Cari Taylor-Carlson

Bay View’s Hi-Fi Cafe a Time Warp

‘50s and ’60s atmosphere and made-from-scratch breakfasts, lunches, shakes and malts

By - Feb 4th, 2020 12:59 pm
Hi-Fi Cafe, Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Hi-Fi Cafe, Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

It’s easy to get lost in nostalgia when you visit Hi-Fi Cafe on Kinnickinnic. Milwaukee has the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear where you can stroll through the 1920s and ‘30s, and Bay View has the Hi-Fi Cafe, a throwback to the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s furnished with a vintage couch, an assortment of tables, Formica, metal, and a couple of four-tops that might be recycled butcher blocks. It’s charming, quirky, filled with art from the interesting to the simply strange, but never dull. Much of the art is for sale as the café has a reputation for supporting local artists.

If you’re solo, or, run out of conversation, check out the magazine rack, where a Look magazine, circa 1968, features articles about the Beatles and Sidney Poitier. The ads and the 1968 prices are also worth a look.

A jukebox adds a musical note. You can play unlimited tunes for a quarter apiece, payable at the cashier. You’ll find the Rolling Stones, Eartha Kitt, “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees, and Elvis, crooning “Don’t be Cruel.”

If I had one small complaint, it would be the slow service. On both visits, it appeared that one person performed double duty as both server and chef. Since my companions and I were there to linger, it didn’t bother us, but people in a hurry could be frustrated. To their credit, everything at Hi-Fi is prepared to order, and like it or not, that takes time.

A half sandwich and a cup of chili was the perfect lunch on a cloudy winter day. My vegetarian chili, a bowl not a cup, had more veggies than beans, and came with sour cream and grated cheddar, my optional add-ons. It had enough spicy heat to make it interesting without overpowering the rest of the flavors in the bowl. I requested the Turkey and Dill Havarti Sandwich on a baguette, the bread choice a big mistake. The baguette was crusty, tooth defying crusty. I ate this delicious sandwich with a knife and fork. Note to self, remember to request the croissant instead, or perhaps honey wheat, pita, or gluten-free millet flax bread.

A companion’s Falafel Sandwich, hummus, tomato, lettuce, red onion, and sprouts, filled two pita pockets with healthy delish. The falafel, a generous serving of four, had the requisite crisp crust surrounding soft savory crushed chickpeas, a hearty vegetarian sandwich. They serve all the sandwiches with pasta salad made with red onion, a vinaigrette, and pasta that’s at bit too al dente.

On a second visit, my companion put her Smoked Ham and Cheese Sandwich in a croissant, a wise choice. She too, found the pasta salad a little too al dente and said the chips would have been a better choice.

The Special, turned out to be, in my opinion, the perfect little lunch. The chef dressed up a wedge of brie, sliced dill pickles, green olives, sliced Granny Smith apples, sliced tomatoes, toasted slices of one of those crusty baguettes, and half an avocado, on a plate that could have been from the 50s. A few slices of pickled red onion completed this artfully presented meal.

From the Fountain, I added a Chai Shake made with Rishi Chai, cinnamon, honey, and vanilla ice cream. It was big, bursting with flavor, an excellent choice even on a wintry afternoon. They have an old-fashioned fountain at Hi-Fi where they make shakes that include espresso, such as the Jenerator with chocolate, banana, almonds, and vanilla ice cream, and the Starlite, with Starlite mints and vanilla ice cream. A list of malts includes Strawberry, Banana, Milky Way, Almond Joy, Chocolate Mint, and of course, a Root Beer Float.

You will also find a long list of coffee options, hot or cold, Rishi Tea, smoothies, and caffeine-free tea. For an additional boost, you can add CBD to any drink for $3.00.

There’s much more: breakfast entrees, pizza, salad, many sandwiches with something for vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores, and three kinds of penne pasta, Tomato Garlic, Pesto Parmesan, and Cheesy Cheddar.

You might not think to visit a café’s restroom to look at the art, but the gender-neutral restroom at Hi-Fi has a wall covered with more funky art, tempting you to look and linger.

Funky, that’s how I describe this Bay View café on KK with its eclectic menu to satisfy your every whim. The food we tried was good, not exceptional, neither fancy, nor fast, just dependable unfussy café cuisine.

Photo Gallery

On The Menu

The Rundown

  • Location: 2640 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
  • Phone: 414-486-0504
  • Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon-Sat, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun
  • Facebook:
  • UM Rating: 3.9333333333333 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us