Same pizza, new location

Ian’s Pizza expands to new location, new demographics


Andrew Kicmol/Clarion

Ian’s Pizza has expanded to a third Madison location, opening in the newly renovated Garver Feed Mill.

Sean Bull and Andrew Kicmol

Sean here. This review will feature both the voices of myself and Andrew. On our first trip to the new Ian’s Pizza. I learned two things:

1. Beer provides no relief to a spice-afflicted tongue

2. Those touch screen Coke machines are a lot more annoying when you’re waiting in line behind a guy creating his mixed soda masterpiece, and you only want cold water to fill your burning mouth.

Let’s back up. In August of 2019, Ian’s Pizza opened their third Madison location. It’s the first business to occupy the newly renovated Garver Feed Mill, set up on one end of the open hall in the building’s center. The new location expands Ian’s beyond the isthmus; residents of the east side will be glad to know they’re now eligible for delivery. Still, a big part of the Ian’s experience is the restaurant ambience, so it’s worth going in person.

The new restaurant combines Ian’s usual urban aesthetic with a few unique touches. The air duct overhead is graffitied, the menus are beautifully hand-written in chalk, but these Ian-isms are surrounded by the soaring brick walls of an antique Romanesque factory. Ian’s Pizza occupies approximately half of the main room’s first floor. The rest of that space sits empty, awaiting untold possibilities.

Time to chime in. Andrew here. The open space is definitely the first thing you will notice when you walk in: 40 foot high ceilings and a 13,500 square foot atrium dwarfs the pizza counter that sits at one end of the building. The open space is an “event space.” What that means I’m not sure but I can’t wait to see.

Sean: The surrounding office suites aren’t yet filled out, but Garver Feed Mill will eventually be home to everything you’d expect when gentrification comes to town. Signs taped to various doors herald the coming of a photography studio, yoga classes and a spa. Already, a Kombucha company has moved in down the hall.

Once you’re done admiring the industrial steel and brick, you’ll see the thing that’s most out of place: the kids. They’re absent almost entirely from both Ian’s downtown. Instead of those restaurants’ clientele of politicians, students and tourists, Garver Mill draws people from the near-east neighborhoods, so it plays host to far more families.

Andrew: While Ian’s downtown was a great place to fill up on non-liquid carbs after a night out at the bars, the feed mill locale offers a completely different atmosphere, and purpose. It’s a nice change of pace. While it doesn’t have the bustle of downtown, Garver has foot traffic. With Ian’s already having an established base of Madisonian fans, Ian’s being the first business to open in the old feed mill is smart. It draws people in, and like us, people are eager to see what the other businesses are like.

Something that I noticed while walking around the second floor walkway that spans nearly the entirety of the building was this is gentrification done well. The city of Madison bought Garver nearly two decades ago, and the building sat empty and lifeless, a reminder of an age gone by. Now it blends the history of the feed mill with elements of the modern age.

Sean: The location may be family-friendly, but Ian’s hasn’t forgotten the adults. Beyond the pizza and salad, is a craft beer bar, where you can get wine, or canned beer. The flashiest of the taps is the “Dad Beer” that rotates in selection. When we visited, it was Pabst.

August’s monthly special was “Hot Italian Beef,” a self-explanatory slice that features beef and jalapenos, among other toppings. Those bolder flavors balance well atop a creamy white sauce, but I’ve always been weak regarding spice. Jalapenos create a mounting burn that Ieaves me scrambling for water.

Andrew: While Sean was desperately trying to get relief from his choice of pizza, (I went with Fresh Mozzarella Tomato Basil) I sat outside and noticed the relative calm, sipping my Unite The Clans, a Scottish Ale by way of Milwaukee.  Garver’s location doesn’t feature the constant life of downtown Madison, so you can sit and watch the sky unobstructed while cyclists go by on the path that runs behind Olbrich Gardens.

Sean: On that note, the restaurant can feel cramped during busy hours, despite the vast space it occupies. Anyone familiar with Ian’s is familiar with the line that forms at the cash register, and sometimes snakes all the way to the door. At other locations, this works pretty well, but here it quickly grows to block the only way to the ground floor bathrooms. It’s a mild inconvenience.

Ultimately, it’s the differences from the Ian’s we already know that will make this new branch successful. The pizza they sell is the same, but Garver Feed Mill is well-positioned to serve a different slice of the Madison community.