If you’re looking for a place to grab a bite to eat with great atmosphere and excellent customer service, make your way to the fifth floor of the Spencer Eccles Business Building to Café Madsen.
The very modern café tucked in the southeast side of the building isn’t all that easy to find, but it makes an immediate impression as the scent of coffee and sound of light conversation draw you in. The café’s atmosphere matches the architecture of the business building with large, open windows and plenty of seating, including an outdoor patio overlooking campus and the Wasatch mountains.
The menu offers an array of salads, pastries and sandwiches. One of the most popular items on the menu is a grown-up’s grilled cheese sandwich, made with a perfect balance of melted Asiago and Gouda cheese on crunchy bread. This dish is adult enough for college students, but at the same time, it could satisfy anyone’s inner kid.
The coffee is provided by La Barba Coffee Roasters, a local grassroots company started by four people, including U alums Levi Rogers and current CEO Josh Rosenthal. Though La Barba’s philosophy is direct source, single origin coffee, Café Madsen offers the company’s blends to accommodate the broader demographic a college campus can bring. La Barba Coffee Roasters is also available on campus at the College of Pharmacy and downtown at 327 W. 200 S.
The house roast was a full-bodied blend with a delicious hint of chocolate interlaced with a subtle nut taste. The drip coffee was excellent.
As for specialty drinks, the café offers everything from mochas to cappuccinos. I ordered a personal favorite: a chai with a single shot of espresso added, lovingly nicknamed the Dirty Chai. It came out quickly, with beautiful foam art covering the surface. The foam tasted as dreamy as it looked, but the espresso all but jumped out and bit my tongue. A subtle bitterness is to be expected when you take that first sip and, while espresso is the most concentrated and arguably strongest coffee taste, what should have ended with a lingering, sweet release of flavor was replaced with an unpleasant acidic flavor.
A person’s espresso preference is their own, however, and I certainly wouldn’t discount the café based on one single shot of espresso. Making specialty drinks is a delicate balance of many things including the coffee’s grind, tamp, yield and temperature. Balancing all of which is quite difficult to pull off and even more difficult to do so consistently.
Café Madsen makes you feel like a regular the second a server greets you and is a go-to spot for local coffee, good food and excellent views.