By Rachel Werner | Photography by Sunny Frantz
Fresh, simple, delicious. These three words neatly sum up the experience one is likely to have at The Heights Kitchen. Natural light pouring in through the expansive glass windows and the counter staff’s welcoming smiles instinctively evoke a feeling of warmth upon entering. An assortment of gourmet snacks and treats available on the market shelves can tingle taste buds before the meal.
“We let our superior ingredients speak for themselves in preparations that are herbaceous, clean and gratifying—and offer many of those same ingredients in our well-curated retail shop to take home like cheese, charcuterie and coffee,” says co-owner Evan Gruzis. “Our offerings are not overly rich or heavy, and leave your body feeling good.”
Gruzis and his wife, Nicole Rogers, began exploring the concept and remodeling the space for their food-based venture with fellow proprietors Jonny Hunter and Mel Trudeau in 2017, with the initial “soft open” taking place last October. The initial reception in the Regent-Allen neighborhood was overwhelmingly positive, especially since a number of nearby restaurants have shuttered their doors in recent years.
“The near West Side—and the West Side in general—has had a shortage of non-chain and farm-to-table options. The Heights changes that landscape while celebrating its immediate neighborhood,” Gruzis says. “There’s a daily morning coffee-andbreakfast scene that’s unique for Madison,” he shares. “If you’re thinking of coming in, chances are, we’re open. And we have an awesome patio that we’ll be opening this spring.”
Gruzis and Rogers also describe their eatery as “versatile,” with breakfast, lunch and dinner service available in addition to brunch on the weekends. They’ve managed to fine tune execution of each dish thanks to chef Allie Christian’s flair with flavor profiles and crafting the compact menu so that each entrée can truly be savored alone—or heighten the aromas and textures of an accompanying dish.
Plus, their house-made bagels are addictive whether ordered plain, smothered in the cream cheese also crafted on site, or piled high with smoked trout and capers. The polenta enveloped in a savory mushroom ragù is rich and soothing in every spoonful. It also nicely balances the sprouted lentils, a smaller plate stretched beyond typical earthy notes to leave a hint of citrus on the tongue from a spritz or two of preserved lemon and springs of parsley.
“The food is re-approachable. We’re hoping most of our patrons will come early, stay late and visit multiple times a week,” Rogers says, beaming. “We invented a hybrid between a country store and a bistro…as foodies, entrepreneurs—and creatives at heart.”