By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 11, 2021 at 11:01 AM

Each week we are featuring a new restaurant as part of “Cash Mob MKE,” an initiative created to give Milwaukee restaurants a boost during these tough times. Click here for a delectable repast of everything we’ve ordered (maybe inspiration for your next carry-out meal).

The National Cafe
839 W. National Ave., (414) 431-6551
[More on Friday's cash mob here]

Yeah, I know it's Thursday. But because our latest #cashmobmke is scheduled for Friday morning,  I wanted to give you a head start on planning your breakfast, brunch or lunch strategy.

The exterior of The National CafeX

We all have our favorite Milwaukee gems. Among mine is The National Cafe, a cozy neighborhood spot that’s earned a special place in my heart not only for its food, but also for its welcoming ambiance and friendly staff. 

So, when I found that they were among the destinations for one of our cash mobs, I was excited to have yet another good excuse to put them in my carry-out rotation. And this time, I assured myself, I would order all items that I’ve never had before. After all, it’s good to branch out and try new things. 

How’d that go? Well, I was (mostly) successful.

It was morning, so (of course) we needed coffee. I’ve become a black coffee with cream gal since I started making coffee at home most days; but I miss splurging on fancy little coffee drinks. So, we started off our order with an Irish cream mocha ($4.65) and a honey latte ($4.40). 

The hot Italian burrito was a new-to-me item that sounded like it had great brunch potential. Indeed, it did. The sizeable burrito packed in two scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, provolone cheese, Italian sausage and tomato basil salsa. It was served with zesty tomato dipping sauce and breakfast potatoes ($11).

Hot Italian BurritoX

It turned out to be a great choice. It hit all the right breakfast burrito notes, but also dispelled any cravings I may have been having for pizza. Even better, it was a little on the racy side, with just enough kick to remind me that I’m alive and life can still be exciting.

I also ordered French toast. That might not sound unusual; but it's a pretty bold move for me. If forced to choose, I’m definitely more “team savory,” so ordering a sweet breakfast item is pretty rare. Fortunately, we hit on another win. The National’s French toast starts with Texas toast that’s dipped into a tasty orange cinnamon batter and griddled. Then it’s topped with candied nuts and served with a side of maple syrup ($9.50).

French toast with walnuts and syrupX

It was just sweet enough with a hint of cinnamon, a wisp of orange and some really nice texture from the accompanying walnuts. Perfecto.

And then, I grew weak. I saw the words “Hot Mess” and I couldn’t resist. This may have been the first dish I ever ate at The National Cafe; and to this day, it’s been tough to pass up. I’m guessing a lot of other people feel the same way, since they named the entire “Hot Mess Brunch” menu in its honor… but, I digress.

The hot mess is just this amazing  skillet-style pile of all the good brunch-worthy stuff: bacon (or ham or veggies), rosemary potatoes, sautéed peppers, caramelized onions, cheddar, grilled tomatoes and sunny-side eggs. And it’s all cloaked in a silky layer of buttery hollandaise ($11).

The Hot Mess brunch skilletX

Yeah. There’s cheese. There’s hollandaise. There are beautifully caramelized vegetables. Whenever I’m feeling like a hot mess, this dish seems to turn all things a’right again.

Magic bars work very much the same way. So I ordered one of those as well ($3). 

It was sooooo… sweet, and so nostalgic. It’s pretty hard to regret a decision that takes you back to childhood when everything in the world was simpler.

A magic bar with one bite taken outX

The National doesn't always have magic bars; but they do always offer a nice selection of baked goods. Don’t pass on the indulgence. It’s life-affirming. 

Speaking of life-affirming things, taking the time for brunch on a Friday is the ultimate self care. So take an hour for yourself tomorrow and give The National Cafe a big  warm #cashmobmke hug.

How to order

The National Cafe offers curbside pick-up on Friday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Place your order online, arrive at your scheduled time and then call the restaurant to let them know you’ve arrived. They’ll bring your food right out to your car.

If you choose to participate in our restaurant love bomb, bolster your support by sharing photos of your meal on social media using #CashMobMKE.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.