Cafe at the Pfister – 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Open every day at 6am.

When you're sitting in the Pfister Cafe (the official name is “Cafe at the Pfister”), you don't feel like you're anywhere else but a hotel restaurant. (I'm so tired of places putting the word “cafe” first, rather than last, where it belongs, that I'm going to put my foot down right now and refuse to do it, and call the place by the unpretentious version.) Not that there is anything wrong with hotel restaurants, in fact I love them—they have a certain romance all their own—but also a certain sadness and squalor. (I mean, what if I called myself “Skiller, whose first name is Dick?”) I used to eat here every time I was in town on someone else's dime, staying at a $400 a night haunted room, and breakfast at the cafe. And there was always something about this place that felt just a little off—I don't know—maybe it was/is me—but I always had the impression there was a little bit of drinking going on behind the scenes, as in “where's all that cooking sherry go when we never cook anything with sherry?”

And this is not unlike the feeling you'll find at the practical yet romantic expensive hotel cafes throughout the United States, if not the world. There are always some personalities that linger, or have become bigger than the place itself. I'm not sure this isn't due to something like the presence of union labor in some hotels, and thus their restaurants, so certain employees stay around a lot longer than they normally would for a diner. You get a little of that Post Office/Amtrak vibe. Also, it always feels a little like—as someone not staying at the hotel—you're putting something over on them, eating at the hotel restaurant, which, of course, you're not at all. A lot of people probably think the overpriced rooms translate to overpriced breakfasts, but the Pfister Cafe, while not cheap, isn't really any more expensive than anywhere else serving a half-decent breakfast.

I had two eggs and sausage links and hash-browns which tasted just like those three things from Tim Hortons to Waffle House, from Fells Point Diner to Norms. I ordered gluten-free toast, since it was available, and so I could report on that side of things. At least they didn't charge some absurd amount extra for the g-f, but they did give me one piece of toast. Also, not enough potatoes. But one piece of toast, it's almost a “fuck you.” But why? A little ramekin with enough butter to take some back up to the room, if it wasn't in a ramekin, but how nice is it not getting butter in a plastic tub, and getting the jam/jelly in those tiny single serving jars. Too much for one piece of toast, but that didn't stop me. Just like nothing will stop me from calling this the Pfister One Piece of Toast Fuck You Cafe. Oh, but to end on a positive note, because I really do like this place, the waitress actually asked if I wanted hot sauce. Do you know how much that never happens anymore? It made me wish I was Sinatra and could tip her $100. I don't really want to be Sinatra, but I'd love to be able to tip $100!

Richard Skiller 11.24.17