By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Nov 04, 2006 at 5:48 AM
Getting a great breakfast Downtown isn’t as easy as it should be.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good places in the neighborhood, but I want more.  So, here’s my reasoning.  I’m fairly certain you’ll agree.  

As a Downtown resident for more than 15 years, I’ve watched the area grow and expand to meet the needs and wants of its neighbors and the growing number of visitors.  Restaurants, retail, services, hotels, four walk-in clinics, the best groceries in the state, it’s all here.  

Yet, what I truly want are 1-2 great breakfast spots.  I want good food, in a casual, fun environment (think Alterra at the Lake) and places with good vibes and warm food.  Nothing against Webb’s, but have you been to its Downtown location lately?  And, while I’m on my rant, how about another coffee house or two in the Downtown area?  Here’s why.  

Breakfast and coffee build community.  When you go to any major downtown, it’s the cafes, diners and casual eateries that are its lifeblood.  We are blessed with many wonderful ones, I know.  But, if you are perched at the corner of Water and Wisconsin (as a typical visitor to our Downtown would be), where do you go for a quick, low-cost, casual breakfast?  

First, let’s analyze the current options, in no specific order.  This should help prove my point.  

Stone Creek Coffee
They are closing their Wisconsin Avenue location because it’s too small, and I love the kiosk at the Shops of Grand Avenue.  Over all, I love Stone Creek but it’s just not a true breakfast stop.  But, I would love to see a bigger Bay View-like location in Downtown.  Stone Creek, are you listening?  

Café at the Plaza
This place used to be great.  It has a wonderful diner feel and a great patio area.  The Plaza Scrambler is tasty if not a bit greasy.  I like the Plaza a lot, but 3-4 years ago it was much better.  

Never been there, heard okay things.  The dark windows scare me.  

M Café
It’s nice, but could be so much more.  

Waterfront Deli
Great place, just not a sit-down breakfast place.

Dunkin Donuts
Coffee’s good, donuts okay.  Again, not a true breakfast place.  Yet, there are two of them Downtown.  

Hotel Metro
Wonderful breakfasts.  Not the cheapest in town, but good.  

Dish Bistro
Just closed.  Loved it.  

Not a bad breakfast stop, but if I’m not staying there, do I really want to go to breakfast there?

The Pfister
The Café at the Pfister is the hotel breakfast option that works for me.  It’s a bit expensive and the coffee is restaurant-grade basic crap, but the food (including wonderful omelets) is always good.  The place buzzes with locals and visitors on the weekends, and it’s pretty close to a Milwaukee-institution.  Again, sorry but I just don’t want to eat breakfast at a hotel every weekend if I’m not staying there.  And, note to Marcus staff:  it’s time to clean the tile floors in the Café, they are filthy.   

I hear they have a good weekend brunch.  Seems like a lunch and dinner place to me though, sorry.

Water Street Brewery
Actually not bad, and a brewery for breakfast has a certain something to it. Yet, not what I’m looking for.  

George Webb’s
Love Webb’s.  But, the Downtown location leaves a bit too much to the imagination.  

Starbucks, what’s not to love?  Not a true breakfast spot, though.  And the Red Arrow stop needs a better seating area.  I really like the Third Ward stop for coffee, but not for a weekend big breakfast.  

I really like Vechhio.  But it’s more of a restaurant and lounge.  And, soon it will be Vecchio Bar and Grill.  Not a breakfast place.

Midwest Diner
Not enough diner, not even enough restaurant.  Amazed that this places still packs ‘em in at 633 W. Wisconsin Ave.  Maybe I should give it another chance, but something about it scares me.

Michigan Street Diner
I used to love the "Diner."  For lunch, it rocks.  Their bread is so good. For breakfast, my two stops there have been a bit underwhelming.  

The Hilton
Never had breakfast there, but they do have a café and a Starbucks.  

This joint, 1014 N Van Buren St., has pretty decent food.  Not fancy, but serviceable.  It’s on the list, but the atmosphere just isn’t what I’m looking for.  

The Knick
It’s a bit of a walk from greater Downtown, but the Knick delivers and the bloodies are quite tasty too.  Love the turkey omelet.  

Johnny, you’ve single-handedly activated Wisconsin and Plankinton and Mocha is about the only place – other than a bar on a weekday night at 11 p.m. – that’s packed.  The coffee could be better and I’d love to see more breakfast options on the menu.  Bottom-line, like the place, but it’s just not what I’m looking for.  

Gotta go to East Point for this one.  Einstein’s is Einstein’s, it always works. 

I hear they have breakfast, and I'm sure it's good.  I'll add it to my list of places to try.  Been years since I've dined there. 

And these a little outside Downtown proper:

Barclay Gallery and Cafe
Probably my favorite greater Downtown breakfast stop.  The food is wonderful, coffee great and atmosphere too, especially the patio.  

Milwaukee Public Market
Some good options here.  I love the Public Market.  

Broadway Bakery and Bistro

A good call and they serve Stone Creek Coffee.  I’m just not always in the mood for white linen dining for breakfast.  Take out egg sandwiches are quite tasty and blueberry muffins satisfy too.  

Riverwalk Bistro
Their Sunday "Blue Brunch" is very good.  No complaints.  Again, more of a dinner place that serves breakfast on the weekends.  Like it, but it’s not what I’m looking for. 

Roots is one of the city's finest.  It's a bit of a walk from Downtown proper, though. 

What do I really want?  Think Ann Sather's or Golden Apple in Chicago or the wonderful Marigold Kitchen in Madison.  Heck, I’d even take a Ma Fischer’s or an Original Pancake House closer to the heart of Downtown Milwaukee.  How about a Corner Bakery or keep it local -- Benji’s, Trocadero or City Market (Shorewood and Wauwatosa) -- come on downtown, please!

I love everything about Downtown living.  It's the safest and friendliest community in the area and we can walk everywhere.  But, I love breakfast and I want better options that are quick and easy.  

Bruegger’s is coming (as we first reported) to Mason and Water, and frankly that’s going to be a good option.  Yet, I believe there’s still a big market for quick coffee and/or breakfast in Downtown.

I know that breakfast a tough economic nut to crack for restaurant owners, but if you build it people will come, if nothing else -- I will.  I’m hungry for a killer breakfast in my Downtown.  Let me have it!
Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.