The new Valentine Cafe in Oak Creek will open its doors to the public beginning Monday morning, May 1 at 6 a.m.
The cafe, which is located on the west side of Drexel Town Square at 7981 S. 6th St., is kitty corner from BelAir Cantina, which opened in September, and just down the street from Pizza Man, Water Street Brewery and the future home of an Oak Creek Cubanitas.
And guests should note that the experience the cafe is preparing to offer goes well beyond the scope of the usual coffee shop.
"We’re excited to be an outpost here for specialty coffee," notes Joe Gilsdorf, managing partner. "But the coffee end of the business is really just one component. We’re essentially a full service restaurant and wine shop that also serves excellent coffee."
The move makes sense. Both Gilsdorf and founder Robb Kashevarof got their starts in the restaurant industry. Gildsdorf, who worked in restaurants since the age of 14, was a co-owner of Nessun Dorma through 2008. And Kashevarof spent 20 years in the industry working for local restaurants including Ristorante Bartolotta as well as venues in England, Hawaii and Oregon. The two met while working in the wine industry and bonded over their love for coffee, wine and food. And the cafe, in many ways, is the culmination of their combined 40-plus years of experience.
"Guests really have a number of choices here," notes Kashevarof. "They can grab and go or sit down and let us take care of them and give them the full experience."
The cafe sports clean modern design in which polished concrete floors stand against warm wood elements, texturized metals and hanging planter boxes.
Seating for up to 45 guests can be found barside as well as at a variety of two- and four-top tables on the ground floor. Creature comforts include plenty of outlets and USB ports for charging electronic devices, along with digital menu boards that double as televisions or screens for corporate events.
Chef Bruce Badke, formerly of Distil, designed the cafe menu, which includes house-made offerings like a bagel with lox, a breakfast burrito and a yogurt parfait, all priced $6-8. There are also grab-and-go items like pastries, muffins and cinnamon rolls provided by City Market.
Lunch and dinner items include a daily scratch-made soup and numerous salads ($4-7) along with sandwiches including a bahn mi with tofu, chicken, salmon or steak with pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeño, scallion-ginger mayo and cucumber ($7-14, depending on the protein); a steak sandwich featuring grilled flank steak with caramelized onions, arugula, gruyere and horseradish sauce ($10); and a BLT with braised slab bacon, arugula, spicy tomato jam and herbed cheese spread ($8).
Shareable items to pair with beer or wine include cheese and charcuterie boards ($14), artichoke dip served with grilled fresh corn crostini ($9) and roasted marrow bones served with grilled bread and a simple salad tossed in a gremolata vinaigrette ($10).
Gilsdorf says the menu is purposefully trim to start, but guests can expect an expanded menu as the cafe moves forward.
On the beverage side, guests can enjoy a full range of coffee and espresso-based beverages, draft cold brew, bottled beer and seven local tap beers – including selections from breweries such as Enlightened, Karben 4, City Lights and Third Space – as well as a carefully curated list of wines.
Among elements that set Valentine apart is its wine selection, which includes four tap wines (two white, two red) along with a fairly extensive bottle collection featuring international selections in a variety of styles from a diverse selection of growing regions.
"We’re approaching the wine list with the same zeal as coffee," says Gilsdorf. "From its origin to its flavor profile. After all, it’s really our passion for wine that informed our passion for coffee in the first place."
There will also be an emphasis on exploration and learning, he notes. "It’s about sharing," he says. "Wine doesn’t need to be for fancy occasions. It’s about breaking down barriers and introducing people to really great affordable options."
In that spirit, the cafe’s mezzanine will function as a wine tasting room and special events space as well as additional cafe seating.
Bottles of wine will be available for purchase. And both tap wine and beer can be taken to-go in stainless vacuum insulated growlers. Even better, Valentine branded 64-ounce growlers can also be augmented with a special Keg Cap, complete with a CO2 cartridge that allows the beer to keep longer without losing its carbonation.
But the Valentine Cafe experience isn't limited to inside the cafe. Patio spaces on the south and east will accommodate sidewalk dining during clement weather.
Complementary garage doors on two sides of the building can also be opened to facilitate an open air dining experience.
"The goal," says Gilsdorf, "is to make the cafe an extension of the park. We’re here to be part of the community, part of the neighborhood."
Valentine Cafe hours are Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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.