Milwaukee and its surrounding suburbs boast a wealth of great independent coffee shops, award-winning roasters, and other excellent area establishments where you can get a caffeine fix. We plan to celebrate some of these places in a bi-weekly series we’re calling “Brewed City.” This week: Sil’s.
Summerfest is known for a lot of things. First and foremost, the “World’s Largest Music Festival” is famous for, well, its wide variety of music. It’s also celebrated for its abundance of food and retail options. There’s the Skyglider! There are fireworks! You’ll even find sports demonstrations and other forms of non-musical entertainment. The massive summer undertaking holds a special place in people’s hearts for a number of reasons. All that being said, something we can safely say Summerfest is decidedly not known for is its coffee.
While it doesn’t get top billing by any means, the Big Gig does have coffee available within the festival grounds. The most visible, most prevalent, and quite possibly the only place to get coffee, lattes, tea, and the like at Summerfest is at Sil’s. Since the entirety of our first weekend at the festival took place during daytime hours, we decided to stop by this long-tenured Summerfest standby to perk up with an espresso drink. We were not disappointed.
As we mentioned above, Sil’s has been a longtime Summerfest vendor, but you likely know it best for its iconic mini donuts, which we wrote about a few years ago. What people might not realize is two of the three Sil’s locations at Henry Maier Festival Park (at least by our count—we saw no traces of caffeine at the Miller Lite Oasis stand) serve a surprisingly respectable assortment of coffee and coffee-adjacent beverages in addition to their donuts.
Feeling a bit parched at, like, 1:30 p.m. this past Friday, we bypassed the beer stands in favor of an early afternoon pick-me-up from a Sil’s stand. We reiterate: this was a good decision.
Sure, we’ve seen far more extensive menus in the relatively short history of this column, but this menagerie of coffee, tea, espresso, lattes, mochas, and frappes was more than we anticipated encountering when we walked up to the counter. Also, for a festival that routinely gets criticized for the cost of its other concessions, we found the cafe prices at Sil’s to be near, if not right at, non-festival coffee shop rates. Our iced raspberry latte was $6 before tip, which we’ve easily paid more to obtain elsewhere in the city.
Speaking of our raspberry latte, it’s also worth noting Sil’s offers 11 different syrup options for select drinks, as well as five types of tea, and three milk varietals. Both the drip coffee and the cold brew come from Milwaukee’s own Colectivo Coffee. We personally got our drink near the North Gate, but there’s also a Sil’s (pictured above) with coffee capabilities that’s located near the BMO Pavilion and whatever the hell JoJo’s Martini Lounge is called now.
Back to our drink: It was pretty good! We’ve obviously had better—and our heart goes out to you if the best dining experience or the finest drink of your life came at a large-scale music festival—but this latte from Sil’s was tasty, slightly sweet but espresso-forward, potent, refreshing, and it cooled us off on a hot day and after a long walk to the grounds.
To be quite honest, in a fenced in realm wherein Red Bull and Pepsi products have been anointed the kings of caffeine, we’re glad Sil’s is there to provide a viable alternative to beer, wine, cocktails, and carbonated drinks. It’s quietly been a presence at Summerfest as long as we can recall, and we’re glad Sil’s is there. Hopefully it remains the festival’s go-to coffee and donut retailer for years to come.
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