Chow Down In Milwaukee

Restaurant Reviews

Healthy, Fresh And Filling, Urban Joe's

Growing up in the city of West Allis during the 1980’s I recall our dining options to be somewhat limited. There were a few fast food options, some chain restaurants (I still miss Big Boy) and that was pretty much it. With the rebirth of the city the last few years much has changed. There are a few farm-to-table options such as Farmer’s Wife and Wild Roots. The latter I have already reviewed for this website. There are also Mexican options such as Mis Suenos and Senor Sol. Mix that in with both contemporary trendy places like Public Table and the old-world German style Kegel’s Inn both of which you can read about on this website. People have gone from saying, “This is not the type of place I expected to find in West Allis.” To “This is exactly the type of a place I expected to find in West Allis.”

One of the more eclectic places to open in the last few years has been Urban Joe’s. Located at 7028 w. Greenfield Ave, I discovered this place quite by accident. Located next to BMO Harris bank I decided to visit one day to provide my body the zip that my bank account apparently lacked. If there are two words that can get my attention while you are talking it is ‘coffee shop’. My intent on my first visit there was nothing other than a hot cup of brewed personality. My first exciting discovery is that the coffee they serve is roasted by Valentine Coffee Roasters, my favorite local coffee. The roast they serve is perfectly balanced and can satisfy even the most discriminating palate.

Great coffee, although very valuable, is not extremely rare. Urban Joe’s is about far more than just great coffee. They serve a great selection of breakfast and lunch items. On the day we visited for this review we chose a little from both menus. On their website they describe their food this way, “Freshly Prepared, Beautifully Presented, Contemporary Cuisine.” That is exactly what you will be served when you come to Urban Joe’s. The ingredients used to prepare the delicious dishes you will be served are organic, sustainably-harvested, “Fair Trade” products. When Joe (yes there really is an ‘urban Joe’) was a boy his mother told him that the presentation of your food is just as important as the taste. This you can see from the dishes it is served on to the way the chef, Carlos, assembles them on the plate.

On the day of this review I was accompanied by both my beautiful lady Margie and my wonderful mother. They too are big fans of Urban Joe’s. Everyone I have introduced to this establishment has thanked me for doing so. By the end of this review I am sure you will be eager to try this hidden gem and your name will be added to the list of folks grateful to have learned about Urban Joe’s. The three of us decided to all try something different and expand on our usual favorites. Two of us even stuck to that idea after the waitress arrived. Once you become a regular at Urban Joe’s you may fall into a comfortable routine of sticking with the mouth-watering dish that has become your favorite. As I discovered on this day that can be a mistake as there are so many dishes worth discovering here.

Margie decided to try something new today and that was The Gem Of Thai salad. This included mixed greens, mango, candied nuts, with Urban Joe’s made-from-scratch Vinaigrette. A few things worth note here. The base of this salad as with many at Urban Joe’s is mixed greens. They do not offer you some bland iceberg lettuce affair. No, here you will be given fresh, dark, quality greens that will make your taste buds quiver with delight. This is even true of their side salads that are served with entrees. More about that a little later. Margie’s salad was the perfect blend of the sweet provided by the mangos and candied nuts contrasted with the tangy of the vinaigrette. The portion was enough to be meal and the complex flavor made this anything but a boring salad.

Being that I had just completed a rather humbling and difficult session of yoga and was feeling quite proud of myself, I ordered the Super Hero Salad. This began with mixed greens as well, but then went on to include red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers with Urban Joe’s made-from-scratch roasted garlic vinaigrette. The presentation of this salad made you want to dive right in and try it. The cucumbers adding a nice frame around the plate and the garlic vinaigrette drizzled on top providing a tempting aroma begging you to plunge your fork in with hasty abandon. Not being one to argue with a vinaigrette, at least not in public, I decided to do just that. From the very first forkful, I was overjoyed. The freshness of every ingredient was evident. The dressing tasted as good as, if not better than, it smelled. With each additional bite I craved more. This emotion lasted until the very last bite. Looking at my empty plate the slight feeling of sadness I felt about there being no more was offset by the super-hero feeling I had at enjoying such a healthy meal so fully.

My mother decided it was best to stick with what she will return to Urban Joe’s time and time again for. The Urban Mediterranean Egg White Sandwich is something everyone deserves to try. It is Sautéed egg whites, a slice of Fontina cheese, roasted tomatoes, fresh spinach, slices of avocado, and homemade basil pesto on a freshly baked ciabatta roll. This is served with Urban Joe’s side salad or chips. I strongly suggest choosing the side salad. Unlike a lot of restaurants, you will be given a hand-crafted mixed green salad covered in homemade dressing not a few washed out items resembling a salad. There was a slight issue with this sandwich today due to some changes in the kitchen. It is during challenges where quality establishments shine. There were no excuses given. Sam, our very helpful server, apologized and immediately took the dish back to the chef. Carlos, the chef at Urban Joe’s mentioned earlier not only crafted an entirely new sandwich but brought it out himself to apologize for the mix up in person. At Urban Joe’s you can see they care about their customers like family. The sandwich is a unique balance of both light and hearty. The ciabatta roll offers you something to really sink your teeth into. The egg whites offer some healthy and filling protein, where the fresh ingredients lend a light balance. In a world filled with greasy fast-food breakfast sandwich options, you owe it to yourself to experience what quality tastes like.

In addition to these entrees we also ordered a cup of their butternut squash soup. It tasted like warm comfort in a bowl. Slightly sweet soup served at the perfect temperature. Urban Joe’s has a daily soup along with their wonderful and filling chili available. They are great any day but purely divine on a cold day.

Another thing that visitors enjoy about Urban Joe’s is the layout. There is a modern look about it, but somehow, due to the superlative customer service I am guessing, retains an element of coziness. There is a long bar customers can sit at to enjoy their meal, coffee, or perhaps some wonderful craft beer or hand-crafted cocktails. There are comfy chairs in front to relax and watch the exciting foot and vehicle traffic on Greenfield Avenue. There are also tables the length of the café for larger groups. In the nicer weather there is even a delightful outdoor patio on which you can dine.

If I have not sold you to at least come to West Allis to give this amazing café and bar, I confess I have been saving the best detail for last. Urban Joe’s is home to some of the best service you will experience. All the employees hold themselves to a high standard when it comes to taking care of you. Servers such as Sam, Becca and Tina offer their own unique humor and personality. One of the reasons that Margie, my mother and I return to Urban Joe’s is the fabulous and loving couple who work there. Danie and Curtis are not only a great couple, they are great at what they do. If they were ever to leave Urban Joe’s, I am sure they could make a great living teaching classes on how to provide top-notch customer service. You are greeted with a genuine and hearty welcome and treated like family from your very first visit.

Great coffee, delicious food crafted from quality ingredients, a welcoming, clean and modern dining environment and the best customer service are what you can expect on any visit you have to Urban Joe’s. There are many other amazing things I could discuss about this place including their catering and how they allow you to purchase coffee for the less fortunate, but there are somethings you must experience for yourself. I look forward to seeing you at Urban Joe’s. One of my favorites. 


Written By: Neil Panosian

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