I had a breakfast meeting the other day at the Original Pancake House, 2625 N. Downer Ave. It's a perfectly fine restaurant, but every time I visit, I'm taken back to a time when this building housed one of my favorite long-gone Milwaukee restaurants, the Coffee Trader.
I spent an awful lot of time at "The Trader" during college and into my early 20s. When we were underage, we could sit there for hours, eating triple-decker grilled cheese sandwiches and tiramisu, drinking gallons of coffee and plotting ways to take over the world.
In fact, while tomorrow marks the official anniversary of the creation of OnMilwaukee.com -- the day, 11 years ago, that I began my life as a self-employed guy and got to work building the magazine you're reading right now -- I used to noodle over the idea of starting some sort of Milwaukee city guide at the Trader as early as in 1996.
But I remember one day most vividly at the Coffee Trader. It was the day, back in the summer of 1994, when I discovered coffee.
During college, I recorded my memoirs for posterity, probably for an school assignment or something. Reading them now, they don't make for the most riveting prose, but I'm glad I've still got the stuff.
The way I remember my introduction to coffee is a little different than what I wrote in my memoirs, however. As I recall, I was in a meeting during my summer internship at Johnson Controls, and someone offered coffee to everyone seated around the table. When I asked for tea, the secretary shot me a puzzled drink, and I decided then and there that I would start drinking coffee. I went back to my cubicle and choked down about 32 oz. of it, black, then kept drinking it all day, culminating in about five more cups that night at "The Trader."
My memoirs, unedited for your pleasure, tell a slightly different story and oddly leave out the part at the Coffee Trader, which remains my most vivid memory of that day:
Now, I hated coffee, and refused to drink it because I thought it was a disgusting beverage. I always drank tea, which was both expensive and a little embarrassing. The kicker came at Elsa's one night, when Eron and I stopped for some tea and coffee. Out waitress, Kerri, whom we both thought was pretty cute, said to Eron, "Here's a coffee for Coffee Man." After she left, Eron and I knew that that meant I was Tea Boy. It was time to start drinking coffee.
The next morning at work, I poured myself a tall cup of Glen's strong coffee, and made myself drink it. Then I drank another two more. I didn't really understand the power of caffeine until then. What a fantastic drug.
Funny, I think, that I captured the exact moment in time that I became addicted to coffee. In my defense, I can certainly live without caffeine. I just choose not to.
Do you remember the day you decided that coffee stopped becoming disgusting? The day you acquired the taste for java? Lets here your stories using the Talkback feature below.
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.