By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Aug 21, 2020 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

It was a snowy January day when we first shared the news that Mobay Cafe was slated to open at 1022 S. 1st St. At the time, the notion of Caribbean fare seemed a pleasant escape from the cold.

But, even now, as we move into the final days of summer, an island escape might be just the thing. And, as luck would have it, there’s one on the way as the Cafe prepares for its official debut on Saturday, Aug. 22 from noon nto 8 p.m.

Mobay Cafe, named for Jamaica's Montego Bay, is owned and operated by Nadine Dixon, a native of Jamaica whose family owns and operates Irie Palace, a restaurant long recognized for its Jamaican fare. And Dixon designed the new cafe to emulate a Caribbean island vibe.

Tropical environs

Walk into the restaurant and you’ll find the main bar just to the right. Turquoise walls pop against warm wood and patinaed metal accents with decorative mirrors and plants offering visual interest.

Socially distanced bar seating is available, along with a number of two top tables.

The cafe dining area to the left is decorated in deep turquoise and bright yellow and features tropical printed wallpaper, woven baskets and island-inspired art.

A similar aesthetic follows in the main dining area, which features wood and upholstery banquettes and four-top tables.

Meanwhile, the restaurant’s well-appointed private dining room might just be the start of the show with its mural painted by local artist Brendan Minga paying homage to musical icons Rihanna and Bob Marley.

At the bar, guests will find a small selection of wine, both imported and domestic beers and a variety of Caribbean cocktails, including favorites like rum punch and the colorful, tropical Bob Marley (pictured).

On the menu

On the food side, guests will find appetizers like Mobay’s signature Red Stripe marinated grilled wings ($8); Mobay egg rolls (chicken or shrimp, $8); Bahamian conch fritters ($10); mango shrimp skewer ($10) codfish fritters ($10) and Jamaican patties, available with beef, chicken or vegetables ($5 each).

Both lunch and dinner portions are available on the main menu, which features staples like jerk chicken (pictured below, $10/$12), Jamaican curry chicken ($10/$12), curried goat stew ($12/$14) and braised oxtails ($14/$18); along with options like brown stew chicken, an aromatic (and often spicy) chicken stew that's enjoyed throughout the Caribbean from Trinidad and Tobago to Belize and Grenada ($12/$14).

Entrees are served with a choice of white rice or rice and peas, fried plantains and steamed or shredded vegetables.

Seafood options include island curried shrimp ($13); coconut fish (King fish steamed with coconut milk) for $14; escovitch fish (seasoned and fried with vinegar, carrots and onion; served whole with sweet plantains or fried dumplings) fo $16; and Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish featuring salt fish cooked with vegetables, spices and ackee, a creamy, buttery tropical fruit with a uniquely delicate texture ($15). Sides include fries, sweet potato fries, fried ripe plantains, steamed cabbage, fried dumplings, bammy (when available), callaloo or Jamaican hardo bread.

Lunch baskets, priced $7-10, are also available and feature choices like jerk pork, jerk chicken, a jerk burger, jerk tacos, jerk grilled chicken salad or a jerk grilled chicken wrap, served with a choice of fries or fried plantains.

Vegetarian options, including a veggie platter, are also available upon request.

Dixon says guests can expect the menu to change seasonally (and based on the availability of imported items), with fall and winter showcasing more hearty stews and island porridge.

Beginning Sunday, Aug. 23, Mobay Cafe's regular hours will be Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Carry-out and curbside pick-up are both available; call (414) 988-9196 to place your order.

You can follow Mobay Cafe on both Instagram and Facebook.

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.