Trio behind Settle Down Tavern and Oz by Oz to open third business on Madison’s near-east side
New restaurant Turn Key opens this fall in the historic landmark building that formerly housed Pasqual's and Fyfe's.
When Sam Parker, Ryan Huber and Brian Bartels scoped out the vacant space at 1344 E. Washington Ave., they knew they had to do something with it. “We came in, looked at the space, and all three of us — instantly — upon taking it in, we’re like, ‘holy cow, this place is amazing,’” Huber says. “One of the things we were most drawn to is the building itself.”
This fall, the historic landmark building will open as Turn Key, the restaurateurs’ third establishment after Settle Down Tavern, and the King Street bar, Oz by Oz. Strategically located just off the bike boulevard in an area with heavy foot traffic, Turn Key will serve American-style cuisine with strong influences from other cultures.
The idea is to create a space that provides an escape from the chaos of the outside world. “Everything we’re designing, everything that we’re working on — as far as beverage program, food program, aesthetic — is all keeping in mind that we want people to come, relax and linger,” Huber says.
The outdoor space, which will be referred to as an ‘oasis,’ will feature an outdoor bar and pergola structure. Upstairs will hold a private dining room as well as a rec room which features a smaller, more casual menu to accompany a space for non-traditional tavern games and other activities.
The main dining area will serve slightly elevated fare to be called “dining fine,” a play on the phrase fine dining. “There’s like a tongue-in-cheek playfulness that finds its way into everything we do,” Huber says. “We want the place to look nice and we want the food to be really good … but we also want people to know we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Ben Roberts, a long-time friend of the three men and owner of Pasqual’s Cantina, reached out to Parker to see if the trio would be willing to take over the space after Pasqual’s closed due to difficulties following the pandemic. Owned by the well-known Mullins family and named on the National Register of Historic Places, the space at 1344 E. Washington Ave. was originally built as a farm room, and prior to Pasqual’s was home to Fyfe’s Corner Bistro.
The new co-owners are trying to retain as much of the building’s original charm — hence the name it bears — while also adding some sensible updates to the space. “We want to show off what’s already here and pay homage to the beauty of the building,” Hugel says. “The building is in great shape, but we are also ushering in a new era of this historic building. We plan to be here for a long time, so we want to make sure that we do things right.”
In an Instagram post announcing the new project, Bartel’s nicknamed Turn Key the “Barcelona of the Midwest,” to underscore its purpose as a place that welcomes locals and visitors from all walks of life. “We want people who are traveling and people who are Madison natives to feel like there’s this kind of international beer hall feeling,” Huber explains. “Some of [these] concepts were taken from some of these really cool beer halls that we’ve experienced traveling throughout Europe.”
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Turn Key has plans to open later this month or early in September.
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