restaurants 5/15 * cafes 8/5

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My dad once said, "when you find a restaurant you like, find one or two dishes that you really love, and get those every time ..." This always kind of stuck with me. I guess the theory would be consistency and lessening the odds that you'll be disappointed trying something new. (I'll have to ask him.) Well, for the most part, I still follow that advice.

I should mention here that I am a vegetarian, so my favorite dishes may not be something a (closed-minded) meat eater might choose, but... It's my belief that if a restaurant can make an awesome vegetarian dish, their meat dishes should be excellent as well! So I'll try to give you an idea of the experiences I had or have when I do decide to eat !! :-)

When you're hungry.

Abu’s – Farwell Avenue

Apollo Cafe Brady Street

Cafe LuLu Howell Avenue, Bayview

County Clare Astor Street

Gill's Cafe Downer Avenue

The King & I 2nd St., Downtown

Lake Park Bistro Lake Park

Mimma's Brady Street

Mykono’s Gyros and Cafe – Van Buren

The Social 2nd Street, Walker's Pt.

Soup Brothers Florida, off 2nd St.

restaurants 5/15 * cafes 5/2

Primarily coffee & a small bite to eat.

Brewed Awakenings - Brady Street

My favorite! The coffee is awesome, the location is great, they've got the greatest name, & the bathroom is really colorful and roomy enough to fit me and both my kids! Small wooden tables, usually some type of art on the walls, friendly service, nice front window view looking out to Brady (plus a bench and steps to sit on if you're hangin' outside). The clientele is varied and interesting, from all age groups and backgrounds. Their menu is fairly big (the vegetarian chili is wonderful), and they sell HUGE Rice Krispies Treats!! And much of the time, someone is outside with a really great dog that you can give some lovin' to, if you're so inclined. What could possibly be better? :-)


Fuel Cafe - Center Street, Riverwest

I really love the Fuel, and although I always feel like I should be intimidated by the sort of biker/punk/rebel culture when I walk in there, I'm not. It's cool. (and yes, I'm easily intimidated!) Last time I was there? 2 men in Scottish garb, one with a very loud drum, and one with bagpipes, decided to stroll in and play a tune. I'm not sure why, but it was really cool! :-)  They've got a nice menu with vegetarian options (tomato & cheese sandwich is wonderful, served on some amazing bread!), some really strong coffee, and a really slick web site. They also have THE best marketing in town. FUEL bumper stickers and "gear" can be seen all over the place, including my car (had to cover up the previous owners Packers sticker!!).

Comet Cafe - Farwell Avenue

Smaller than it's sibling the Fuel (above), Comet is a wonderful place to sit outside and read your new used book from the Constant Reader (next door - see "Shops - Books") in the summer. Before my first visit there, I always smiled when I would drive down Farwell and see their colorful lights dangling outside, looking like my grandparents indoor patio with the hanging fruit lights! Inside is uncomplicated, with a great gold wall with small "symbols" (pinup girl, moon, bowling pins, etc...) painted in black throughout. The south wall is covered with the work of local photographers. (I'm assuming they're local!) The only problem with putting great photographs on your walls is people want to look at them. This becomes a problem because, as you're sitting, you're staring at the wall, which makes those sitting against the wall nervous, thinking it's them that is being stared at. :-)  The current b/w photos adorning the walls at Comet are of musicians, playing in clubs, hanging out, etc... that really captured the essence of what music and rock n' roll is about. Energy. I was pretty much ready to ask "where can I buy these!?!" (thank to Brian Jacobson, photographer and worshipper of the Comet, for use of his photos)

The Comet is smoker friendly, but that's about where the friendly ends. To want to hang inside, you have to have "attitude" (usually leaning toward the tattooed-pierced-faux-negative). The coffee is good and strong. The food I've had, so far, is not worth the "price." The veggie chilly is to be avoided at all cost unless you like beans floating in a pathetic, flavorless liquid. Save the cash and get your food at Brewed.

Beans & Barley - Farwell &  North

I debated... do I put this under restaurant or cafe? Since I primarily go to B & B as a deli, I put it here. :-)  B & B is known for it's "vegetarian friendly" menu, but don't let that veggie aura fool you. There's meat there, if that is your thing. Organic, most likely. For the record, though, if you're diabetic, bring your own sugar substitute. Only "Sugar in the Raw" served there! (I guess it's a whole "health" thing.) 

If you are hungry for lunch, in the area, and are looking for something quick but off the beaten path, head to the deli counter!! For under $5.00 you can get a couple nice-size portions of any number of items. I love the rice & peas in cumin, or the sautéed zucchini, or glazed carrots.  Hummus, Spinach Salad, chicken, pasta salad, etc... Grab a water or juice and you've got lunch. And if you have time, shop a bit! They have a nice little grocery and their greeting cards are awesome!! 

ReJo's - Oakland Avenue

I seem to like everything that was in this building. First High Wind New Age Books in the 80s & 90s. They moved and then I loved Rory's Coffee Shop. It was a nice, dark little coffee shop primed for poetry readings (even though I've never been to one) and they made an awesome veggie burger!! Well, ReJo's is not Rory's - I believe it even says so on the door!!  It's brighter, with more of a musical flair upstairs, and by now they may have opened their outdoor garden seating!! (up the stairs, out the door and toward the back.) Coffee related paraphernalia adorn the walls downstairs, while music related items are upstairs, with brightly painted tables and large dark wooden chairs with red vinyl seats that must have come from a neighborhood Italian restaurant that closed. Very cool. There's a small stage where I imagine owner Joey Leal has performed on occasion and has others do so as well. ReJo's serves primarily Mexican style food. At first I was a little disappointed, hoping for more coffee shopish fare (chili, sandwiches, etc.). I decided to have a veggie burrito and sit out front. The burrito was wonderful - big, warm tortilla stuffed with black beans, red and green pepper, green onion, corn, and cucumber, topped with a non-overwhelming amount of cheese and a little "strip" of sour cream. On the side was a delicious "salsa." This is not the "pour on" or "chip dipping" type salsa, but rather a scoopable fresh, light, mildly spicy mix of finely chopped chilled tomatoes, onions... it was really unusual, really delicious, and a great choice for my first "al fresco" dining of the year! :-) Oh... and the mocha I had with it was excellent as well, although mochas and Mexican don't always mix. :-)

Alterra - Prospect Avenue

By far the coolest exterior design (click on tour on their site, then the first pic), outstanding and standout, they have a beautiful interior as well!! It's a wonderful place to sit outside in the summertime, as well. Alterra Roasters is local coffee made good, and like a micro brew, a lot of shops around town use their coffee. I can't, however, let this opportunity pass without saying that if you're sick, sore throat, cold coming on??? The Dragon's Breath Tea is wonderful and will kill your ills!!!!

While I haven't been to the other Alterra locations, I do know that they have recently acquired a small historic cream city brick building off of Lincoln Memorial Drive and are planning on opening a coffee/cafe that will also serve as a venue for artwork in some capacity, given its proximity to the Milwaukee Art Museum and various galleries.  


LaBoulangerie - Broadway, Third Ward

On the healthier, more "trendy" side, I guess, is LaBou (pronounced LaBOO). I've only been to the Third Ward location, so I can only speak for that. :-) I love this place. The location is really cool - it's below street level but has lots of windows to give it light. Currently they're remodeling the whole building so it will be interesting to see what they do with it!! They have a small but interesting and "healthy" menu, great great coffee, and their deli counter has this beautiful and fresh mixed fruit by the pound from Sendik's that I can never resist getting even though it's pricey - served with a LaBou hard roll. They have great salads, sandwiches, soups, and "reheatable" items to go on one side, a dine-in cafe on the other.

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