Winter in Milwaukee is never a treat, and with a polar vortex descending on the city not once, but two times, this winter’s been worse than ever. The coffices in town have done a great job of making their places even more welcoming to compensate for the dismal conditions outdoors. Urban Joe Café, in West Allis, for example, serves warm apple cider that takes the chill off as you sink into a cushy, overstuffed chair – after plugging in and connecting to the free Wi-Fi, of course.
With only 50 seats, Urban Joe’s is small, but the thoughtful layout and muted earth tones make it feel spacious. Owner Joe Tairi is very friendly. If it’s not too busy, you might just find him tapping away at his own laptop across from the counter. Come for lunch as well as work because the sandwich selection is excellent, including vegetarian options. Everything is made with fair-trade or organic ingredients as much as possible.
West Allis is named for Edward P. Allis, who ran a late 19th century Milwaukee manufacturing firm. From Urban Joe’s giant windows, looking through the falling snow, the historic facades of the Greenfield Avenue business district create a softly blurred picture of the city in Allis’s time. If you squint, you can almost see men in top hats and women in bonnets strolling by the shops.
Urban Joe’s is exactly what a coffice is supposed to be: a comfortable place to work with good food and drink and a refreshing view. Well done, Joe. Well done.
Anodyne Coffee’s unusual name was inspired by turn-of-the-century medicine bottles that were imprinted with the word “anodyne”, meaning “to soothe or cure pain”. Read about this sleek Milwaukee coffice with its upcycled furniture and robust beans over at the Coffice Girl blog.
Las Vegas’ independent coffee shop culture has been growing, and Grouchy John’s is a great example of that. Grouchy John’s began as a mobile coffee truck. In late 2011, namesake owner John Ynigues opened up a brick-and-mortar location in Henderson, complete with a drive-thru, and Grouchy John’s was promptly voted Best New Coffee Shop in 2012 by Las Vegas WEEKLY.
Like many of these independent shops, Grouchy John’s firmly believes in community partnerships. So, the coffee is brewed with beans from Colorado River Coffee Roasters in Boulder City, and pastries come from neighborhood bakeries. The idea is to support good people and local businesses so the money stays in the community. That’s one of the primary reasons I like to work in these places.
Of course, ambiance is just as important as what’s in the cup, and Grouchy John’s is definitely a creative gathering space. It’s very homey. Games and books are available for your entertainment. If you need to pick up a gift with your latte, Grouchy John’s has pieces from local artists on the walls that are available for purchase. If you’re a social media passionista, following Grouchy John’s on Facebook or Twitter will make you privvy to specials and give you glimpses of shenanigans going on at the store.
Those wanting to use the free Wi-Fi can plant themselves at a high countertop by the window or at one of the small tables. Those looking for conversation can relax on leather couches. Grouchy John’s an excellent place to get away from the chain experience and give your hard-earned dollars to a locally owned neighborhood shop.
Liquid Johnny’s is a bar and restaurant on the corner of 76th Street and West Main Street in Milwaukee, easy walking distance from the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park. I wrote a post about it back in September after we’d discovered it when we were working Harley’s 110th.
In addition to an amazing Fish Fry Friday, Liquid Johnny’s has free Wi-Fi. The place is small and casual, with a bar on one side and four-seat tables on the other. Laminated menus stay tucked up against the wall at each table. It’s not really a sports bar, but there are plenty of TVs scattered around if you want to catch the game. Although there’s no charge for Wi-Fi, you do need to ask for the password.
One night when I still had work to do and Mike wanted to have dinner with a colleague, we headed to Liquid Johnny’s. I had some chips and salsa with a glass of Merlot while Mike chatted with his friend. It was a nifty twist on the usual coffice experience!
Sharing space with other commercial enterprises, Colectivo‘s Fifth Ward location upcycles a discarded building into a cool coffeehouse that pays homage to the past. The Foundry café, in Milwaukee’s emerging Fifth Ward neighborhood, is housed in the former Kramer International foundry.
When Milwaukee was first settled, the Fifth Ward encompassed the area south of the Fourth Ward, between the Milwaukee River and First Avenue. Over time, that area was absorbed into Walker’s Point. Unfortunately, as the years went by, Walker’s Point became associated with crime and pollution. Interest in historic preservation and a desire to make the Fifth Ward more appealing prompted the re-adoption of the name. Interestingly, Colectivo (which was then Alterra) began roasting on the fifth floor of a warehouse in Walker’s Point.
The Kramer International foundry produced non-ferrous and ferrous products for pump manufacturers. The café honors that manufacturing tradition and history with its post-industrial design.
As with all the Colectivo shops, everything is baked fresh every day at the Bay View location. They source from local farms as much as possible, and they also partner with other Wisconsin food producers. Wi-Fi is free, although it does ask you to re-accept the usage agreement after a couple of hours.
The Fifth Ward location – with its friendly baristas, funky ambiance, reliable Wi-Fi, and range of great beverages and food – is an eccentric yet cozy place to be productive.
Love this wrapping paper-covered bicycle spotted outside a coffice in Milwaukee.
Kind of a ‘Pimp My Ride’ for the holidays!
Pegasus Restaurant, on Greenfield Avenue in Milwaukee, is just a couple of blocks away from the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park. It has coffee and tea to go with the free Wi-Fi, but it’s not the fancy stuff. We’re talking basic beans and bags of Lipton here. But that’s not the reason for making Pegasus your coffice du jour… or de la nuit.
Pegasus is a grown-up version of the all-night college diner. It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The tables are spacious; the booths are roomy. It’s casual, so there’s no pressure to dress fancy or worry about breaking out your laptop.
You get free wine or beer or dessert with your meal. Before you get too excited, though, the gratis vino is a choice been a Chablis or a rose. Did I mention it’s not fancy? If you’d rather drink outside the box, they have some cool retro cocktails to choose from. How fun would it be to mix new and old by writing a blog post while sipping a Brandy Manhattan!
Pretty in pink: a blushing Greek dressing
The menu is made up mostly of classic American dishes, but some Greek selections are sprinkled in. The Greek salad dressing is a lovely shade of pink with crumbles of feta, and I give the place props for serving their salads on chilled plates. The spinach pie is a well balanced blend of veggie and cheese with a nice flaky crust. The chicken breast is tender. Serving sizes are generous. I brought most of my entree home and enjoyed it for lunch the next day.
Athenian Style Chicken Breast & Spinach Pie with rice pilaf and Athenian sauce
So the next time a deadline means you’re working at midnight and all the usual coffices have gone dark, Pegasus might be just the place to work, drink, and get your Greek on.