Looking for new spots to try? Lori Fredrich will be dishing out her top five picks in 20 different dining categories throughout the month of October.
A great coffee shop is like a home away from home (with better coffee). But the best of them also have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes you want to return again and again.
This list contains five of those very special places.
Been to Discourse? If you haven't, that's alright. The independent coffee concept has only had a presence in Milwaukee for about 10 months. But what Ryan Castelaz and his growing team of inspired baristas have accomplished in that short amount of time (including establishing a cafe at Crossroads Collective, a residency at the Milwaukee Art Museum and a cafe of its own) is nothing less than impressive.
Head to any Discourse location and you're guaranteed an experience. You can play it safe by ordering up a cup of standard drip coffee. But you can also opt for a pour-over made with coffee from a boutique roastery you've probably never visited. You can order a standard latte (it will be excellent) or you can branch out and try a salted maple latte, which might just change your world with its nuanced sweetness and unpredictable (but sublime) pops of saltiness.
Wanna take it further? Order the El Mocha, a drink which melds espresso, dark chocolate and aged balsamic vinegar in a brilliantly complex and not-too-sweet take on the standard mocha.
But at Discourse you can also opt for full-on avant garde. Order the caramel apple bomb and you won't even get coffee. Instead you'll be bequeathed with a magical sphere of flavor that explodes in your mouth, releasing all the flavors of autumn in a single bite.
Milwaukee has become an amazing coffee city, and the rise of spots like Discourse is just proof in the pudding.
Every cafe strikes a different mood. At Likewise (formerly Wonderstate), it’s driven by modern design and floor to ceiling windows that create a sleek, sun-drenched space. Despite its clean lines, it never feels cold, largely thanks to the live plants that thrive at every turn.
Likewise is the sort of place where ordering an espresso can turn into a deep conversation with the barista about fair trade coffee, single origin beans and complex flavor profiles. But it’s also a place where you can just sit and enjoy one of the best honey lattes in the city.
Oh, did I mention seasonal drinks? Grab yourself an Autumn Sweater; it's their take on the classic PSL made with real pumpkin and a dash of Bittercube chipotle cacao bitters.
3. The Daily Bird
If you need some good vibes with your daily cup of joe, you’ll find it at The Daily Bird, a coffee brand built on community, recovery and hope. Born as a pop-up shop, The Daily Bird is now a brick and mortar neighborhood staple, which serves up really great coffee, a worthy food menu (which includes delicious treats from Honey Bear Baked Goods), and daily affirmations: reminders to “Stay Rad” and encouragement for the moments when you just need to get over that next big hump.
You don’t get that at just any coffee shop. But, Dan Zwart and his team offer it up by the bushel, with no strings attached.
There’s always been something wonderfully quirky about Interval. Yes, you can get a (great!) cup of coffee and some of the best cold brew in town. But you’ll also find Tortilla Espanola featuring confit potatoes, onion and egg with romesco sauce.
It’s a vibe. And you know it when you feel it. Walk into the shop and you become part of something bigger than yourself. You’re inducted into a community of folks who care about the little things, the simple things… like a steaming mug of chai on a fall day. Don’t sleep on their seasonal specials (the s'mores inspired You're Killin' Me Smalls is among the fall drinks you might want to try).
5. La Finca
I’ve often driven out of my way to order a coquito latte or a chiles rellenos grilled cheese from La Finca, and it’s not just because both are delicious. There’s a little magic in this sibling-owned cafe with its boldly painted walls and staff that somehow always seem to be having a great day. It's inspiring. And, for all of those reasons, it has become one of my favorite places to meet friends or hole up and get some writing done.
Never been there? Make it a point to stop in and grab a cup of great coffee (sourced from the owners’ grandfathers farm in Oaxaca, Mexico), an agua fresca and something delicious from their monthly-changing menu. Hopefully you'll feel the same kind of magic.
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.