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Manna Cafe & Bakery Brings Homemade, From-Scratch Specialties to Locals and Out of Towners

By Kelly Church

Manna Café is a Madison, WI restaurant opened by the same family that ran the favorite Collins House Bed and Breakfast, and Collins House Catering, for 20 years. Barb Pratzel, Co-Owner of Manna Café alongside her husband Mike Pratzel, says that when Collins House Bed and Breakfast was in its final years, they longed to open a local restaurant that was an extension of the flavors and hospitality that made their original businesses famous. Since Collins House Bed and Breakfast was only open to out-of-town guests, they wanted a place where locals could enjoy the same type of fare.

"We wanted to share the welcoming ambiance of our inn and the excellent food with a larger audience, and Manna was the result -- a very personal, community-oriented restaurant and bakery with top-notch coffee service, open in the neighborhood where we live," Barb Pratzel says.

The restaurant's menu covers breakfast, brunch, and lunch, with weekday hours extending until 8 p.m. Collins House Bed and Breakfast was known for its oatmeal pancakes, a recipe now featured at Manna Café. This signature pancake dish is served with authentic Wisconsin maple syrup.

Another pancake specialty is the granola crunch cakes, a version of the oatmeal pancakes, with a crunchy layer of granola and a topping of sliced bananas. The breakfast and brunch menus also have an assortment of egg options, including omelets, eggs benedicts, and quiche (extremely popular, especially around the holidays).

For lunch and dinner, customers can enjoy their choice of a cold or hot sandwich, soup, chili, salad or platter. Barb says, for the sandwiches, the house-made bread is what makes the sandwich. Manna Café makes challah bread, multi-grain bread, grilled rye bread and sourdough wheat. They offer traditional sandwiches, like Bubbie's Egg Salad served on wheat bread with lettuce leaf, and more unique sandwiches, including the Brisket Melt which is made with their highly regarded, red wine braised brisket.

There are also vegetarian options, like the Tempeh Sloppy Joe that is flavored with chipotle barbecue and piled on top of a grilled challah roll with cole slaw. During lunch, customers can make their meal a combo, with a half of a sandwich paired with a cup of soup or a small green salad.

The Pratzel family has a Jewish background, and one thing that is unique for Manna Café's menu is that every Friday, they adopt Jewish traditions. Traditional braided challah loaves are made, and fresh challah is served alongside beef brisket. Matzo ball soup is offered (with a secret ingredient, they say). There is also rugelach with traditional apricot, poppy seed, and chocolate plum fillings.

Mike was born and raised in Pratzel's Bakery, a famous, third generation kosher bakery in St. Louis (recently closed) started by his grandfather, and Manna's corn tzitzel rye bread was one of its original creations.

The Pratzels have been in business for more than 30 years now and Barb says they have a strong connection to the Madison culture through food and hospitality. They view their employees and customers as family, and treat them as such. With a low employee turnover, Barb says their customers always see the same faces working at Manna Café. Barb says these friendly faces combined with the scratch kitchen, is what keeps customers coming back.

"Manna is not just great food and it is not just a from-scratch bakery," Barb says. "It is a place where the Madison community gathers from far and wide (or nearby) to have an experience."

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