At its new Downer cafe, Stone Creek Cof­fee shows off an evolved brand, a sense of style, jit­tery drinks and com­fort foods.


At its new Downer cafe, Stone Creek dis­plays its ar­chi­tec­tural and culi­nary evo­lu­tion.

In the last half-dozen years or so, com­pe­ti­tion be­tween cof­fee shops in Mil­wau­kee has be­come a nu­anced game of brand­ing, with an em­pha­sis on local sourc­ing of every­thing but beans and cof­fees with fla­vors as com­plex as wines (and beers!). Cre­at­ing a unique and ap­peal­ing am­biance plays a big role. There has to be a mys­tique that makes this cafe a mecca to which caf­feine-cov­et­ing cus­tomers want to re­turn again and again. Stone Creek Cof­fee has been all about shap­ing that mood, and the new Downer Cafe and Kitchen, in­side a re­de­vel­oped bank build­ing, is its most so­phis­ti­cated at­tempt at that.

Downer in­te­grates the in­dus­trial fea­tures that make Stone Creek’s fac­tory lo­ca­tion and cafe at 88Nine Ra­dio Mil­wau­kee feel edgy and mod­ern, yet it’s warmed by touches that cap­ture more of the spirit of home. For in­stance, there’s a play­ful nook-like seat­ing area un­der ex­posed pipes but with warm light­ing and a bul­letin board of graphic prints about wa­ter, cof­fee and our fair city. Din­ers sip­ping and work­ing on the south side of the cafe do so un­der wooden shelves topped with whim­si­cal knick­knacks. The strate­gic de­sign of seat­ing and green space of­fers a bright, wel­com­ing an­chor to the block. An­other fea­ture here is get­ting your cup of Joe – and any­thing else on the menu – at a walk-up win­dow. The cafe feels more per­sonal be­cause there is more of founder/co-owner Eric Resch in it than any other lo­ca­tion. Downer is the only lo­ca­tion so far to serve the Project EAT menu of Liège-style waf­fles, egg sand­wiches and yogurt bowls – in­spired by Resch’s rit­ual of fix­ing hot break­fasts for his fam­ily and mak­ing his own yogurt.

Project EAT is an easy con­cept to like, and besties have quickly risen to the top, for me at least. The Liège waf­fles, sweeter than typ­i­cal Bel­gian waf­fles ($6-$8.50), have a crisp­ness from the pearl su­gar balls in the dough, carameliz­ing as the waf­fle bakes in the iron. My fa­vorite ($7.50) comes with roasty Stone Creek cof­fee-in­fused but­ter, crisp Nueske’s bacon and a smidge of maple syrup. A great bal­ance of sweet and salty. The egg sand­wiches ($6.50-$7.50), piled into del­i­cate, eggy home­made brioche rolls, are de­li­cious – topped with a crispy or over-easy egg and top­pings such as av­o­cado, roasted rel­ish, asadero cheese and sriracha mayo. I love the rich­ness, but (nap­kin alert) they are messy! Resch’s yogurt fas­ci­na­tion pushed the cre­ative line from home­made honey yogurt with fruit and gra­nola to the stand­out rose­wa­ter yogurt with can­died lemon, lemon curd, toasted pis­ta­chio and pis­ta­chio oil ($7). It’s lemony light yet rich enough to be a dessert. That is a du­al­ity that Stone Creek is spe­cial­iz­ing in. The mod­ern cof­fee ex­pe­ri­ence is play­ful and se­ri­ous, jolt­ing and com­fort­ing. In a strip of mom-and-pop shops that has strug­gled to stay rel­e­vant, this is a boon to the East Side.

This airy room at Stone Creek Cof­fee’s Downer Cafe and Kitchen is per­fect for sip­ping and work­ing, and leads right out­side to the pa­tio.

Stone CreekDowner’s rose­wa­ter yogurtwith can­died lemon, pis­ta­chiosand lemon curd

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