It usually works the other way around. Traditionally, restaurants and bars test their mettle within Milwaukee’s stringent city limits before casting franchise feelers to the suburbs. Bel Air Cantina opened in ‘Tosa; Camp Bar, too, is planning a westward expansion; Hué’s roots now extend outside Milwaukee; and Colectivo was quick to dot the periphery of town early and often. That’s just a small-plate sampling of the culinary sprawl. However, after two wildly successful years in Wauwatosa, Rocket Baby Bakery reversed the pattern of Epicurean emigration with its decision to open a satellite location in the middle of Bay View. With a legend exclusively fashioned on the outskirts to this point, Milwaukee Record—not exactly frequent ‘Tosa tourists—stopped by the satellite café to see if the Rocket Baby (2452 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 414-897-0483) reputation was at all damaged during the (literally) taxing 8.6-mile journey to southeast Milwaukee.
The space: Rocket Baby Satellite Café is squeezed into a ground floor nook of the semi-new housing complex and long-standing point of local contention, Dwell Bay View. The meaning of satellite is quickly realized upon entering the space. There are just three tables and seating for, tops, a dozen people. However, the interior of the to-go-centric bakery depot is pristine. Pastries, cookies, and the famed colorful macaroons (all delivered from ‘Tosa each day) are prominently showcased under glass in a wooden cabinet. Behind the counter, fresh artisanal—yes, artisanal—loaves of bread and croissants loom delectably on shelves. An interior window also grants a glimpse into the neighboring Community Bark dog wash business.
They’ve carved out counterside space to sell coffee by the pound, as well as a host of mugs emblazoned with the Rocket Baby logo (which also has ample representation on the windows and walls). In all, it’s a cozy place to eat a muffin as a 20-minute morning respite before getting on with your day, or a cute establishment to drop in on the way to work, before winning your office’s affection with cookies.
The service: Upon entering, we immediately recognized a familiar face. Former Stone Creek higher-up Steve Hawthorne, unbeknownst to us, is now Rocket Baby’s general manager. He welcomed us and fielded the heft of questions we had about his new roasting venture, Hawthorne Coffee Roasters, for which Rocket Baby is among the first non-wholesale accounts. The ordering process was equally pleasant, though charging for and bagging already-prepared foodstuffs over the course of one minute doesn’t allow for much room for error.
Milwaukee Record‘s food: Noticing sandwiches were listed amongst the other items on the exterior signage, we asked for a menu, only to be told sandwiches weren’t available yet. We absolutely gave the bakery—which had only soft opened April 30 and has yet to celebrate its grand opening—a pass. We were feeling breakfast anyhow. We immediately snatched up a bran muffin and a small cup of Hawthorne’s Kenya coffee (his personal favorite of his five-roast arsenal/the only option available that day). Then we glanced down the diminutive line and finally decided on a strawberry rhubarb danish to complete our order.
We chased the first flaky, honey-flecked bite of danish with a sip of Kenya, a strong and satisfying brew that was bold and intermittently acidic. Despite the recent departure of Rocket Baby pastry chef Matt Hasse, the food quality left us for want of nothing. The danish was light and crispy on the edges, but thick and gooey in the center. The tartness of the rhubarb (and don’t get us started extolling the greatness of rhubarb) was perfectly balanced by the rich cream cheese and the sweetness of liberally scattered brown sugar crumbles. The bran muffin was a dense-yet-delicious stone of flax seed, oats and wheat—with raisins relegated to a supporting role, which perfectly suited the fibrous hunk of flavor. The presentation for each item was also elaborate, which is an appreciated detail for foods most will devour within minutes of receiving. Our bill for the coffee, muffin, and danish was $6.50.
The verdict: We were late to the party, but we totally understand the Rocket Baby hubbub now. It makes us wonder what other suburban gems are out there. Not like “go to Wauwatosa”-wonder, but wonder nonetheless.