At its new Downer cafe, Stone Creek Coffee shows off an evolved brand, a sense of style, jittery drinks and comfort foods.
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.
In a rush? Place your order – from a pound of beans to your commuter breakfast – at the convenient (and dog-friendly) walk-up window.
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.