Here's a look at how these bean-based businesses stack up.
The North Shore business started with lattes in a charming little space next to the Milwaukee River in Thiensville. Progress since the 1996 launch includes a roastery, baking kitchen and four more locations (including one at Bayshore Town Center). The company’s roasts lean toward palate-friendly, single-origin coffees from South America. There are advantages to being a Fiddleheads consumer – the cafe’s rewards card offers points that translate to discounts.
- Founded: 1996
- Five locations
- Rooted in the North Shore.
The company’s Troubadour Bakery is headquartered at the 15,000-square-foot Bay View digs, where they turn out everything from breads to muffins, stuffed croissants, turnovers and biscotti. That joint’s setup gives cafe-goers a view of bakers manipulating their spatulas and mixers. The company highlights the use of Wisconsin products (Nueske’s bacon, Sassy Cow Creamery, Yuppie Hill eggs), but its food is a mixed bag. The bacon-egg biscuit and breakfast burritos rank on the higher end of the scale. And you have a yen for bold, lively coffee, Colectivo’s your joint.
- Founded: 1993, Name changed from Alterra in 2013.
- 13 area locations, plus cafes in Madison and Chicago
- Events like Florentine Opera @ Colectivo Cafes and
concerts at the Colectivo Prospect Back Room.
Stone Creek Roasters
The roaster’s Fifth Street Factory space hosts public classes in the “quality tasting lab” and is the headquarters for its baking program (scones to brownies). There’s also Stone Creek’s cool café-studio hybrid in Walker’s Point, adjacent to88Nine Radio Milwaukee, where ’spro sippers can get their coffee made to order – in a Chemex, Aeropress or V60 (the coffee nerd/chemist’s picks for superior flavor).Cards stacked on the brew bar explain body, acidity and taste. The latest location, set to open in May on Downer Avenue, has an indoor-outdoor patio and features a new menu of homemade yogurt, egg sandwiches and Liege-style waffles.
- Founded: 1993
- 12 locations (and now cafes in Madison and in Chicago)
- Launched Stone Creek Kitchen at the Factory Cafe (near the Milwaukee Intermodal Station) in 2012. Debuting the ProjectEAT menu with the opening of the Downer cafe in May 2018.
The baristas rival Starbucks in friendliness, and the selection of mainstream beans – French roast, Nicaraguan Segovia, the company’s light- and dark-roast Cedarburg Blend – is consistent. Servings of the company’s baked goods (quick breads and bars) are generous, but nothing tempts as much as much as the (seasonal) sipping chocolate they’ve offered in the winter months.
- Founded: 1999
- Two locations
- Illustrates the quaint small-town mystique of the ’Burg.
Valentine Coffee Roasters
Washington Heights is where it’s at. “It” meaning Valentine’s roasting headquarters and tasting room. Since originating in a storeroom at Bartolotta Restaurant Group’s offices, the upstart’s label is increasingly found in local stores and restos (including Blue’s Egg). Various baked goods are on offer, along with a pour-over of one of 10-14 roasts, at the tasting room (5918 W. Vliet St.). The Oak Creek cafe (7971 S. Sixth St.) offers sandwiches, sharing plates, salads and more.
- Founded: 2009
- Two locations Roastery/tasting room in Washington Heights and new Oak Creek cafe.
- Coffees available in nearby restaurants and retail stores.
Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co.
The company raised its profile with both the opening of the Bruce Street roastery/cafe in an old Walker’s Point warehouse and installing a wood-fired pizza oven in the Bay View cafe. Wine and beer are served up at the reclaimed 40-foot bar; there’s live music too. Anodyne’s strength is offering micro-lots of unusual coffees available for a limited time. The terrific 12-inch pizzas available in Bay View range from margherita to beet (topped with Clock Shadow goat cheese) and a seasonal weekly pie. Look for the Anodyne coffee stall in Miller Park.
- Founded: 1999
- Four locations
- Centers on small-lot production.
While the roasting headquarters is in Viroqua, Wisconsin, this cafe showcases its small-batch roasted products. The modern Third Ward cafe (232 E. Erie St.), open since late 2015, is a light-drenched space to plug in and enjoy a brewed drink and one of Kickapoo’s baked creations (try the ginger-chocolate cookie and the coffeecake). The last Saturday of each month, the Viroqua roastery (1201 N. Main St.) hosts a free public coffee tasting and tour of the facility.
- Founded: 2005
- Two locations
Known for its cold brew on nitro, Pilcrow won not only the 2017 America’s Best Cold Brew Competition but Milwaukee Magazine’s Cold Brew Bracket in the July 2017 issue. Five roasts are available at the tasting room/roastery (1739 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.). Besides cold coffee, Pilcrow offers turmeric ginger tea on nitro and sparkled chai float tea. Also: Local business Hatched MKE hosts a Sunday morning hand pie pop-up.
- Founded: 2016
- One location