By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 04, 2024 at 10:31 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

The space that formerly housed Stone Creek Coffee at 158 S. Barclay St. has been transformed. Most obvious is the physical space, which has been transformed with colors and textures. But it’s the notably new vibe that guests will notice above all. 

Radio Milwaukee cafe siteX

Discourse Coffee Workshop quietly opened the much anticipated cafe at the Radio Milwaukee studios on Friday, giving the baristas a weekend to develop their rhythm before moving into their first full week of service. Even so, word traveled quickly. On Saturday, the cafe was buzzing with energy as a curious crowd waited in lines to sample the cafe’s creativity, as vinyl records purred on the cafe's vintage Japanese Micro Seiki turntable.

Founder Ryan Castelaz says that creating a complex energy in the space was one of the goals for the new cafe, which aims to simultaneously provide a welcome gathering place for guests, while pushing their palates in a new direction with Fourth Wave coffee, top-notch cafe-style fare and low-proof cocktails that will challenge what you know and love about imbibing.

“The goal was to make the space funky and weird, but simultaneously comfortable and welcoming,” notes Castelaz. “You come in and you have a singular moment of disorientation, but then our staff are trained to greet you, draw you into the space and develop a connection.”

The coffee barX

Expect the unexpected

A once over of the space immediately shines a bright light on the collective of artisans and craftspeople whose work went into transforming a former coffee shop into a cafe.

The first things guest are likely to note is signage by local artist Michael Cerda – including messaging on the glass doors applied in multidimensional gold and green – welcomes guests to the cafe. Meanwhile, Deep warm green paint, applied by Melinda Rodriguez of Lass & Ladder has transformed the walls and dropped ceiling in the space, setting a backdrop for the experience. 

The bar itself has been faced in fuchsite-colored elongated hexagonal tile laid by Brett Waterhouse, a jack of all trades and “Facilitator of Joy” alongside John Lyman, who also assisted in creating various aspects of the space, as well as brainstorming concepts like shelves painted with chalkboard paint for easy impromptu messaging.   

Drink different columnX

“We owe so much to the two of them,” says Castelaz. “They’ve done an incredible job assisting us in creating this space and building the bar.”

In the middle of the round coffee bar, which forms the focal point of the space, is another painted message by Cerda. The black column in the middle of the prep space – which always seemed a bit of a distraction – now reminds guests to “Drink Different”.

Follow the flow to the east, you’ll pass the sun-drenched seating area to the south, which showcases glass-topped tables made by Justin Morgan. They double as terrariums, providing a home for warm earth and live succulents, plants that are said to activate good energy, including prosperity and abundance, as they accumulate life-giving water in their leaves.

Terrarium tablesX

Turn back to the bar and you’ll see Discourse’s espresso machine: a (discontinued) lever-based Mirage Idrocompresso designed by Kees Van Der Westen and made with recycled aircraft aluminum.

Espresso machineX

“The genius of the lever-based espresso machine is that it's spring driven, so the machine extracts the most from the coffee at the beginning, tapering off as the coffee has less to give,” notes Castelaz of the machine which he purchased second-hand in Minnesota.

Round the corner of the bar and you’ll find comfortable barside chairs which not only offer a bird’s-eye view of the action behind the counter, but a closer look at the hand-fabricated spirits, wine and glassware rack created by David Rossow Design from metal, fiberglass and antiqued mirrored glass.

one of a kind wine bottle and glass rackX

Oh!  And lest I forget, be sure to head to that awkward back corner in the northwest section of the cafe, which has been repurposed as “Lilliput Records,” a fully functioning vinyl shop with a collection of over 800 titles for sale.

Lilliput RecordsX

On the menu

The cafe’s menu features a classic Discourse coffee program, showcasing everyday standards (pour-overs, espresso-pulls, cappuccino, etc.), seven Craft lattes and four Experimental drinks, which will change out on a 45 day rotation.

Cheap Wedding
The Cheap Wedding

Order up a Craft cup and you’ll drink from custom hand-made stoneware designed by Jess Egan of Little Fire Ceramics expressly for drinks like the Flora, Moonwater, Motorhead and Channel Orange.

Pour-over trays are designed with a lip to a accommodate information cards about the coffee!

Egan has also designed a collection of beautifully themed serveware, including saucers that resemble vinyl records, striped latte bowls and cappuccino cups.

Vinyl record saucers and cups
Holy Mole served on saucers that resemble vinyl records

Watch closely and you’ll see baristas pouring pre-measured coffee from custom-designed storage bins that look suspiciously like cassette tape cases.

Cassettes for coffeeX

Each contains 25 grams of coffee, exactly enough for one cup. The plastic cases are BPA-free and coated with a special food safe coating on their interiors. You’ll find them filled with various types of coffee and available for purchase in the cafe.

But coffee isn't the only star. There's tea, hot chocolate, and chai along with a menu of low-proof cocktails designed in collaboration with Anthony Valenti of Mosler’s Vault. Options include drinks made with unexpected flavor pairings like elderflower-tarragon, fig-guava, corn-passionfruit and apple-whiskey.

Guests will find a case of housemade patisserie and desserts created by Discourse Pastry Chef Franki Hartmann, including gems like miso apricot scones, Italian biscotti, flourless chocolate rosewater cake and slices of coffee passionfruit tart.


Additional offerings include a menu of cafe staples, including salads and sandwiches curated by Chef Alex Pawlak.

Examples include baguette sandwiches like the Beets by Dre filled with spiced beets, cucumbers, pickled carrots, housemade vegan chili mayo and cilantro; and the Giorgio filled with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, basil, housemade basil cream and balsamic glaze. Other options include Porky’s Groove Machine featuring focaccia filled with pork tenderloin, apple cabbage slaw and stone ground mustard.

Moving forward, Castelaz says, the menu will evolve with the cafe to include items like grazing boards and snacks, among other surprises.

More seating
More seating is, as usual, available in the extended Radio Milwaukee lounge area.

In general, guests can expect the menus to change in tandem, with new items swapped every 45 days along with new experimental coffee drinks.

The inaugural hours for Discourse Coffee Workshop at Radio Milwaukee are Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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.