Madhatters delivers food to the curious and curiouser.
Nestled amongst the Victorian noblesse of the King William District, on the corner of Beauregard and South Alamo, is Madhatters Tea House & Café—the restaurant itself is an oddity poking out from the contemporary and classic architecture.
Appearances can be deceiving, however, as this strange-looking building holds an ever-changing menu, a friendly staff and a unique environment not unlike a certain Wonderland.
Adorning the steps to the entrance are planters filled with blooming primrose and stalks of dusty miller; fully grown chilies hang from the planters further down the walkway, where there is a patio with a few tables and chairs for outdoor dining. The inside is just as colorful, with photographs depicting Echincea and various wild flowers in bloom, along with artworks for sale—it’s clear that the art community surrounding Madhatters plays an important role in the décor.
Kitschy figurines and teacups ranging in size from great to small line almost every nook and cranny; the over-sized bookshelves in the antechamber hold heavily used texts.
Looking up, one is treated to the sight of a large teacup displayed as if in motion, forever spilling its contents onto the patrons below. Atmosphere is everything at Madhatters, and it serves to enhance the overall experience of dining in.
“It’s been like this even during the previous owner,” explains Matt Leal, describing the importance of the environment. Leal has been with Madhatters for 10 years and much like many of the other employees working at the restaurant they all know MadHatters inside and out.
“A lot of people just come in to get a pot of tea. We get a lot of regulars,” states Leal. MadHatters boasts a wide variety of tea – “About 50 to 60,” Leal remarked—all of which can be served in a small, cast-iron teapot for a more relaxed drink with friends.
The tea itself can be had alone, or with delectable finger-foods; electing to have the tea as a full meal prompts an employee to bring out a three-tiered serving container embellished with various cakes and small sandwiches. Simple meals are extravagant in the mad world of MadHatters.
The café boasts a notable menu, with different foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu treats customers to classic recipes, some of which feature a unique twist.
The “Mad Migas Scrams,” in particular, were extremely delicious. The plate is composed of three eggs (or egg-whites for the calorie conscious consumer) fluffed to buttery perfection, mixed with crisp corn tortilla chips and vegetables; all topped with melted Gouda cheese and served with blue, red and normal potatoes and a corn tortilla. The result is heavenly.
For lunch, one could try the “Grilled Hummus Sandwich.” The sandwich consists of two hearty-sized slices of wheat bread filled with warm hummus, buttery mushrooms, tomatoes, grilled artichokes, baby spinach and melted provolone. Sandwich items also come with a side, which can be anything from the signature potato salad to the classic chips & salsa.
Dinner is something entirely different. “We try to do dinner specials like salmon, ravioli… Sometimes we have trout; sometimes we have crab cakes,” Leal says as he describes the constantly shifting diner menu.
Indeed, customers who go one day for the “Sirloin Burger” may find that its place has been taken by a signature seafood platter the next. “The board changes daily, it’s always different,” explains Leal.
Dessert consists of customers viewing the large selection of cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes and cobblers within the cold glass display. Should one run into the age-old problem of not knowing what to get, a simple question to any staff member will alleviate the stress as they are more than willing and ready to share their favorites, along with tips to making the savory meal-completer even more enjoyable.
It’s a mad world with good food; however, a great staff and a relaxed atmosphere helps with that madness. While the prices may tend to get a bit high for the average college student, Madhatters Tea House & Café is a treat that should be enjoyed thoroughly every once in a while. “It’s a good place to come, everyone knows everyone, and after a while, you get to know a lot of people.”
Madhatters is located at 320 Beauregard St., and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a Sunday Brunch lasting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.