By Alesia Mayfield, Eastside News
“What is coffee other than Zippy Lube?” That is how restauranteur Ben Altschul equates coffee (that jolt for the body) and motor oil (that jolt for your car). The former Zippy Lube auto mechanic shop at 2013 N. Sherman Ave. is now Zippy Lube Coffee, Donuts and Fried Chicken. Turning the shop into a full-time restaurant was five years in the making.
When Busse’s Markway Tavern and Zippy Lube became available at the same time in 2017, Altschul bought both properties with the hope of deepening his ties and commitment to the area. Then COVID-19 halted remodeling and opening plans. Work resumed in September 2022 and Zippy Lube Coffee, Donuts, and Fried Chicken opened in December 2022.
Altschul is pleased with the results. There is a lot of fear in opening a restaurant and “a lot to overcome — the sense of insecurity,” he said.
The response to Zippy Lube has been encouraging. Zippy Lube “has had a tremendous positive opening,” Altschul said.
Everyone can see the marriage of coffee and doughnuts, but adding fried chicken to that happy family? That was a business decision that evolved from Zippy Lube’s creative development team who saw the need for the business to serve throughout the day, not just in the morning. Fried chicken is an element that can stand up to coffee and doughnuts. It’s a comfort food that makes for a wonderful holy trinity, as Altschul calls the combination.
Altschul is proud of the fried chicken and its secret recipe. It’s made throughout the day and is hand-breaded and pressure fried. Zippy Lube also serves a Northside Hot fried chicken, a take on Nashville-style hot chicken, which is robust with a really nice depth. He encourages everyone to try it. The chicken is purchased from local distributor, Fortune.
The coffee sold at Zippy Lube is high quality, fair trade organic coffee. Zippy Lube has its own blend, Zippy Lube Premium Coffee, that is roasted at Boom Coffee in Princeton, 70 miles north of Madison.
The doughnuts are baked fresh daily from a recipe created by a friend who made old fashion buttermilk fried cakes and sold them at the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Two bakers come in at 3 a.m. to make the batter from scratch. The doughnuts also form the bread for the breakfast sandwiches, which are served until 11 a.m.
Altschul was born and raised on Madison’s east side and is the son of Jane Capito, the owner of Lazy Jane’s, a Willy Street favorite. Altschul operates 10 eateries in Madison, including the Tip Top Tavern in the Eken Park neighborhood.
“Opening a restaurant is like having a kid. (Asking yourself) the first few days, ‘do I know what I’m doing?’ (Then) everyday you become more comfortable and know what you’re doing,” he said.
As with any business, there’s plans to expand Zippy Lube, like adding a dining patio and increasing operations to six days. Currently it’s open Thursday through Monday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Perhaps the biggest future expansion will be partnering with Busse’s Tavern to sell boned-in fried chicken, house pickled eggs and homemade potato salad.
Click here to view Zippy Lube's menu.
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