Stone Creek Radio Cafe – 158 S. Barclay St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Open every day from 6:30am (7 on weekends) to 7pm.

First of all, I love this coffee shop—the coffee is always excellent, the people working here are the best, and it's a comfortable and interesting place to sit. It's one of my favorites, so far. Good hours, too—if you stop by any reasonable time during the day, they're open. Now that I got that out of the way, the most fascinating thing about this place—and this is another positive, as far as I'm concerned—is it's a vortex of confusion—which I'm only going to make worse by talking about it—so, you might need coffee to get through this review. First of all, its name. Is it: Stone Creek Radio Cafe (which is what I choose to call it), or simply Stone Creek Coffee (which Yelp calls it), or Stone Creek Coffee Radio Milwaukee (on Google maps), or Radio Milwaukee (on the Stone Creek website—though it also says: Coffee Geek's Clubhouse), or Stone Creek Radio 88NINE (TripAdvisor)—I could probably go on. Part of this confusion is because the cafe is directly next door to (in the same building; some would say connected to) a local, listener and advertiser supported radio station that you can call either Radio Milwaukee, or 88NINE (based on 88.9FM) (though never Eighty-Eight 9—except maybe verbally). This popular local station plays an eclectic mix of “alternative” music, including a lot of local stuff. I'm listening to it right now, actually, as I write this (via the internet) as well as (full disclosure) drinking a cup of Stone Creek coffee, at home.

I have visited both the cafe and the radio station (which has a live performance space) several times, but I'm still not sure where one starts and the other ends. Bad reporter that I am, I merely observed and never asked anyone. As far as I can recall, there is a big door (or series of doors) between the radio station and the cafe, so that it's at once a radio station with a cafe built onto the side, and a cafe with a radio station. Or at least, when the big door is opened, the radio station can serve as extra seating to the cafe. I'm not sure (and I guess it's none of my business) who pays how much rent, or who supports whom, to a greater extent. Or if the radio station workers get free coffee, or if they are required to buy Stone Creek coffee while working. And scones. I'm reasonably certain that the music playing at the cafe is always the radio station, and I suppose if you were a journey-person barista who likes to play their own music, this might not be your place—though the facilities look top-rate. The coffee preparation is an island in the middle of the cafe, looking more like an open laboratory than anything, and the first time I came here I wondered if I was even allowed. Yes you are. I'm not sure who Coffee Geek is, but I'm pretty sure his/her Club membership is not necessary to enjoy a visit.

If you can find it. That's the next confusing thing. Even for those few people who are not carrying a mobile GPS (and still capable of reading a map or following directions) if you are new to the town, you might need to get coffee several times while finding this place. First of all, it's located in an area called the “Confluence,” which is my favorite part of town—its geographical heart—based on the intersection of three rivers (Milwaukee, Menomonee, Kinnickinnic) and Lake Michigan. Confluence also means a confused state, influenced by a confusing influence, often accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Some say this cafe is located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Walker's Point, though it's technically in Harbor View—which sounds more like a retirement community. Its address is on Barclay Street, which no one knows, as it's only three blocks long before turning into Jake Marchese Way (who needs no introduction). Fortunately, it's also on the well-traveled Pittsburgh Ave, though that street is only four blocks long before becoming Freshwater Way, to the west, and Young Street to the east (which immediately doglegs north and becomes Milwaukee Street). Milwaukee doesn't think twice about changing the names of streets every few blocks, and street signs are only placed intermittently. An easier way to find the cafe is look for the intersection of Pittsburgh and S. 1st Street (which one block north is called N. Water Street) (and if you are on S. 1st and it turns into Kinnickinnic, you've gone too far)—where you'll see the popular Colectivo “Foundry” (and Stack'd, a burger bar whose most prominent signage feature is the apostrophe)—from there you are within spitting distance (please don't spit, even if you're frustrated) of Geek's Club/88Nine/Stone Creek Radio Cafe. Good luck and and don't forget to tip!

Richard Skiller 4.13.18