By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Aug 30, 2022 at 10:01 AM

If you’ve been following Milwaukee’s swiftly growing coffee scene, you’ve absolutely heard of Discourse, the experiential and experimental “liquid workshop” which got its start in Door County, but laid down its roots in Milwaukee last summer.

And if you’ve been among the many whose tastebuds have been tickled by the Discourse team’s inventive creations at the Milwaukee Art Museum or Crossroads Collective, you’ll be thrilled to hear that the innovative coffee concept is expanding its reach to include a new Downtown cafe. 

In fact, if all goes well, Discourse Downtown could open as soon as mid-September.

The new Discourse Downtown will be located at 1020 N. Broadway. It will be located inside the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) campus building where Direct Supply has established their Innovation and Technology Center. And it's been in the works for quite a while.

For years, Direct Supply has hoped to be able to add a public facing cafe as both an amenity for Direct Supply employees, as well as a means to create connections and engagement between the business-to-business company and the local community. 

When they approached Castalez about the potential of hosting a location for Discourse, he says he was excited by the possibilities.

“This space, which has been in the works for a number of years,  is really incredible and thoughtful,” he says. “It’s warm, intimate and inviting, and we’re very much looking forward to creating an incredible playground for coffee and a place for our baristas to really be creative and exercise their skills.”

Tucked away

Much like Discourse itself, the 1600 square foot cafe will be a unique space.

The entrance itself is located to the south of the building’s main entrance, slightly below sidewalk level, giving the space a bit of a speakeasy-like charm. 

Speak-easy-like entranceX

Once inside, the beautifully designed space offers up a variety of seating options to accommodate about 40 guests. Choices will include a small interactive coffee bar, standard tables and chairs, a number of deep window bays outfitted with custom pillows as well as an area with a collection of six lounge chairs for relaxing with a beverage.

Ryan Castelaz will operate the new cafe along with partners Olivia Molter and Sean Liu and an ever-growing team including Front of House manager Jenna Karsten, Back of House Manager Louis Byers and Frankie Hartman. 

As expected, the cafe will feature full coffee service which showcases offerings from a new slate of coffee roasters every two months, a core of signature beverages and a monthly menu of seasonal specials. 

If all goes well, the September slate of coffee roasters will include Luminous (Las Vegas); Black and White (North Carolina) and Metric (Chicago).

The cafe will also be rolling out a small food menu featuring bakery items (both housemade and sourced from other local businesses), yogurt parfaits, quiche, scones, salads and meat and cheese boards.

Castalez says he can’t wait for guests to be able to join them in their new space.

“This is the first time that we’ll really be able to draw people into our full vision for the Discourse experience,” he says. “...not just our vision for the coffee that we serve, but the music that we play and the atmosphere that we create here as well.”

In the meantime, Castelaz says that Discourse will remain at the Art Museum at least through the end of the year, and they have no current plans to change their agreement at Crossroads Collective.

You can keep your eyes on OnMilwaukee for more information about the new cafe as it becomes available.

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.