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This café in East Troy balances small-town magnetism and progressive thinking.

2894 On Main’s carrot tacos; photo by Chris Kessler

The last time Jonna Froelich was featured in these pages, in 2016, she was wearing a white coat at I.d., the small plates restaurant that replaced Andrew’s in the Delafield Hotel. As executive chef/GM, she played a key role in developing the restaurant’s concept, even helping design the tricked-out open kitchen. But just a year after I.d. opened, Froelich gave in to the pull to “be present,” as she puts it, in her own community of East Troy, a village in Walworth County some 20 minutes from Lake Geneva.

East Troy. Population 4,306. Home of the East Troy Railroad Museum and Alpine Valley Music Theatre. Drive a ways through blocks of attractive single-family homes to the town square, where time has stood still in some ways. There’s a barbershop with an old-fashioned striped pole and an old tavern/guesthouse that dates to the 1830s. The park around which these businesses are built – reminiscent of fictional Stars Hollow in TV’s “Gilmore Girls” – hosts live music, food trucks and art shows in summer.

Froelich’s commute to her executive chef job at 2894 On Main, next door to a wonderful little indie bookshop on the square, is under 10 minutes. (She likes that she can pop home, let her dog out and pop back.) The open floor plan combines a counter-service café with a little specialty market. The main counter is prime sink-it-all-in territory for the array of fresh-baked cookies, croissants, scones, squares, cupcakes and other sweets. (The chocolate praline pecan cupcake had a dense but tender crumb, topped with a thin layer of ganache, then piped with a thick, creamy, billowy frosting – a rich companion for a cup of joe.)

2894 On Main’s welcoming facade; photo by Chris Kessler

These days Froelich starts her mornings at 8 or 9 a.m. With a kitchen staff of six, she turns out a breakfast-lunch menu ($4-$13) that’s 99.5 percent organic, the menu changing “randomly, driven by the [surrounding] farms,” she says. The primary supplier is Rohrganics, a family farm called that belongs to the café’s owner. The savory menu manages to pack in a remarkable amount of plants despite it being the dead of winter. The roasted carrot tacos ($11) are an absolute delight. A mix of brown rice, black beans, cabbage slaw, avocado and carrots is spooned inside three chewy-crispy house-made corn tortillas, topped with lime crema. Froelich piles her dynamite meatball sandwich ($12) with grass-fed beef, pesto, fresh mozzarella and marinara on a sourdough roll with fresh arugula and pickled peppers.

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“Breakfast” is served as long as the kitchen is open. That’s great news for menu stars like the roasted root vegetable-pesto hash with roasted heirloom tomatoes, avocado and Brussels sprouts buried under poached eggs and fresh pea shoots ($11). Though the menu changes, there’s a daily quiche, rotating soups and a sandwich that might incorporate Rohrganics smoked ham or pork loin. Even on a smaller, café scale, Froelich’s affinity for bright flavors and seasonal inspiration are front-and-center, anything but “small town.”

Hours: food served daily 8 a.m.-3 p.m.; extended hours to come. 


More About Jonna

Jonna Froelich, photo by Chris Kessler

You have a master’s in British Literature from Marquette. What drew you to cooking and this industry?

After school, I shifted to doing corporate training in Chicago, reintroducing homeless people to jobs in the F&B industry. But I always loved cooking and worked in restaurants when I was in school. My boyfriend and I decided to quit our jobs and move to Colorado to a town 35 miles from Telluride. We ran a restaurant there for two years … then ended up in Telluride, where I got a job as chef at a boutique hotel. I served breakfast and apres-ski for three-and-a-half years. Family brought us back [to the Midwest]. In Evanston, I worked at Trio, after [chef Grant] Achatz left.

Why settle in East Troy?

It was mostly geographical convenience. In 2012, I was working in Lake Geneva, my husband was working in Milwaukee. There is a real interesting, albeit small, progressive-fringe element in East Troy, having to do with the food system, that attracted me here.

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What’s in the cards for this little town and 2894 On Main?

East Troy is at this cool little juncture right now. An artisan pizzeria is opening a few doors down [from 2894 On Main]. There’s also a proposal to open a boutique hotel with a gourmet restaurant. We’re working on a plan for staying open five nights a week till at least 8 p.m. and offering wine, beer and craft cocktails. ◆


‘Local Vernacular’ appears in the March 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning February 26, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

 

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