Sophie Bolich

New Discourse Cafe Opens at MSOE

Discourse-Downtown, near Broadway and State, wants you to linger over your coffee.

By - Sep 19th, 2022 02:36 pm
Discourse Downtown, 1020 N. Broadway. Photo taken Sept. 19, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Discourse Downtown, 1020 N. Broadway. Photo taken Sept. 19, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

In a world of grind culture, optimization and never-ending to-do lists, coffee is often seen as a mere tool — an expedient accelerant to get through the next pressing task. A new downtown cafe resists that notion and invites customers to do the same.

Discourse Coffee — Downtown had its soft opening Sept. 17 in the heart of Milwaukee School of Engineering campus. The following Monday morning, guests at the cafe, 1020 N. Broadway, lingered over journals and engaged in quiet conversations, easing into the coming week.

Since its 2021 arrival in Milwaukee, Discourse has billed itself as an experience, a description usually reserved for cocktails more so than caffeine. The cafe now has three locations: a stand at Crossroads Collective, residency at Milwaukee Art Museum and the downtown space on the MSOE campus.

Owner Ryan Castelaz opened the first Discourse in Sister Bay in 2017 before relocating the business to his hometown, Milwaukee. He now operates Discourse with partners Sean Liu and Olivia Molter

The new downtown cafe is the latest for Discourse. Located at the Direct Supply Innovation and Technology Center (ITC) on the MSOE campus, the cafe is meant to foster interaction between community members and ITC employees. A glass wall divides the public-facing cafe space from the rest of the ITC building, where Direct Supply develops new technology for senior living communities.

The ITC that houses Discourse – Downtown was formerly the German-English Academy. MSOE used the building on and off for several decades before it was redeveloped for use by Direct Supply in 2019.

As part of the redevelopment, Bob Hillis, CEO of Direct Supply, requested that the space contain a public facing cafe so that members of the Milwaukee public could interact with company employees. Discourse – Downtown fills that role.

Castelaz said the soft opening weekend was a success.

“It was great,” he said. “A really crazy weekend.”

Throughout the first few days of the soft opening, baristas crafted drinks behind the bar while Castelaz interacted with customers and made small adjustments to the cafe space, which seats up to 40 guests in a variety of seating options, ranging from big, comfortable armchairs to barstools.

The cafe menu is the same as the other Discourse locations, offering hyper-seasonal drinks crafted with unique ingredients. A September drink lineup includes the cafe’s signature Moonwater: a latte made with espresso, honey, applewood smoked sea salt, ceylon cinnamon and black pepper.

Burnt Lemonade evokes the turn of the seasons with a combination of lemonade, slow drip coffee, amarena cherries, burnt citrus zest, tarragon, thyme and charcoal.

A full list of seasonal drinks is available on the Discourse website.

Alongside its craft offerings, Discourse offers the usual espresso drinks and drip coffee. A small bakery case features locally-sourced scones and other snacks.

As the cafe settles into its new location, Castelaz said he hopes to expand the food program, adding additional grab-and-go options and, eventually, a hot kitchen and in-house bakery.

The cafe is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


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