By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Nov 09, 2018 at 11:01 AM

Envision a beautiful, minimal space with a friendly vibe and a modern sensibility. Now close your eyes and imagine the sounds ... hissing espresso shots, the murmur of friends chatting and the almost imperceptible clickety-clack of a keyboard.

Keep on listening and you'll hear the transition of hours... a silent interval followed by laughter, the muffled clattering of plates, the shuffle of shoes against the hardwood flooring and the convivial hum of wine-soaked conversation.

That's a bit of what you can expect at Interval, the new cafe and restaurant opening Nov. 12 at 1600 N. Jackson St. 

Interval is an exercise in imagination. After all, it's a concept which promises the casual comforts of a coffee shop, the convenience of a cafe and the creativity of a finer dining establishment, all under one roof.

It's beautiful and unsettling, not unlike Pilcrow Coffee owner Ryan Hoban and Chef Travis Cook, two friends and colleagues whose passions for food and beverage have collided in an unexpected and boundary-defying way.

"It's the perfect scenario," says Cook. "Ryan has this great opportunity to showcase the really amazing things he's doing with coffee, and I get to do what I love: cook great food."

Sleek modern design

The interior at Interval is modern and minimalistic without feeling cold. That’s thanks to design work by Samantha Stratman that incorporates clean, soothing colors – including white and inkwell – with modern art deco-inspired elements.

The lower level offers up an almost kitchen-like vibe with its white quartz bar, surrounded by brown leatherette stools. Furnishings are set off nicely against stark white walls broken by eye-catching pops of red from the bags of Pilcrow coffee lining the walls.

Lush plants bring warmth and life to the space, as do wooden elements, including sleek cupboards, occasional tables and slatted benches.

Coffee geeks are likely to note the robotic pour-over machine, which does the work of five baristas at once. The machine will not only improve efficiency on the coffee side of things, but Cook says he’s also planning to use it as a tool for creating a variety of steeped options for dinner service, including flavorful soups.

Upstairs, guests will find spots to spread out with their laptops, meet with clients or gather with friends for a relaxing, intimate dinner.

Breakfast, lunch & coffee

On the cafe side, Interval will operate much as any other. There will be brewed coffee between 7 and 11 a.m. for folks who’d like to take a cup to go.

Pour-over service will also be available and will showcase options like Pilcrow’s Storyteller house blend, Mbogo Gicherori (Kenya) and Francisca Chacon (Costa Rica), priced $3-5. Espresso pours, priced $3-5 will also be available along with Storyteller cold brew, Sweet and Creamy latte and Spiced Chaider ($5-6).

Guests can also indulge in signature drinks like Brazilian lemonade featuring fermented lime juice, coconut milk and espresso ($6); pistachio cappuccino ($7) or spiced coconut with cayenne and honey ($6).

Breakfast items, which will be served until 11 a.m. will include tender housemade biscuits, which can be eaten on their own, spread with apricot mustard, or topped with a housemade sausage patty (Cook’s homage to Dentice Bros., the sausage shop which inhabited the building prior to Pleasant Kafe). The biscuits will be priced at $4, or $6 with sausage.

There will also be dairy free chocolate banana bread ($4), burnt white chocolate cookies ($4) and a warming cannellini bean stew with salsa verde and balsamic ($4 or $6 with sausage). Meanwhile, the dairy free Oatly Parfait features an oat milk and banana panna cotta with dehydrated fruit and housemade granola (astute palates will note the subtle flavor of coffee in the granola itself) for $6.

After 11 a.m., the menu will transition toward heartier lunch options including beef carpaccio with charcoal aioli and horseradish ($8); cannellini bean stew ($4-6); a wedge salad with housemade pickles, buttermilk blue cheese dressing and root vegetables ($8); and an open faced Cubano-inspired sandwich featuring bread from Birch + Butcher topped with pork belly, black mustard and arugula ($10).

For those who’d prefer, there will also be a selection of beer and wine along with three tap cocktails created in collaboration with John "JC" Cunningham including a whiskey old fashioned and Mitch’s Twinkle, a gin-based cocktail created as an homage of sorts to Chef Mitch Ciohon, who Cook credits with being both a friend and supportive colleague. Mocktails will also be a feature, beginning with Brazilian lemonade topped with espresso dust.

Dinner is coming

For the first week, Interval will open with breakfast and lunch service only. However, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 5 p.m., the cafe will make its inaugural transition into a restaurant where guests can experience affordably priced high end dishes in a casual environment.

In fact, the relaxed vibe in the dining room will be part of what sets Interval apart. After being greeted by the bartender, guests will be encouraged to seat themselves.

"We’re really trying to break down the stereotypical barriers of fine dining," notes Cook, who says he and the bartender on staff will be waiting on tables themselves. "There won’t be chef jackets or pretense. We just want people to sit down, relax and enjoy something delicious."

The menu, executed by Chefs Cook and Alex Harry, will resemble a build-your-own tasting menu featuring 8-10 appetizers, two pasta dishes and two medium shareable plates, all priced in the $8-25 range.

Cook is keeping most of the menu under wraps, though diners who’ve been to one of the chef’s Travisty pop-ups already have a notion of what’s to come. Of course, if you’d like, you can also scroll through the photos on the Interval Instagram feed, where you’ll find a sneak preview of numerous dishes, including these pork fat Madelines, which Cook says will be a staple on the menu.

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"They’re served with cheese foam," he says, comparing the snack-like dish to a perennial Milwaukee favorite, beer and pretzels.

Cook says the menu will change often, sometimes multiple times a week. And he says that – much like his Travisty pop-ups – dishes will showcase things he loves and food that tells the stories of his life, his experiences and his passions.

"In some ways, all of this is an experiment…and in some ways, it will run a bit like a pop-up," he says. "But it’s not a pop-up. This is our restaurant now. And the goal is to make it memorable and fun."

In the end, Hoban says, Interval is a place for Milwaukeeans to savor the moment.

"Our goal is to create a place where the offerings are thoughtful, and where people can relax and really have this amazing sensory experience. I brought my coffee to Milwaukee to challenge what’s here and push the boundaries. And that’s exactly what this cafe is attempting to do."

Beginning Nov. 12, Interval will be open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and coffee service on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Starting Nov. 21, Interval will also add dinner service Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 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.