When Bremen Café owners Mehrdad Dalamie and Jon Anne Willow lost their liquor license for their Riverwest establishment for 37 days this summer, they decided to make the most of their down time.
The Common Council enforced the hiatus after the owners unknowingly submitted their floor plan too late to be included in the last license review meeting before the Council's summer break.
Hence, the café co-owners rehabbed the wood floors and expanded the space to include The Sapphire Game Lounge, complete with bright blue walls, multiple bar games -- foosball, the classic '80s video game Centipede (it's only a quarter!), darts and pool.
The new lounge also features an eclectic, Sapphire-brand jukebox stocked with genres galore, and includes music by the Flaming Lips, John Coltrane, De La Soul, The White Stripes and Codebreaker -- just to name a few.
"I always wanted a jukebox, and now I have one. It's like a childhood dream come true," says Willow, a single parent.
The Sapphire Lounge adds another dimension to the café that already serves as restaurant, bar and music venue. Bremen's music offerings are as varied as the CDs in the jukebox, with events ranging from an Open Mic (Monday and Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.) to "Mid-Week Mountain Music" on Wednesday evenings.
" 'The Bremen' is everything to everybody," says Willow. "It appeals to students, kids, older people, chess players, hipsters who want to drink bottled beer (and so on)."
The Bremen Café opened in June 2002 as a small coffee shop. Willow says the original plan was to generate enough cash flow to support Vital Source, a free arts magazine founded by Dalamie.
Today, Dalamie owns the publication with Willow and local philanthropist, Chris Abele.
"I saw a copy of Vital at Gil Fest in 2002, and I immediately wanted to be a part of it," says Willow.
Willow was so inspired by Vital Source that she eventually left a high-paying corporate job and cashed in her 401K to work as the editor of the publication. She has never looked back.
"I figured I could save for my retirement, or invest in myself now," says Willow.
Over the years, Bremen Café has become an anchor in the Riverwest neighborhood, along with Fuel Café, Nessun Dorma, Art Bar, Albanese's and a few others. The café is known for its commitment to local art (Greg Schoeneck's rich oil paintings are featured this month), its diverse offering of live music and its great sandwiches.
The "World Famous" Bremen Beef ($6.50), "Burn Mama, Burn" ($5.50) -- a combo of grilled cabbage, hot peppers and provolone -- and the Turkey Delight ($6) are a few of the most popular menu items.
Bremen Café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving every night until 2 a.m. except Sundays, when the kitchen closes at 11 p.m.
Noshing at The Bremen, however, isn't a "quick bite" experience. The café atmosphere is extremely laid back, and the wait-time for food can be 20 minutes -- or longer. An opportunity, perhaps, to revive dormant Centipede skills.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.