Order a coffee drink at Coffeetails, 1506 N. Van Buren St., and feel free to get it with more than just cream or sugar. Frangelico, Baileys, Chambord, Kahlua, Godiva chocolate raspberry vodka or Rumchata – many of which are available in small "airplane" bottles – are just a few of the options.
"This place is unique because it’s both a bar and a coffee shop," says bartender / barista Germaine Bowers.
Coffeetails – aptly named due to its offerings of both caffeine and alcohol – is open seven days a week at 6 a.m. and closes around 11 a.m. when the adjoining bar, the Y-Not II, starts serving.
I visited last week around 8:45 in the morning and even though the socially-acceptable 5 p.m. cocktail hour was barely on the horizon, it was Friday. So I ordered a teensy tinesy splash of Baileys in my java.
Coffeetails' customers include third shifters, people killing time while washing clothes at the laundromat next door, professionals really just there for a cup of joe and those who prefer to start off their day with a little zing.
"I like the morning people," says Bowers. "It’s not as crazy, but people still want to have fun."
Bowers says she also appreciates the job because it allows her to have her afternoons off and to care for her mother.
"I have enough time to make dinner for her every night," says Bowers.
There’s also an extended family of sorts among the Coffeetails / Y-Not II customers. Tom "Crusher" Strelka has been a regular for years – "since it was illegal for me to drink" – and he continues to visit four or five times a week.
"I know pretty much everyone here. Luckily, I live across the street. My wife says, ‘just don’t get hit by a bus on your way back,’" he says, laughing.
Coffeetails / Y-Not II owner Tony DePalma and the customers often host potluck-style meals for holidays and Packers games.
"The team might lose, but at least we eat well," says Strelka.
The bar has also hosted chili cook-offs and an annual Spam recipe competition every year during the Vikings / Packers game. (Spam is made by the Hormel Food Company that’s based in Minnesota.)
Bowers will host a Christmas party on Sunday, Dec. 15 from 6 to 11 a.m. The event will offer food and a raffle and it's recommended that guests bring a new toy to donate. "I am really looking forward to this," she says.
Bowers works five days a week and on her two days off, Alison McCreadie, former owner of the Harp & Shamrock, 2106 W. Wells St., takes the post.
But even though Bowers has worked at Coffeetails since it opened five years ago, she still rarely drinks coffee.
"It’s kind of funny, I know," she says. "And I probably should think up some names for my drinks, but I just know how to create them and who likes what."
Bowers, who grew up on Milwaukee’s East Side, has been employed by the DePalma family for many years. She worked for DePalma’s daughter, Monica, who owns Monica’s On Astor, 1228 N. Astor St., and prior to that, for Tony’s father who operated the now-defunct Y-Not I that was on the corner of Newhall Street and Belleview Place from 1970 to 1983.
Every week, Coffeetails donates all of its coffee grounds to St. Rita’s Church as nutrients for the parish’s gardens. The harvested food is then donated to the Riverwest Food Pantry.
"We do what we can to help out," says Bowers, who then asks if I want to donate a dollar to a children’s organization in exchange for a Christmas window peel with my name written on it.
I buy two and meanwhile about five customers watch a 30-year-old episode of "The 25,000 Pyramid" on the Game Show Network.
"You just missed 'Jeopardy,'" says the guy to my left. "OK, game show trivia time. What were the first dirty words said on a game show?"
"‘That would be in the butt, Bob?’" I ask, referencing a female contestant’s famous comeback on "The Newlywed Game" said in response to host Bob Eubanks’ question, "where was the most unusual place you’ve ever made whoopee?"
Drinkers around me chortle, but apparently, I am wrong. That was the second occurrence, not the first. (I’m not going to repeat what, according to that guy anyway, were the first "dirty words" said on a game show, but I will disclose that it was in conjunction with a Jerry Mathers’ joke.)
This conversation then morphs into a discussion about couples sharing a bed on television and how Mike and Carol Brady were the first TV couple to hit the same hay.
"Do you think they did it in real life, too?"asks a woman eating a Subway breakfast sandwich and drinking a straight coffee.
"No, Mike was gay. She was doing Greg," says another customer.
And with that, everyone – including me – sings "The Brady Bunch" theme song with extra volume on the "ba-da, da-da-da-da, da-da, da DAH" part.
Suddenly, it’s official. I never want to leave this place.
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.