It’s 10 a.m. on a Saturday, and you’ve just rolled out of bed. You could use a bite to eat, but you’d like something more special than a bowl of cold cereal. And you wouldn’t mind enjoying that meal somewhere that’s both relaxing and enlivening.
Solution: brunch, at one of the fine establishments listed below:
• Beans & Barley Market and Cafe
This spot has been in the delicious-brunch game for more than a few years.
“There are a lot of great restaurants out there,” says Jim Neumeyer, co-owner of Beans & Barley. “We’ve been here a long, long while, and there’s a reason why.” That reason? “Really great homemade food that’s locally sourced and made from scratch … with tried-and-true recipes.”
The health-food market first opened in 1973, then moved to its current location at 1901 E. North Ave. in 1979.
Neumeyer, who co-owns Beans & Barley with Polly Kaplan, started working there as a dishwasher in 1999.
The cafe serves breakfast during the week from 8 to 11 a.m., and brunch from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with features such as eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros, tofu scrambler, and veggie biscuits with house-made vegan gravy. Then there’s French toast, pancakes and omelets – and great bloody marys garnished with house-made pickled vegetables.
It’s an East Side institution, but a second location is opening in Mequon, at the new Mequon Public Market.
• Glass + Griddle
This restaurant is full of light and greenery – a perfect setting for a weekend brunch. Glass + Griddle, 1130 N. Ninth St., which shares a building with the new Milwaukee Brewing Co. brewery, has a glass ceiling, a green wall full of plants and a dynamite brunch to supplement its weekly dinner/bar food menu by executive chef Kyle Toner.
On the weekends, Toner says, “we’re getting a crowd that wants pretty much a 50-50 split between the brunch and our regular menu.” Popular among the brunch items, he adds, are pancakes and granola made with spent grain from the brewery next door. Other good sellers are Disco Hash – hash browns smothered in either corned-beef gravy, cheddar and eggs, or salsa verde, house-made chorizo, avocado and eggs. On Saturdays, Toner says, diners often take a tour at the brewery and come for brunch before or afterwards.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ excellent season and nearby arena have helped business, and Toner is planning sausage and hot dog specials themed to visiting teams playing the Brewers at Miller Park. Interviewed in April, he hoped a shuttle to the ballpark would be running by this month. Glass + Griddle has lots of TVs, he adds, if you want to linger and watch a game that way.
• Corner Bakery
More than a bakery and more than a cafe, Corner Bakery is crafted for today’s lifestyle. Guests can make themselves at home in a comfortable atmosphere, while enjoying their meal featuring signature offerings using fresh ingredients in peak season.
Among the highlights: the protein-packed egg bowls, or the BBLT & egg sandwich – applewood smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and lettuce with cracked black pepper balsamic mayo, on Mom’s White Toast. Or choose buttermilk pancakes topped with mixed berries and whipped cream, served with vanilla maple syrup. Wash it down with a strawberry white chocolate cold brew. Breakfast is served all day here.
On the lunch menu, Corner Bakery offers a variety of sandwiches, salads and pastas. “We are always experimenting with seasonal ingredients,” says Corner Bakery franchisee Peter Dimitropoulos, “in order to offer our guests a variety of new, innovative and naturally delicious dishes that will brighten your day.”
With locations in Wauwatosa, Shorewood and Pleasant Prairie, Corner Bakery is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
• Original Pancake House
The Original Pancake House has long been a favorite in the area, with locations both on the west end of metro Milwaukee (16460 W. Bluemound Rd., Brookfield) and the city’s East Side (2621 N. Downer Ave.).
Offering classic breakfast with recipes created in the 1950s, the family-friendly establishment serves up over 10 varieties of melt-in-your-mouth pancakes – including gluten-friendly options, specialty cakes such as apple, German Dutch Baby and lacy, thin Swedish cakes. But there’s plenty more, too: baked omelets, a variety of eggs Benedict, honey-cured bacon and an assortment of crepes, waffles and French toast.
Need a meeting place for your book club or corporate meeting? The Downer location offers a private room which seats 25 and can be reserved weekdays during business hours. Downer also offers patio seating, which is on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Priding itself on sincere service, unrivaled freshness and a tantalizing menu, The Original Pancake House is an establishment featuring something for everyone. Whether you want to treat your family to cherry kijafa crepes or network with a client over hot coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice, it offers convenient daytime hours between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday–Friday and 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on weekends.
• P.J. Piper Pancake House
If you want brunch in historic Cedarburg, P.J. Piper Pancake House is the place to go. Judi Fergadakis has run the place since 2011 in a storefront that started out in the 19th century as a house owned by the Uselding family.
That family opened up a little cafe/diner in front called The Coffee Pot, and since 2011 it’s been a Fergadakis family-run place that serves breakfast all day. P.J. Piper provides “a warm, early 1900s kind of atmosphere,” says Fergadakis. It’s open from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, and on the weekends the staff gets to sleep in – it opens at 6 a.m., but closes as usual at 3 p.m.
She touts her Big Sky Breakfast as one of her favorites. “It gives you a taste of everything: You get eggs, you get potatoes, you get meat, you get pancakes.” P.J.’s offers an extensive selection of egg dishes, pancakes, crepes, waffles and skillets – not to mention sandwiches and homemade soups for the lunchtime crowd.
Fergadakis has been around breakfast places since she was a girl, when her father owned a string of Peter Piper Pancake Houses all around southeastern Wisconsin. The chain had as many as 14 restaurants at one point. And P.J. Piper is not Fergadakis’ only restaurant now – she also has Judi’s Place in Oostburg, and the Breaking Bread banquet hall in Sheboygan.
• Edelweiss Cruises and Pier 106 Seafood Tavern
Edelweiss Cruises and Boat Tours has evolved to become one of the premier summertime entertainment options in Milwaukee, but one of its staples has stayed much the same over the years – now with a broadened appeal.
The Edelweiss’ Sunday Champagne Brunch Cruise is ideal for birthdays and special occasions. It offers a four-course menu in a unique (floating) setting that will keep grandma telling stories and the kids asking questions.
The cruises, which run from noon to 2 p.m., feature brunch served family-style. There’s bagels and lox, a fresh fruit plate, a vegetable and egg frittata, potatoes, sausage and seasonal vegetables and desserts. Juice, coffee and – of course – Champagne are included.
The cruises depart from Pier 106 Seafood Tavern, which is now offering its own brunch menu. The restaurant, perched on the west side of the Milwaukee River at Wells Street, offers a wide range of brunch entrées including shrimp and grits, crab cake Benedict, dry-aged breakfast burger options and vegetarian options. Pier 106 also offers a ton of drink specials, ranging from $4 mimosas to $5 Bloody Marys. Pier 106’s menu is consistent with its atmosphere, and it is one of just a few spots serving brunch to a patio on the river.
• Smoke Shack
Some people get the blues on the weekends. Others get Blues Brunch.
That’s the experience offered at two Smoke Shack locations in the area on Saturdays and Sundays. Its brunch menu, available 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes lots of the barbecue that makes this business famous – including burnt ends Benedict and pulled pork Benedict. And it’s all accompanied by live blues music: Milwaukee blues artist Alex Wilson in the Third Ward eatery on North Milwaukee Street and Marc Ballini at the Wauwatosa Smoke Shack in the Mayfair Collection.
“Anyone can do barbecue, but not everyone can make you feel barbecue” says Kristin Godfrey, vice president of marketing for Hospitality Democracy, the Smoke Shacks’ restaurant group parent. She says the aim of Smoke Shack is to transport its customers to another place – whatever place they think of for great barbecue, whether it’s North Carolina, Texas or Kansas City. And the blues helps. “Music is such a visceral experience,” she says, “just like food.”
The Shacks aren’t the only Hospitality Democracy places aimed at transporting customers via weekend brunches, Godfrey adds. Also in the Third Ward are the group’s Onesto, with Italian specialties such as a tube-shaped waffle served with gelato. And Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria lets you visit the Far East, the Mideast and the Caribbean with its varied dishes.
• BrunchWhen Morgan Sampson opened her new restaurant at Plankinton Avenue and Wells Street Downtown in June 2016, the name told what it was all about: Brunch.
And that’s what it’s about at her restaurant in Brookfield, too – and at other new locations in the coming years. “When I opened it, the intent was to build it as a brand from the beginning, not just a single restaurant,” she says. “We’re an upscale breakfast and lunch restaurant. We have an executive chef who designs our entire menu, so everything is done with the utmost of care.”
The restaurant’s website describes the menu as inventive, and a recent version bears this out, with such dishes as a Wiscomelette, with Johnsonville bratwurst and cheese curds, a bacon flight (honey-cured, shoulder and jalapeño) and an “Elvis sandwich” (honey-cured bacon, peanut butter, banana and maple syrup between two slices of French toast), along with many brunch standards. There are gluten-free and vegetarian options, too, Sampson says. And the bar offers multiple flavors of bloody marys and mimosas.
Sampson is proud of her management team. “We put 100% into everything we’re doing, whether it be a small or big task,” she says. “We have great customers, really loyal customers, and we’re very appreciative of that. It’s been a really exciting journey.”
• Stella Van Buren
Stella Van Buren, the fashionable Downtown restaurant in the Westin Hotel, is a steakhouse with an emphasis on Italian cuisine. That Italian accent comes through in its brunch menu, too.
“We try to put a unique twist on American and Italian classics,” says executive chef Zach Espinosa, “and we try to make it exciting for diners.”
At brunch, served from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, that means things like substituting prosciutto di Parma for plain ham in such dishes as an egg sandwich in an Italian panino. The prosciutto Benedict has basil pesto, marinated artichoke and ciabatta bread instead of English muffin. “We try to do a lot of Italian spins on some familiar brunch items,” says Espinosa.
A big crowd-pleaser is the pecan praline French toast, which Espinosa says is “more like a bread pudding” and is one of the dishes that seem to sell out every weekend. The pecan praline topping bakes into the toast, which is soaked in a sweet egg-custard mix. The whole thing is served with bourbon maple syrup to up the ante even further.
Espinosa adds that Stella does its own juices daily. If you’re feeling like something a little stiffer, there’s a stellar wine list dominated by Italian wines – and for $19, you get bottomless mimosas. ◆