Yesterday morning, Emily and Colin Whitcomb quietly swung open the doors of their new Downtown cafe, the Canary Coffee Bar at 720 N. Old World 3rd St.
Located in the historic Hotel Wisconsin, Canary Coffee Bar is just steps away from the entrance for The Avenue and the forthcoming 3rd Street Market Hall, a hop away from Fiserv Forumand just around the corner from the Warner Grande Theater, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's new concert hall.
Inside the cafe – which showcases a mix of modern and classic design and a color palate focusing on black, white and rich forest green – you’ll find the work of Steve McGuire of McGuire Contractors, a firm whose projects include Blue’s Egg in Milwaukee and Alderaan Coffee. But you’ll also find details, from the tiles on the dropped ceiling above the coffee bar to the paint on the walls, which were completed by the Whitcombs themselves.
"We did a lot of the work ourselves," notes Colin. "But our families were also instrumental to the process."
For example, banquettes in the airy cafe were built by Emily’s father and their upholstered backs were made by her mother.
On the menu
The cafe, which will observe abbreviated hours (from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and a slightly abbreviated menu through the holiday weekend, will launch regular hours on Monday, Sept. 2.
The cafe’s menu includes house coffee featuring a blend from Madcap, as well as pour-overs, which can be made from the guest’s choice of seven to ten coffees.
Selections currently include roasts from Madcap Coffee Co., a roaster in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Selections include coffees from Kenya, Costa Rica and Ethiopia which vary from fruity, mild and light to clean and aromatic.
"In the early 2000s, you had a wave of roasters like Counter Culture, Stumptown and Intelligentsia who emphasized product quality, direct trade, and sustainable business practices," says Colin. "Madcap was a roaster that followed on that wave, but really focused their energy on the quality of the coffee."
There are also coffees from Dune Coffee Roasters out of Santa Barbara, California including Sumatra, El Salvador and Honduras.
"Dune’s coffees are big, heavy and syrupy," Colin explains. "Their Sumatra is ultra earthy and rich… and it really loves milk."
For those looking to explore the flavors inherent to Canary’s offerings, coffees can also be sampled as part of a flight, allowing customers to taste the nuances of both the beans and roasting processes.
A menu of specialty drinks will also be available featuring options like the "Almost Perfect," featuring espresso, half & half, simple syrup, grenadine and served with a smoked cinnamon stick; and the Shakerato, a cold drink made with espresso, half & half and simple syrup that’s shaken with ice and served straight up in a stemmed glass.
Additional items include chai, hot chocolate, hot can cold tea as well as steamers and a variety of baked goods from Miss Molly’s Cafe & Pastry Shop, 9201 W. Center St.
Beginning next week, the coffee bar will also offer additional items including Pilcrow nitro cold brew, along with a small menu of open-face sandwiches created by Emily’s sister Sarah Thompson, an experienced recipe developer.
Canary Coffee Bar will be open Aug. 28 through Sept. 1 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Beginning Sept. 2, the cafe will be open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.