Crack of Dawn
We have nothing but accolades for these top-of-the-morning standouts, served up in geographic pecking order.
Quinoa skillet from Trocadero. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.
See more photos from the cover story in our photo gallery here, and take an inside look at our cover shoot here.
Skipping breakfast is an outrage to chickens everywhere. Consider this: It’s estimated that in 2014, the average person will consume 256 eggs. That’s a stat from the American Egg Board, which happily peeps that our per capita consumption of eggs is at an all-time high. What better way to trumpet the cause of hens-in-a-family-way than this compendium of our favorite Milwaukee-area breakfasts. Yes, beyond giving props to feathered fowls, we squawk about the ritual of sitting down to a proper weekday breakfast. And as weekends simply allow us the opportunity to breakfast longer, we offer the clucking best in local restaurant brunches. You ready? Sun’s coming up again soon.
Café at the Plaza
1007 N. Cass St., 414-272-0515
The deco cafe’s new chef, Kady Gibowski, wasted no time putting her stamp on the breakfast menu, adding the captivating pork schnitzel with crispy spaetzle, bacon, mustard cream sauce and, of course, eggs. Hot to trot! Commit these other plates to memory: corned beef hash with sauerkraut and homemade corned beef, the Mexican scrambler with pulled chicken, black beans and queso fresco, and – for poppyseed fanatics like me – the light, lemon poppyseed pancakes with blueberry syrup. Daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m. $4-$13.
Buckley’s Restaurant and Bar ✷
801 N. Cass St., 414-277-1111
The sidewalk patio, with its privacy screen of potted trees, offers urban mise en scène. Bright setting, luminous food. Forgive the hyperbole in the “mile high” quiche’s name. With a velvety custard filling, this wedge of decadence sells itself (fillings vary). Also earning a nod: Guinness-braised corned beef hash, and duck confit with polenta and a basted egg drizzled with white truffle oil. Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $6-$18.
Smoke Shack ✷
332 N. Milwaukee St., 414-431-1119
Evan Christian is on guitar. Pulled ham is on biscuits. The day is looking up. The Third Ward Q joint has a trick or two up its sleeve. For instance, the pulled pork Benedict hides a slice of fried green tomato between an English muffin, plump poached eggs and pulled Berkshire pork. I don’t usually crow about ham, but the tender, sweet-salty house-cured Berkshire ham is the meat to betroth to biscuits and gravy. Need carbs? Try the dainty sweet potato pancakes with mascarpone cream. Or keep the plate-sized iced cinnamon roll – easily a four-mouth job – all to yourself. Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $9-$13.50.
Harbor House ✷
550 N. Harbor Dr., 414-395-4900
Every brunch list needs a pants-splitting, buffet-style spread like this one. The diner makes the rounds to stations set up for cold salads/seafood; carved meats; omelets and waffles made to order; and petit four-size desserts. For extra coin, you can order steamed crab legs and a bloody mary or mimosa. Highlights were the raw oysters, beef tenderloin and a dizzying assortment of desserts. Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Adults $39.95; children 4-12 $15.95.
Beans & Barley
1901 E. North Ave., 414-278-7878
Hardly a surprising entry. Beans is a fail-safe for things like the eggs Cubano, tofu scrambler (if you lean in the soy product direction), and whole wheat buttermilk flapjacks. Mon-Fri 8-11 a.m.; Sat-Sun 8 a.m.-2 p.m. $4.50-$9.50.
2124 N. Farwell Ave., 414-271-2124
Last spring, Simple produced a fine apple crumble French toast that combated the dreary weather. On the salty spectrum, don’t be surprised if you default to the Korean BBQ breakfast bowl. The pork belly, brown rice, kimchi and over-easy egg are the proverbial monkey on the back. Mon-Fri 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat 7 a.m.-
3 p.m.; Sun 8 a.m.-3 p.m. $7.25-$9.95.
Pizza Man ✷
2597 N. Downer Ave., 414-272-1745
It was only a matter of time before Pizza Man started offering weekend brunch. What does that mean? A carbonara pizza – topped with pancetta and a sunny egg facing the sky – at a table under the retractable roof. Another highlight: garlic bread Benedict, where poached eggs and prosciutto are served on the Man’s incredible garlic bread. Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-2 p.m. $9-$24.
Trocadero Gastrobar ✷
1758 N. Water St., 414-272-0205
The menu is half-funky, half-traditional. On one hand, there’s eggs, bacon and toast. On the other, there’s the quinoa skillet with portobellos, sweet potatoes, fried eggs and fire-roasted tomato sauce. Then, they fire up more hits that smack more of supper: short rib au gratin, “tips and eggs” (red wine- and chipotle-marinated beef tenderloin tips), and a challah French toast topped with peanut butter crème anglaise. Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m. $6-$15.
317 N. 76th St., 414-299-3180
I’d put Blue’s hit/miss track record at a dozen feats for every fail. And not really a fail – just something you wouldn’t order again because the stuffed browns and crispy blue crab cake are too good. Hoppel poppel (with cherrywood bacon and sausage) drew such cheers as a special that it joined the regular menu. That’s how the cast is assembled. The breakfast pizza deserves permanency – the soft-cooked egg serves as a rich, creamy sauce. If your watch is telling you you’ve only got a moment to choke something down, wait to come here until you have time to spend savoring. Daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m. $3.25-$11.95.
Le Rêve Patisserie & Café
7610 Harwood Ave., Wauwatosa, 414-778-3333
The Tosa cafe’s “petit dejeuner” – the French term for “breakfast”– is a simple repast. Diners order at the counter, and the food is ferried to the table. A breakfast sandwich begins hopefully because it starts with a flaky and buttery croissant. Filled with ham, Brie and egg, it’s all you need. Unless you start with a crepe instead. Love the savory version with wild mushrooms, caramelized onion, Gruyère and a basted egg. Mon-Sat 8-11 a.m. $7.95-$9.95.
North Avenue Grill
7225 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, 414-453-7225
When you hit this place at 7 a.m., it feels like everyone else has been up for hours, reading the paper and drinking coffee. Pull up to the counter and hop onto a swivel stool. Better to see the action in the short-order kitchen. Stingy, that cook is not. When I order the bacon and avocado breakfast quesadilla, I see him burying the sizzling eggs with diced bacon and chunks of avocado. This magical dish comes with fried tortillas dipped in cinnamon sugar. The grill has a section called “On the Healthier Side.” I’m not so interested, especially since that part of the menu doesn’t contain the chorizo omelet and homemade corned beef hash. Serves breakfast all day: Mon-Sat 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun 7 a.m.-3 p.m. $2.95-$10.50.
617 Wells St., Delafield, 262-646-8988
Customers might lumber into this 31-year-old Lake Country haunt in the morning. That’s in contrast to the expeditious pace of the staff. Orders line up on plates next to the grill; just as quickly, servers appear to snatch them up. The grill does a super job with potatoes, cut thin and fried until they’re framed with crisp, caramel-colored edges. They form the base of the breakfast skillet (try the beef tenderloin), as well as omelets and eggs Benedict. Pancakes are fluffy, plate-sized and studded with fruit. Daily 6 a.m.-3 p.m. $3.45-10.25.
Original Pancake House
16460 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield, 262-797-0800; also an East Side location at 2621 N. Downer Ave., 414-431-5055
Feeling a might peckish? You’ll be looking for the nearest available cot after ordering these house staples – the Dutch baby and the German pancake. The former is a puffy, oven-baked pancake the size of a Frisbee. The latter could feed a family of four, maybe six. Smothered with sliced apples, butter and brown sugar, it’s as rich as an upside-down cake. Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sat-Sun 7 a.m.-3 p.m. $3.95-$11.45.
4401 W. Greenfield Ave., 414-231-9120
Housed in a structure resembling a red cow barn, the Rooster appears unexpectedly in the urban, commercial environs of Miller Park Way. The country décor smacks of Cedarburg at its homiest. Yet it’s urban in its sensibility and homage to “local,” like serving Anodyne coffee, culling ingredients from Wisconsin farms, and making its own fruit preserves and yogurt – which seems so-what until you try it. Ultra-creamy. The simplest way to eat it is with honey and a headdress of whole walnuts. Not to be missed: the red potato sautés, pancakes and chicken chorizo-egg tacos. Daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m. $5-$18.
Juniper 61 ✷
6030 W. North Ave., 414-727-6161
If the only way an egg makes its way into your digestive system is by sandwich, make it the hangover burger, an uber-juicy half-pounder topped with bacon, cheddar and a fried egg. The Benedicts are swell, too – smoked salmon and ancho pulled chicken are among the toppings. Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $6.95-$16.
4629 N. Port Washington Rd., 414-332-8808
Owner Glenn Fieber is always working on new breakfast creations and testing them out on customers. I admire his drive, but I opt for the staples. Instead of hash browns, I get the roesti – potatoes fried with onions and Swiss cheese. Toast? No, I want the “pillow” – a grilled Sciortino’s roll licked with butter. If eggs aren’t in the game plan, I’m all over the banana pancakes – golden, fluffy cakes dotted with sliced banana. Sun 8-11 a.m.; Mon 10-11 a.m.; Tues-Sat 6:30-10:30 a.m. $3.29-$9.99.
3519 W. Silver Spring Dr., 414-461-0210
Specializing in – but not limited to – a thing called hoffel poffel (sometimes spelled “hoppel poppel”). It’s an egg skillet, and at Jo’s, they feed you like it’s going to be your last meal. If you’re hungry two hours later, there’s something wrong with you. Besides this cheery mix of eggs, salami, potatoes, onion and cheese, Jo’s makes great omelets and hash browns. If you’re on a hoffel poffel kick, see the Benji’s Deli write-up at right. Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sat 6:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. $3-$10.
Riverwest Co-op Cafe
733 E. Clarke St., 414-264-7933
Tucked in the rear of the co-op grocery store, the cafe makes the biggest, badass-iest pancakes in town. Thick, whole-grain cakes that taste better the more you pack in them – granola, coconut, blueberries, bananas. And once you have the bibimbap – a Korean meal-in-a-bowl with brown rice, steamed veggies, egg or barbecued tofu, and lots of kimchi (fermented cabbage) – you’ll develop an addiction to the salty, pungent flavors. Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-11 a.m.; Sat-Sun 8 a.m.-2 p.m. $2.50-$8.50.
4156 N. Oakland Ave., 414-332-7777; 8683 N. Port Washington Rd., Fox Point, 414-228-5130
Hoppel poppel (the spelling they use here) comes in two sizes – big and bigger. One consists of scrambled eggs, potatoes and salami; the “super” HP adds vegetables and cheese. What else? Corned beef hash rarely disappoints. Nor does my Jewish deli fallback – a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese and red onion. Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat-Sun 7 a.m.-8 p.m. (Fox Point location opens at 8 a.m. Sat-Sun) $3.49-$14.49.
1505 W. Mequon Rd., Mequon, 262-241-7076
In 1999, the venue changed names from “La Boulangerie” to its current moniker. In the La Bou days, it perfected the cinnamon morning bun. The pastry is still here, offered as a luxurious French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar. Other sweet breakfast items include a luscious raspberry-stuffed challah French toast with raspberry jam and mascarpone. If you’d rather something savory, the build-your-own frittata is a winner. Mon-Fri 7-11 a.m.; Sat-Sun 8 a.m.-3 p.m. $4.25-$9.95.
Cafe Corazón ✷
3129 N. Bremen St., 414-810-3941
Ay caramba! Riverwest’s Mexican standout does a phenomenal burger, which becomes a phenomenal brunch burger with the addition of a fried egg (duh). Cattle from Richway Acres Farm in Waupun is the source of the meat. Bacon, cheddar jack and jalapenos generously round this burger out. Rounding out my recommended choices are the chilaquiles (tortillas fried with eggs and salsa) and huevos divorciados (eggs that are separated by a red and a green sauce). Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $3-$13.
Wolf Peach ✷
1818 N. Hubbard St., 414-374-8480
Roll in with the bushy-tailed and the bloodshot-eyed. The bar does a steady, if not frenetic, business of dispensing stiff beverages. The menu achieves a fine mix of familiar and unorthodox. My picks veer left of center, to cornmeal-fried smelt with latkes, tofu hash, and fried chicken and waffles. Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $6-$14.
231 S. Second St., 414-271-5555
There’s no arguing with a solid, straightforward breakfast. That’s what this Walker’s Point walkup – on the same block as Purple Door Ice Cream and Indulgence Chocolatiers – does best. I’m referring to things like sweet potato hash, breakfast burritos, eggs Benedict, and biscuits and gravy. Best seating is beside the windows facing Second Street, a diverting spot to watch the morning take hold. Daily 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. $3-$9.95.
2317 S. Howell Ave., 414-482-2269
Consider the idea that you might crave – ravenously yearn for – a Mexican breakfast, but not for breakfast. At maybe 12:30 p.m. Or 8:30 at night. GTO, as the local folks call it, can fill you up with huevos con chorizo at any time of day. For an uncomplicated meatless (but spicy) dish, I like huevos a la Mexicana (eggs with jalapenos, onions and tomatoes). For a standout dish with steak and eggs, try the chilaquiles con cesina. Daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m. $5.50-$7.95.
2491 S. Superior St., 414-747-1007
“Chicken-fried” means to batter and fry something in the style of Southern fried chicken. Best of Palomino’s brunch plates is, in fact, the chicken-fried steak, a crispy breaded cube steak served with eggs and either cheesy hash brown casserole or a bowl of warm, thick grits. Straying from the morning norm, I’d also point you to the crispy pork tacos, and fried chicken and waffles. Slip in a side of thick-cut brown sugar-topped bacon. Sat-Mon 10 a.m.-3 p.m. $5-$12.
The Noble ✷
704 S. Second St., 414-688-5289
On a Monday afternoon, patrons throw down bloody marys with nary a care. The Noble targets the food-service crowd for its Mondays-only brunch, but anybody can justify it as a workday lunch. Specials supplement the printed menu that takes the egg a few clucks past bacon and eggs to a pork chop with sun-dried tomato cream sauce or lobster Benedict with potatoes O’Brien. Between walls hung with ukuleles and other flea market finds, your table may buckle under the weight of plated delights such as Hens and Chicks (a chicken, bacon and egg skillet) and steak faux Benedict (two eggs, a flat-iron steak, spinach and herbed Brie sauce). If the Velvet Elvis bacon pancakes with bananas and homemade peanut butter makes a return visit as a special, it’s on my table, for sure. Mon 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $5.95-$16.95. ■
✷ Denotes Brunch
Ann Christenson is Milwaukee Magazine's dining critic. Write to her at email@example.com.
This article appears in the August 2014 issue of