In a great little storefront spot on the corner of 9th Street and National Avenue, two large pictures windows adorned in retro print drapery reveal a quaint, yet contemporary looking café. This is The National, a brand new coffee shop and restaurant at 839 W. National Ave. that recently reclaimed the space left empty by Brooklyn Bob's move to Downtown.
Gone are Bob's brown carpeting, red and white checked tablecloths and bright orange accent walls. Sole owner Michael Diedrick hired head chef and general manager AJ Dixon to redesign the Walker's Point place as a hip little joint with a modern-day menu and a vintage style aesthetic.
Open for only two weeks, The National is already buzzing. Dixon says she already has regulars, a sure sign that the neighborhood was in need of a comfortable, casual café to retreat to for a warm cup of coffee or a weekend breakfast with friends.
With a distinct focus on breakfast and lunch, the café opens daily at 7: 30 a.m. (8 a.m. on weekends) and closes at 4:30 p.m. Putting her culinary school practices into place, Dixon crafted a diverse menu that thrives on organic options for the meat eater, the vegetarian and the vegan alike.
If you're looking to make a sit-down meal out of it, the breakfast menu features a full spread of omelets, tofu scrambles, breakfast burritos, French toast and bagels with lox, all priced between $5 and $6.
If you're making a quick stop in on your way into the office, the deli counter offers a variety of grab-and-go items, from Asian tuna sandwiches, southwestern BLTs and hummus wraps to a solid selection of specialty salads.
Dixon's especially excited about her housemade chili, a vegan variety made with oodles of vegetables. But that is not the chili she's entering into the third annual Chili Bowl cook-off, happening from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 25 at Serb Hall, 5101 W. Oklahoma Ave. For this citywide cooking contest, The National represents its skills with a grilled chicken and corn chili with roasted poblano peppers.
And then there is the coffee. The National serves beans from Chicago's Metropolis Coffee Company in an abundance of espresso, coffee and specialty drinks.
If The National has an overall theme, it might be creative sustainability. Creative, because the café encourages area artists to sell their wares in-house and has a prominent wall dedicated to screen-printed concert posters mentioning bands like She & Him, The Swell Season, Broken Social Scene and, front and center, The National.
Dixon's commitment to sustainability shows in the details -- to-go containers that are either recyclable, reusable or compostable, the 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper menus and the compost pile out back that she hopes to turn into a vegetable garden for the restaurant when the season allows.
The National is a warm, friendly place to meet friends or sip coffee in solace -- a welcome addition to the evolving Walker's Point neighborhood, and to Milwaukee as a whole.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”