Grand Cafe Mornings

03 Jun, 2011

by Stacie Williams

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Shoe-Watching Vantage Point

He sits by the window, the only person wearing a t-shirt amidst suit jackets, colorful ties, and stylish vacationers.  Looking around, he says “I like the way it feels in here. It’s nice, but casual.” He glances up, gesturing to the red, brown & cream striped awning where the window arches, “this feels like the breakfast places in New York,” studies the menu for a moment, “and the food is really reasonably priced.”  When his fresh vegetable omelet arrives, he exclaims over how greatly stuffed it is, full of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms.  With the toast slices and hashbrowns piled onto the plate, it indeed looks like an impressive amount of food.  Of course, though he tries hard, he can’t finish it all.

This is exactly what the Pfister is going for here in the café.  The idea that having breakfast in a hotel is tough on the pocketbook is a common line of thought, but it’s proven to be an an unnecessary concern here.  That massive veggie omelet that my friend couldn’t finish?  A whopping $8.75 – add in the fact that the food is made fresh by some incredibly talented chefs, and that Bananas Foster French Toast ($10.00) is suddenly a foodie’s dream: a delectable, hunger-sating, melt-in-your-mouth bargain.

The café was one of Julie’s favorite things in her months as Pfister Narrator, with the oatmeal and fixins right at the top of her list, but I had yet to really take in the weekday morning scene here.  My excuse has simply been that I am not a morning person.  Recent rainy, cold weather only dampened any desire I may have mustered to leave behind a warm bed early enough to make good use of the breakfast hour.  The newly arrived June sun is encouraging and invigorating, meaning – no more excuses! -  coming for breakfast.

Tables hold little glass vases showcasing yellow carnations with orange splashes near their centers, reminding everyone that better weather is here.  The shoes reflect this feeling, too, with Tevas, flip-flops, leather slingbacks, mahogany wedge heels, and euro-slippers adorning les pieds.  Of course, being a place often featuring business meetings, there are plenty of shiny loafers and sharp wingtips traipsing along the wood floor.  The most comfortable shoes are on the feet of the servers in their khaki shirts and striped aprons.  They move with purpose, strides propelling them gracefully forward and through the dining room, managing an efficient quickness that never seems rushed.

Diners reflect the variety of their shoes:

  • A couple on vacation in their most comfortable clothes, reading out loud to each other from the newspaper: she reads him the weather, he reads her headlines, they converse about what they should do after breakfast.  She wears some fabulously comfortable-looking open-backed teal flats with sunflowers and he sports a serious motorhead mustache.
  • A bearded gentleman in sneakers, a baseball cap and stereo headphones ribs the hostess, “Table for one? Right this way,” she says when he nods affirmation.  He  then quips as they walk away, “Unless I look like two today.”
  • One regular in a polo shirt and Skechers enjoys his coffee and complimentary paper, while bantering with a server animatedly about sports: does the Miami Heat stand a chance against the Mavericks in the NBA Finals?  What about Shaq’s retirement?
  • A woman reclines in one of the cranberry easy chairs, ankles elegantly crossed, showing off lacy flats.  Her coffee and pain au chocolat on the marble table at her side, holding her smart phone aloft, her face features a big smile and occasional chuckle as she streams a popular viral video featuring two cats arguing over how to properly play patty-cake.

Elegant Luminaries

Joshua Wolter (feet clad in Italian leather, no doubt) stops in to catch up with regulars and get a sense of the expected lunch rush due to Downtown Dining Week. The conversation turns (naturally) to the shoes on parade today, leading to a laugh over a hidden 80′s movie reference* in Joshua’s recent featured appearance in a video showing off the luxurious WELL Spa + Salon pedicure.

There’s an ebb in the tide of customers, countered by an increase in bussing: one employee impressively balances a tray with a mountain of glassware, topped by a snowy napkin peak begging for an avalanche–but nobody can manage a tray like Marisha.

It’s time to enjoy the peace before the next rush: the varying sounds of steps crossing the floor have subsided, chattering comes to a lull, the classical music can be heard once again, and employees share a brief chat and quiet laugh with one another before their attention returns, devotedly, to the diners streaming in for lunch.

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About the author

Stacie Williams

With a love of stories and storytelling, Stacie Williams has worked at a local Milwaukee bookstore for six years, and has experience in travel writing and blogging. In 1998, she moved from California to study theater at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, and stayed.

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