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: The Daily Bird.

Since opening its first—and for many years, its only—location back in 1993, The Original Fuel Cafe brought “killer coffee” and “lousy service” to a small, charming space at 818 E. Center Street. Through the years, the dingy-yet-delightful coffee shop and restaurant was a certified Riverwest hub and an iconic Milwaukee establishment. Until it wasn’t.

Save for a few weeks of carryout-only service in the spring of 2020, The Original Fuel Cafe remained closed during the pandemic and ultimately never made it out alive. Instead, Fuel’s owners entirely shifted focus to its newer and significantly larger 5th Street Cafe, leaving a sizable hole in the culinary and cultural landscapes of Center Street. Thankfully, that didn’t last very long because when Fuel Cafe left the nest, The Daily Bird landed in its place.

The Daily Bird began its life in April 2021 as a pop-up coffee shop at nearby Cafe Centro. That fall, it took permanent residence a few doors away at the then-vacant former site of Fuel. During that year and a half span, I’ve stopped by a few times to hang posters for upcoming Milwaukee Record events, do some in-person interviews, and yes, to grab some coffee.

Even before entering, customers are hit with the stimulus of bright yellow and white paint, as well as the undeniable jolt of positivity provided by affirming messages painted on the walls and exterior signs. Just try to avoid being perked up visually and picked up emotionally when you see “YOU ARE LOVED” painted on a bright yellow wall in bold black paint.

Other affirmations customers will encounter include simple reminders and encouraging nudges like: DON’T BE A JERK, YOU GOT THIS, ONE DAY AT A TIME, DO NICE THINGS, CHASE DREAMS, SUPPORT THE HOMIES, HAVE FUN, and PMA EVERYDAY.

The Daily Bird’s positive messaging and attention-grabbing decor are great in their own right, but would probably fall a bit flat if the cafe’s drinks weren’t up to snuff. Fortunately, that’s not the case. In previous visits, I’ve enjoyed cold brew coffee and drip coffee. During a visit last Saturday, I decided to venture outside the norm a little and indulge in an afternoon latte.

I walked in just as a staffer was announcing the cafe would be closing in 10 minutes. After getting confirmation I wouldn’t be “that guy” by ordering a drink minutes before the business closed, I felt comfortable asking for a large latte. No flavoring, no special requests. Just a regular old latte, which was ready in a couple minutes and delivered a nice 2 o’clock pick-me-up. The drink was smooth, creamy and had subtle sweetness that didn’t get in the way of the espresso.

The menu is far from being considered “extensive,” but it has most of the hits and we’ve yet to be disappointed by anything we’ve had. It’s also worth noting The Daily Bird offers a small selection of sandwiches, wraps, and ice cream in addition to its arsenal of drinks. We can speak to any of those offerings, but we’ve heard good things.

Though the latest visit was brief, the combination of the tasty beverage, the bright site, and the messages rooted in kindness gave me just the boost I needed on a dreary Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee. While The Original Fuel Cafe will be sorely missed, The Daily Bird does its part to make both Riverwest and the world a slightly better place.

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Brewed City: Pilcrow Coffee

Brewed City: Sprocket Café

Brewed City: La Finca Coffeehouse

Brewed City: Vennture Brew Co.

Brewed City: Escuela Verde New Line Cafe

Brewed City: Hawthorne Coffee Roasters

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.