By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Sep 13, 2023 at 8:01 AM

Something new is coming to the vacant cafe space which formerly housed Stone Creek Coffee at Radio Milwaukee, 220 Pittsburgh Ave. 

Discourse Coffee, the experiential and experimental “liquid workshop,” is slated to open an all-day cafe that will feature a full beverage program, seasonal food menu and an in-house patisserie.

It’s a dream come to fruition for Discourse founder Ryan Castelaz, who says that for years he’s admired the Radio Milwaukee cafe space and dreamed of having something like it to call his own.

“We are incredibly excited for this partnership with Radio Milwaukee,” notes Discourse Founder Ryan Castelaz. “Radio has been such an important part of my life for a long time and the way Radio Milwaukee approaches storytelling and music discovery strongly parallels the way we aim to tell stories through flavor at Discourse.”

Cuppa Craft by Discourse
Cuppa Craft by Discourse

What to expect

The cafe, which is expected to open in January of 2024, will be modeled after iconic European sidewalk cafes, which not only offer guests flexible gathering places that serve their needs from breakfast through the evening hours, but also a welcome oasis from the daily city bustle.

The cafe’s beverage program will showcase expertly crafted pour-overs and an extensive tea program along with top-notch espresso drinks made with locally sourced and housemade syrups, bitters and powders, including experimental drinks inspired by both Milwaukee’s music scene and Radio Milwaukee personalities.

Beyond coffee, Discourse will also showcase a menu of no- and low-proof spritzes and full-strength cocktails along with a curated selection of beer and wine.

Meanwhile, an accompanying seasonal food program will celebrate local producers with simple, well-executed salads, sandwiches, soups and noshing boards. A menu desserts and patisserie will be spearheaded by Discourse Pastry Chef Franki Hartmann.

“Our vision is the creation of a space where people can come in for a coffee in the morning or a spritz in the afternoon,” says Castelaz. “It’s a place where the patisserie program is fitting regardless of the time of day. We want it to be elevated and thoughtful, but never inaccessible.

“Most importantly,” he adds, “We want it to be that place that offers up a momentary escape… this sort of time warp where people can enjoy a beautiful reprieve. 

An ongoing evolution

Discourse, founded by New Berlin native Ryan Castelaz, established its reputation during a four-year run in Door County. But the concept came home to Milwaukee in 2021, swiftly expanding to include an inaugural cafe at Crossroads Collective, a residency at the Milwaukee Art Museum and – most recently – its flagship cafe at 1020 N. Broadway, which will remain open.

Ryan Castelaz and partner Sean Li
Ryan Castelaz and partner Sean Li (Photo: Radio Milwaukee)

Among Castelaz’s goals as a fourth wave cafe owner was to offer employees the opportunity to establish careers in the coffee world while pushing boundaries related to guests’ experience of coffee. And he’s done so with the help of former partner Olivia Molter and current partner Sean Liu, both of whom have been integral to the growth and development of the Discourse brand.

And the brand is slated to continue in its evolution. Discourse at Radio Milwaukee is anticipated to dive deeper than ever into the team’s vision for what an American cafe can be while simultaneously exploring the boundaries with both classic, craft and experimental beverages.

“There has never been a lack of creativity or inspiration on the part of our team,” notes Castelaz. “Rather, it’s that our ambitions have always been much larger than what our spaces have allowed us.

"This is the first time that we’ll have a space that really allows us to bring all of our aspirations together in one place. We have a great team that is fully prepared to manage the operations of the new cafe. And it’s just so exciting.”

An ideal collaboration

In addition to offering guests a new place to gather and enjoy drinks or a meal, the collaborative Discourse Cafe will also assist Radio Milwaukee in continuing to strengthen its ties to the community.

“Our Walker’s Point home is an integral part of the way we build community. Having a place for folks to gather, connect and share ideas is the reason why we own and operate our own space,” said Radio Milwaukee Executive Director Maxie C. Jackson III.

“Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been missing a tenant in our cafe space and we are thrilled to have found a partnership in Discourse Coffee that we are confident will add to the neighborhood and serve our listeners.”

Castelaz echoes the sentiment.

“This is like a return home for us in so many ways,” Castelaz adds. “The vinyl that we used to spin at our space in Door County was such a reflection of our DNA. And now we’ll be creating this auditory environment that represents what both Discourse and Radio Milwaukee stand for.”

Members of the community are invited to get a taste of Discourse at Radio Milwaukee during Discourse pop-ups, which will take place from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day during Radio Milwaukee’s upcoming fall membership drive, Oct. 2-6 and Oct. 9-13. 

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.