If you heard a rumor that there was a giant coffee cup being hoisted atop a building you can confirm that just by heading east down I-794. The giant rooftop cup, a beacon to all wayward coffee drinkers, signifies you can now sip Stone Creek Coffee slowly at their shining new Factory Store on 5th and St. Paul.
Stone Creek Coffee Factory Store serves up quality and well sourced grind all week, very early on weekdays opening at 5:30a, then 6:00a on Sat and 7:00a on Sun.
Spacious, comfortable and modest, the Stone Creek Factory Store retained the old world charm of given by original building architects Burnham and Root, with vintage cabin completeness provided by Kubala Washakto (a slightly style-cramping choice of architects considering they also designed Alterra’s corporate headquarters). Not moments after entering Stone Creek’s vestibule, do you experience l0arge glass panels beckoning you to enter the cafe to see just how nice inside looks.
At the Factory Store opening, Stone Creek’s renewed industrial interior, formerly just their headquarters and roasting facility, provides a ideal setting for coffee consumption and bustles with activity. It feels like an unpretentious resort suitable for Stone Creek’s typical patronage, a pleasant and seemly crowd not quite spanning the cultural spectrum the way Alterra does. Friendly, knowledgeable Barristas have a marked presence, as well as ample seating at big tables suitable for accommodating feasts in ancient Saxony.
Method to the Cup
Stone Creek still has a Barrista school where its employees hone their craft of brewing and cupping. A kind fellow stands at the coffee bar practice area ready to demonstrate the traditional drip method of brewing. The mock Barrista station captures the intensity of a chemistry lab. Several glass vessels rest on top of digital scales consecutively, cradle ceramic drip cones in their openings. A tea kettle holding water heats up with a digital thermometer monitoring its temperature. In grave detail, the fellow explains that preparation of a single cup of coffee using the drip method suits his personal preference. An emphasis on the precise weight of beans and type of grind, ensures that what the vessel captures, when water brought just below a boil slowly soaks through the coffee and filter, impresses the pallet of those with discerning taste.
Further leaping into maturity, not that Stone Creek hadn’t outdone itself with the primary features of the remodel, baked goods now come in-sourced fresh from its newly christened commercial backing facility. Goodies make it from oven to plate, pipping fresh, and quicker than ever. Stone Creek’s coffee couldn’t be happier.
Stone Creek’s flagship store gets tons of credit for adding a little commerce to an otherwise bleak area for retail business of any kind. Sitting at the footsteps of the Central Post Office and Intermodal Station, and a stones throw from We Energies, an obvious captive market will inevitablely tip their cups. Let’s hope that some spillover from the Third Ward Association’s innovations in pedestrian experience and attempts to heighten awareness of activating dead spaces like Brighten the Passage, can meet West Town and the City halfway and alleviate the bleak walking conditions from surrounding areas to make an even greater success story for Downtown.
Just past 84th and National Avenue, we weave through some barricades placed in the middle of the road to ward off through traffic. We get one maneuver closer to having some Peruvian food from an obscure three month-old niche eatery called Chef Paz. A bunch of construction shouldn’t stop from you from going anywhere now should it? Especially, not West Allis.
I could talk about how enamored I feel driving through West Allis, a.k.a Stallis, and marveling at the shear volume of corner and mid-block pubs and windowless bar and grills enjoying above average patronage on a weekday night. Throw in my pleasant dining experience at Chez Paz, and my work week becomes a little more bearable.
A decorative iron gate encloses the patio seating just outside the entry-way. Entering Chez Paz, a minimally repurposed diner layout holds some continuity from the restaurant’s previous occupants legacy, spheroid lunch counter and all. A layer of mint green paint covering the stucco walls makes an impression on your eyes.
Chef Paz’s cuisine fuses hearty comfort food we know and love Stateside, with preparation uniquely South American. The menu emphasizes interpretations of rice and bean based dishes found throughout the world and the venerable combination of steak and seafood. Traditional American, Asian and Italian recipes get an Andean make-over for those looking for something more familiar.
Way Down Home Cooking
A meal for every appetite, the opening courses glanced Tex-mex favorites like empanadas and “tamals” done with a Peruvian spin, served with a memorable creamy salsa verde. For the main course, I chose a hefty portion of paella loaded with shrimp, calamari and mussels, complete with a shell-on whole-head shrimp garnish. The closing courses will help you indulge further as you manically scoop sinfully rich mousses or custard-y deliciousness from small glass cups.
Chez Paz fires up the kitchen Sunday through Monday just before the lunch hour and closes at 8p weekday and 9 on the weekends. Prices correlate directly with the amount of food ordered, with superb flavor held constant and weekday dinner specials for $6.99.
Two new Peruvian restaurants open on National Avenue by Damien Jaques, OnMilwaukee
Growing legend and proprietor of Growing Power Will Allen delayed the grand opening of the Growing Power Deli and Market to pay small token of respect to his neighbors in Oak Creek. Just another reflection of the thoughtfulness that lends soulful heartiness to Growing Power’s most recent effort to sew seeds where they are most needed and might take. MLK is ready to add a handsome crop to its mixed yield of previous development plantings; across the street lay the hulls of Stella’s Restaurant, which before that was a Ponderosa Steakhouse.
In partnership with the King Commons development in the Harambee neighborhood, Growing Power now offers fresh produce and dry goods in a retail market storefront located on Martin Luther King Drive just north of Center Street. To make it even better, there is a modest but appetizing menu of sandwiches and salads salads available from the cafe’s kitchen. MilwaukeeMag did a taste test of the chicken and dumplings, jumbalaya and the Cucavo (cucumber and avocado) sandwich. Then there is every grill’s old reliable: the burger.
The Great Burger Debate
Much ongoing talk is uttered concerning the where-to for a great burger in Milwaukee. Growing Power can safely join the shortlist. For a flat $6, you get a thick grass-feed lean beef patty that you can have with your choice/combination of fixings and bread. The great part about grass-fed beef, in similar way as with free-range chicken eggs, you are reminded of how accustom to com-agra products you are as to find adequately raised and prepared meat and vegetables surprisingly full of unfamiliarly delicious flavors.
I choose to have my burger with pepper jack cheese, Growing Power’s famous mixed-green lettuce, tomato and fried onions. Half-way through my meal, it didn’t cross my mind to rip the corners off of my mustard packets. Don’t bother asking for fries, the menu is designed to fight unhealthy food choices. Instead Growing Power’s produce refrigerators have many choices to accompany any meal. I chose a handful of fresh and crispy green beans for fifty cents.
Growing Power Deli and Market’s friendly service and nice causal atmosphere comes with all the great food Monday through Saturday from 7:00a to 4:00p, serving coffee, bakery and breakfast sandwiches, and a variety of other lunch fare.
Growing Power Aims to bring fresh produce to food desert by Lori Friedrich, OnMilwaukee
The Growing Power Cafe by Chris Christie, MilwaukeeMag
The Growing Power’s Deli and Food Market open for breakfast and lunch by Carol Deptolla, TapMilwaukee
It hangs out on a block best known for the grizzly working-class pub Steny’s, smushed-up next to Fat Daddy’s. Making use of the sign design made famous by Southern used car lots, coin-sized dots spell “Lo Cash”, shimmering flecks of silvery sunlight off the side of the building.
The interior decor although not brand-spanking new has yet accumulated the drinking hours to adequately absorb the savory juices that amply flow from the kitchen, a dive in the making. A neon sign couldn’t even bring it attention. Lo Cash Live keeps the low-key atmosphere of the 5th Ward strip, still adding flavor to recipe. Lo Cash Live is a Barbecue Joint, South by Mid-West.
I sit down at a table near the wall with my dinner mate. Swinging into the tall seat I nod at Al Jarreau, who poses behind the glass of the frame that holds an old promo portrait. Other crooning singers from various eras and genres nudge corners with him. I’m hard on BBQ so I’m ready for disappointment. Nothing beats the backyard and down-home secrets that make it atop the briquette heated grill.
Lo Cash’s menu makes the right first impression, short, easy to read and to-the-point. Each main dish of either BBQ pork, chicken or brisket and comes with a side, picking from sweet corn, slaw, baked beans or macaroni and cheese (with is technically a vegetable south of the Mason-Dixon). Sandwiches of the same fill also for your fancy. The house adds variety with a fried shrimp po’ boy and a Wisconsin inspired option called Three Little Piggies: a brat patty with pulled pork and bacon, ‘tween a bun. Not one of the meals or sandwiches cost more than ten bucks.
Packing it In
I hone in the brisket meal, it’s even tough to cook-up outdoors. In fifteen minutes a sawed-off tin water pale comes out lined with red and white checked wax paper, table cloth inspired. On top of it, steaming slices of tender beef brisket lay naked, with a perfect amount of edge fat, and covered in vinegary BBQ sauce. The fork goes in, the brisket disappears, mighty delicious on a cool spring evening.
One added note, this 5th Ward diner will soon have the distinction of filling the void left by the closing of Sil’s Mini-Donuts on North Avenue. An appetizer called Corn Fritters comes out looking like a basket of traditional hushpuppies, however, sugared and thoroughly fried, the cornmeal balls come with a tub of molten butter sauce for dip. Goodness!
For Your Listening Pleasure
The food should draw you in and Lo Cash keeps the good times going with cover free live music. I got a fortunate treat hearing a solo set from Annie B who rocks lead for group Annie B and Vagabond Company. They actually just jammed the pre-game show with Icarus Down for the Bucks game Monday night.
Of hard Americana cast and heart made, sometimes mellow vocals belt from Annie B’s lips in front of her acoustic guitar on her two recorded albums Fancies of a Random Heart and a solo project The Kiwi Cafe, sounds well suited for live performance.
Lo Cash Live is located on 2nd and National and open serving great food and music daily.
Thursday night, somewhere deep in Riverwest a menace was brewing. It gained strength like a festering carbuncle with no medical attention and exploded on the corner of Kilbourn and Van Buren during the close of Bastille Days.
Blocking the road, 38 or so co-ed 20-somethings wear nothing but under-roos and their bicycle seats (as in tighty-whities, bras and panties, except that dude in the super tight cuffed-to-the-upper-thigh denim shorts). With a primitive loud hipster mumble for a go signal, they rode-off down Van Buren on their fixed-gear bicycles yelling non-sense like “Hail Satan” and “Bastille Days Suck”. I wonder if they took the Holton Street Bridge back to Riverwest.
The naked-biking incident, in and of itself entirely an underwhelming statement, did little but reenforce my knowledge that certain Riverwest residents are becoming more than a little annoying, they hardly ever touch reality.
That same Thursday night Bastille Days, a sportful appropriation of French culture, for the 30th year straight brought droves of Milwaukee’s most spirited summer revelers together to observe Bastille Day. I don’t know about you but Bastille Days seems to me like a great excuse to run 3 miles then slam a couple of beers or just slam a few beers and mow great food.
Not much, but a little Perspective
Growing up in Milwaukee, Riverwest wasn’t a transitional neighborhood and trendy place to live, it was another hood. One in which I used to buy 40 ounce beers when I was underage in the mid-90′s, for my suburban friends and I. It was an “old” hood that white people lived in too, just like most of the Northside.
I say that in the sense that some Wisconsinites may not think that there are regular ‘ol white people, elderly ones too, that live around blacks. It’s not shocking. It’s not history. It’s not a bold social statement, an attempt to realize integration, as one of the accosted on July 3rd was quoted as saying in Eugene Kane’s recent article in the Journal-Sentinal (more on that soon). It’s just a fact of life and no one who is psychologically well adjusted questions it.
Not only that, who is asking that you integrate into street culture? How can you assume that all blacks ascribe to street culture? Do you let blacks who ascribe to your cultural norms integrate into your social circles? The answers are nobody, you can’t, and you probably don’t.
The A.V. Club couldn’t resist chiding Kane for his after-the-fact remarks about the incident involving a group of teenagers and young adults deciding to go on a rampage (Let’s not talk about the Madison Halloween Riots in comparison) and then beat up a bunch of people.
The ultimate fun crusher, Chief Flynn of the MPD, actually had the most notable comments of the whole ordeal, reminding the public that 8 white people weren’t the only victims that night, 1 Asian, 4 Latinos and 13 blacks were also victimized. Then one must realize that blacks also have to deal with street crime.
Thumb in the Eye
Thursday night the band of naked Riverwest bike-riders needlessly tried to poo-poo a great time being had by others. It would be easy to blame Riverwest, as an entity of entitled socially degenerate scrubs. Doesn’t Riverwest bear the glut of Milwaukee transplants, increasingly representing our State’s small towns, and bringing with them their small town attitudes and anxieties into an already tense area? It may be easy to craft preconceived notions into fact-based statements, but I don’t think thats entirely fair when groups of people are involved.
I don’t hear it often noted that the diversity Riverwest stems from the many different “scenes” it harbors, more so than the racial make-up. Families, holistic health enthusiasts, social and political activists, yuppies and regular old town folk of all backgrounds make events like the Riverwest Follies, and the Community Gardens happen. Street hustlers, punks, apathetic hipsters, and other socially draining sub-groups stake their little piece of Riverwest as well.
Over the 4th of July holiday, some black teens that aspire to immersion in the street hustler scene, met head on with the other scenes in Milwaukee, including other black residents who just want to work and enjoy holidays like anyone else, including the plentiful number of black teens you see, from Metro Mart to Mayfair Mall, working part-time jobs so they can have some spending money.
Without question, the lost black youth scene (that eventually turns to the street hustling scene) did considerable damage to the delicate social fabric of Milwaukee and Riverwest. I wouldn’t be surprised though if a lot of street hustlers and thugs, who this incident might be attributed to, were even thinking “Y’all some stupid muthafuckas!”
Sadly, some white individuals have taken the opportunity to make wholesale judgements against every black person in Milwaukee. However, racial animosity towards blacks by-far predates this “mob” incident, despite the desire to use what happened to justify “new” feelings of animosity.
Sadly, some black individuals have tried to crawl out of their skin and make apologies. Sadly, with futility, the Police now post on corners in Riverwest waiting for the next vicious mob to materialize. Sadly, disregarding those who were beaten up on the 4th, their hipster counter-culture neighbors in Riverwest didn’t participate in Peace Action Coalition’s Peace Rally but took the time late on Bastille Days’ opening night to give Milwaukee the finger.
Looks can be Deceiving
A couple of parting references, a common ethic in West African culture deals very seriously with thieves and robbers. Let’s not forget that some of parents of the young adults that committed the 4th of July lootings turned their children in to the police and urged other to do the same. Lastly, a friend of mine traveling in Togo and Ghana recently shared this story about seeing a communities’ response to property crime. Please read, and remember Milwaukee is still a great place with great people and great events.
It’s Wednesday and nothing else will do but fish for dinner. Where to? Thinking through my mental map quest, Colossus Gyros on 84th and Lisbon comes to mind. Riding the back roads, I get to the triangle corner of the Colossus storefront and across the street the Po Po got some dude pulled over who is doing a little too much explaining. I look over to Colossus. Closed! I thought that place was a local staple! I mush on, turning the corner to head West on Lisbon.
An over-sized back-lit sign proclaiming Champion Chicken employs the help of a cartoon chicken wearing a boxing glove, a beacon shining to diner food and custard lovers on 88th and Lisbon. They have a few different menus with plenty of options, chicken, ribs, fish, shrimp, pizza, and burgers, and sides comprise most of the food. Custard in scoops and sundaes get piled as well. The fresh catch menu surprise is Blue Gill, fried crispy and not too salty. Don’t get your hopes up you won’t find catfish. Champion Chicken is open pretty late, Friday and Saturday until midnight. They also cater.
Skip Culver’s or JJ’s Chicken (originating in that place to the South they say is windy), if you’re in the neighborhood, Champion Chicken has been cooking up the goodness since 1959. Champion Chicken’s location is on 8718 W. Lisbon Avenue.
Circling back to National Avenue from 34th and Scott, I nestle my wheels against the curb under a shade tree. I like spicy food, my hands don’t like hot steering wheels. The city bustles on 35th and National like the pulse of a hyper-tensed vein. People activity registers high in Silver City, as gnarled wills eek out gritty and working-class livelihoods.
Too hot to stay indoors, the neighbors gather on door steps outside of the Asian International Market and speak in an Asian dialect I do not understand, most likely Hmong. Walking up the block to Thai BBQ, passing windows full of American immigrant authenticity, I make a snap unwarranted judgment that I am going to love this Thai dining experience. Reaching the eatery, I ascend the stairs inside to see adorned, with spices, tables creating islands of various sizes for diner’s to escape McWorld.
A tremendous number of religious themes, possibly more so than Cafe Corazon, emblazon Thai BBQ’s interior. Gold painted molding breaks up the deep red trim glazing the walls. Figures of Ganesha and Vishnu accompanied by ornate lanterns and fixtures keep the eyes looking around for more. Departure from the sacred happens in blank wall space, filled with pictures of staged menu items on plates advertising the most popular and rare entrée. Like all good Thai restaurants, you will not lack choices, 101 dishes fill the menu. Amazingly each meal is a little different.
After being seated a middle age gentleman approaches the table, our server. He utters English in a thick accent and perfect grammar of his native language. He has a wry smile that is not completely showing, and issues banter implicitly asking if we would like more time with the menu. Feeling at home as a Thai food veteran, I truly can’t decide what to select. The menu consists of the standard fare: fried rice, rice noodles, fried rice noodles, papaya salads and curries of all varieties. Shrimp, tilapia and duck appear alongside chicken, et al, as the meat choice for each.
My dining buddy selects the Ginger Curry, and I am plain addicted to fat rice noodle with basil, commonly know as Drunken Noodle. Then the inevitable question arises, “How spicy for you?” I want 4 out of 5, and the server looks at me imagining the face of the last 11 Americans to say that. No testament to the quality or flavor of the meal, I would eventually put the self-serve table chili sauces to use.
A tepid but savory soy milk drink and rice wrap spring rolls fried to perfection satiate my wait. A flat screen television beams recorded Thai pop music videos that have already made the dining experience well worth it. The server moves to the background near the fruit smoothy station, in front of kitchen entrance, pins a cordless phone between his shoulder and ear to chat while counting receipts on a Saturday afternoon. Suddenly a scene flashes in my head that I am on location for a Jean Claude Van Damme action sequence for a straight to DVD flick.
The food arrives and I quickly snap back to reality. Steaming hot spices, singe the combination of meats, vegetables and noodles placed before me, copiously filling quaint china ware accompanied by customary communal sticky rice. It’s 90 degrees outside and the air conditioning maintains a relatively cool climate in the mid-70′s. These conditions only encourage my appetite for chilies.
As expected Drunken Noodle takes my mouth to a familiar place, that of wanting seconds. Having asked for a sample of my friend’s Ginger Curry, my sentiments quickly erased all memory of Drunken Noodle and embraced fully that Thai BBQ’s curry recipe easily could take the title of the best I have ever tasted. Keeping custom with all great Thai restaurants, the unfinished portions whisked away return stuffed inside durable Asian style paper take-out boxes.
Not for everyone, Local Trolley recommends Thai BBQ only to the most experienced and hardcore Thai food lovers. I’m from the camp that expects certain things from Thai food restaurants and it’s not plastic trays that look like they came from the Froedtert medical complex, with dainty helpings of pasta and red curry powder from Sysco sprinkled on it, and no rice!. I suspect the Silver City neighborhood alone will keep unappreciative diners away. A superb value Thai BBQ courses range from $8-$12.
To festive Milwaukeeans, no opportunity to have the summer’s first Margarita presents itself better than Cinco de Mayo. Cafe Corazon sits as a kitsch landmark on the Beerline bike trail, happy to oblige distilled agave cravings despite Cafe Corazon’s Puerto Rican inspiration. Nestled just North of Burleigh on Bremen Street deep in Riverwest (the unofficial home of Polish flats) uninhibited good times radiate from Cafe Corazon’s craggy triangular-shaped building.
The traditional cantina spirit lives inside Cafe Corazon. Patrons converse jovially, aided by house specialty libations removing any inhibitions one might have of sharing minimal space with the maximum number bodies. There will be no cagey American sensibilities requiring acres and privacy here. Diners in wait stand, sit or lean with beverages clutched and mingle with neighbors.
Decor tinted with teal tropical ocean hues, starkly contrasted with blood-red bar and wood trim, give backdrop to the ample religious relics and Catholic keepsakes commemorating the Christ’s Passion that occupy every free nook. Enjoying more than one of the tastiest and tartest mouth searing Margaritas served on record will certainly beg an extraordinary test of self-control, to avoid unseemly acts beckoning God’s forgiveness. Fortunately the Parish Priests of this Mass, of Latin-inspired cuisine, shepherd wayward appetites with insatiable dishes.
Good things come to those who wait for a place at one of the six coveted table tops tended by the cafe staff. Part of the Cafe Corazon experience must include the faux pas of wetting your appetite by eying others’ food while on stand-by. There is no denying that every food combination appears absolutely delicious, urgently flying out of the kitchen quickly uniting with the ordering guest.
Certain details such as the thinly sliced medallions of radish garnishing the tacos, the secret house tomatillo and cilantro-based green salsa or flavorfully doctored black beans, compliment the traditional Latin menu nicely. Plates of tacos, enchiladas or quesadillas with choice of filling, including the lesser known Mechada (slow cooked pulled beef) anchor the menu. Sea Food aptly varies the menu further and all dishes have a vegetarian option. Keeping with sustainable ethics, Cafe Corazon uses Restaurant Supported Agriculture and raises its meat locally.
Cafe Corazon serves up tastiness Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 10pm. Saturday and Sunday offers brunch starting at 10am.