It was 1993 when the original Fuel Cafe opened in the Riverwest neighborhood, bringing a slice of the Pacific Northwest’s grunge-inspired cafe revolution to Milwaukee. The coffee shop was like no other in the city and it made its mark on the Milwaukee scene with not only a creative coffee menu (including drinks like the hyper-caffeinated Kevorkian Crush), but its atmosphere, which touted signs like “Killer Coffee, Lousy Service” and vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu.
Thirty years later, Fuel Cafe has come and gone. But some of its DNA has been preserved at Fuel on 5th, the Walker’s Point eatery which expanded on the original concept with its edgy motorcycle theme, all-day menu and modern industrial designed digs.
But if you've been missing the flavors of classic Fuel sandwiches from the 90s, you're in luck. A number of them have been recently added to the menu at Fuel on 5th.
That includes the deceptively simple Toasted Cheesy Tomato featuring a French roll filled with melted mozzarella and provolone cheeses, tomato, onion, herbs, olive oil, mayo and lettuce ($12).
Guests can also indulge in The Cheesy Tomato's cheekily-named spicy cousin, the Buttafuoco, featuring the addition of hot giardiniera peppers ($13).
The Cheesy Artichoke Panini is also on offer. This sandwich features artichokes, spinach, onion, provolone, Italian herbs and mayo ($12).
Prefer even more veg? Fan favorite, the Garden of Eatin, is also available. This vegetarian sandwich features wheat bread spread with jalapeno cream cheese and aioli and stuffed with cucumbers, red peppers, onion, tomato, leaf lettuce, sprouts and cheddar ($13).
And yes, the plant-based Fat Vegan has also made its return. This sandwich, built on French bread, features vegan bacon, spinach, tomato, onion, sliced cucumbers, sprouts, veganaisse, dijon, salt and pepper ($14).
All sandwiches include guests’ choice of sides including fries, chips, tortilla chips or breakfast potatoes. Additional options include truffle fries (+$2), sweet potato fries (+$2), fruit (+$1.50), hash browns (+$2) crispy cheddar browns (+$2) or a side salad (+$3).
The menu additions are just part of the efforts on the part of Kristyn Eitel, who took the helm as principal owner and CEO of Fuel (along with Fink’s and BelAir Cantina) last fall. She and operating partner Chef Noe Zamora have taken a thorough look at the menu and operations at the popular Walker’s Point restaurant to ensure that the venue is best serving the community in which it resides.
“Fuel on 5th Street has always had its own personality and style,” Eitel notes. “And I definitely want to stay to true to the concept and what Fuel was meant to be. Along those lines, we want to ensure that Fuel remains an easy and approachable spot that people can think of for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner.”
Since opening in February of 2017, Fuel has hosted a variety of motorcycle-related events including bike nights and the memorable pre- and post-Mama Tried parties. But the restaurant has also opened itself up for folks who’d like to host their own events inside their memorable space.
“Fuel is a great spot for networking events,” notes Alyssa Weninger, catering and events manager. “As well as birthday parties, showers, private dinners and post-wedding celebrations.”
Available spaces include the Fuel patio (which accommodates 50 seated and 100 standing); the mezzanine (20-25 guests, plus AV hook-ups); the front lounge facing the patio (30 guests); and half of the bar (50 guests, cocktail party style).
The entire restaurant can also be bought out for larger events, including holiday parties, post-wedding celebrations and casual rehearsal dinners. Capacity is 250 people with accommodations for bands or live music in the mezzanine.
Weninger notes that Fuel does not require deposits or rental fees, even for Friday or Saturday evening events. In fact, food and drink minimums are only in effect for full buy-outs or events that take place during prime hours, including brunch service (Saturday and Sunday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.). As for catering, guests can opt for their choice of popular Fuel items served buffet style. Some custom options are also available.
Interested parties can contact Weninger at (414) 791-2844 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Currently, plenty of dates remain for holiday parties during the months of December and January, though spaces are likely to fill quickly.
Fuel on 5th is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Their brunch menu is available all day every day.
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.