I care for my body, my nest, my relationships, in the ways I...

Latest News

VIEW ALL LATEST NEWS

Quigley
Atlas Counseling
Forward Fertility
Trick or Trot
Vivent Health - PrEP

Events

SUBMIT AN EVENT

Sun 25

Paint Yoni with Watercolors

September 25 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Wed 28

LGBTQ+ Spouse/Partner Loss Group

September 28 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Wed 28
Wed 28

Proud Theater Open Enrollment

September 28 @ 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm

VIEW ALL EVENTS

Jobs

SUBMIT A JOB POSTING

VIEW ALL JOBS

Popular Tags

Pin It on Pinterest