Bella Caffe – 189 N Milwaukee St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Open 6am on weekdays, a little later on weekends, closing just after dinner time.

This Third Ward corner coffee shop has been around a long time—since 2001, says their website. I really value places like this; it's a good, solid, dependable spot to get a coffee and sit at a table, whether to meet with someone or work on something. Not close enough to any schools to always be full of single students with sad laptops. There are windows along two sides, as well, so it's a decent people watching spot. They have a pretty extensive baked goods, soup, and sandwich menu, though no indication of anything gluten-free, which is a drag. A lot of people come here for lunch, so that's a time when there is going to be a lot of activity and energy—or lines and soup smells—however you want to look at it. A pretty extensive array of frivolous coffee/tea specialties, so if there is a line, don't expect it to go fast. I'm always looking for the perfect coffee house (an impossible ideal) and maybe the feeling and décor here is a little bit seaside senior citizen, but I don't mind that generally. Maybe I hold independent, non-chain coffee shops to a higher standard, and that's not fair, but I also really value them, as I do this place, and I hope it stays open for years to come.

Richard Skiller 12.10.17