While we always try to put a spotlight on local dining, the recent rash of restaurant closings in and around Milwaukee has found us being even more intentional about supporting places we love—both through our patronage and with this platform—so they’ll hopefully be around for years to come. Like many other publications, we’re sometimes guilty of giving a little bit of extra attention to new establishments and celebrating longstanding local dining staples because those places are front-of-mind and, to be totally transparent, those articles typically perform well.

However, focusing our limited time and energy on either the old or the extremely young restaurants in town leaves a glaring hole in recognizing places that have been around too long to be considered “new” but not long enough to have earned acclaim as a celebrated local staple. Those years between the buzz and excitement of just opening and the decade milestone can be tough, as businesses are forced to rely solely on their food quality, the loyalty of their clientele, word of mouth, and maybe an occasional bit of (hopefully good) press that might find their way to them. Well, we’re here today to give a little attention to one such place that, despite being open just over five years now and not necessarily being the first place many think of in regard to breakfast and lunch cuisine, is batting a thousand during our handful of visits and, in our humble opinion, should be on its way to earning “celebrated local staple” distinction.

Orenda Cafe (3514 W. National Ave., 414-212-8573) opened in the heart of Milwaukee’s Silver City neighborhood in early 2019. With less than a year of operation under its belt before a worldwide pandemic, it’s quite possible you missed the news of its existence during its first few years. We know we did. Heck, it’s possible this article is the first you’re ever hearing of this place. But now you know, so you have no excuse to wait any longer to stop in for the first time or to pay it another visit if it’s been a while.

Situated about a block off the bustling intersection of 35th and National, this breakfast- and lunch-focused establishment manages to have a comfortable and inviting vibe, despite being on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. There are stools arranged around the fully-stocked bar, a few seats at the counter facing out on National Ave., a handful of tables, and some booths lining the restaurant’s eastern wall. With fresh paint, new renovation touches in the form of pristine wood flooring and nice fixtures, and oodles of natural light from the front windows, the interior is perfectly-suited for a casual brunch spot.

In addition to the usual breakfast beverage suspects like coffee (a dark and delicious “Mystical Force” custom blend made for the restaurant by Anodyne), tea, and juices, Orenda has top-notch cocktails available judgement-free daily. During a recent visit, we took advantage of their $6 Paloma special that’s available on Tuesdays, and thoroughly enjoyed the tart take made with tequila and grapefruit juice instead of soda. There are also screwdrivers, pina coladas, old fashioned, bloody marys, and mimosas on special on select days. There’s also an assortment of other spirits and beers on hand, and their Anodyne coffee blend is also quite good (game recognize game!).

We’ve been to Orenda a few times at this point and have already settled in “our order” that we want every time. That order is the corned beef hash, which is a heavenly mix of hearty diced potatoes, tender hunks of juicy housemade corned beef, a tasty sauce, and two eggs served however you’d like. We can’t stop thinking about that corned beef! Breakfast entrees are also served with a choice of toast or two fluffy, powered sugar-dusted pancakes. Do yourself a favor and pick the pancakes. If hash isn’t your thing, Orenda offers an abundance of other breakfast-suited options such as omelettes, four inventive Benedict variations, decadent French toast and pancake platters, two different riffs on avocado toast, its ever-popular chilaquiles, and timeless classics like steak and eggs, a “Breakfast In Hand” sandwich, and the no-frills “Two Eggs Your Way” combo.

The lunch offerings are equally eclectic, with stuff like burgers, Reuben, salads and bowls, wings, and specialty sandwiches on the menu. We forced ourselves to break our corned beef hash pattern during a visit this week, and were extremely happy with the Chicken Gouda Melt (pictured above) in all its well-seasoned, thick-cut bacon- and gooey gouda-topped, and pillow-y ciabatta bun glory.

Between its wide-ranging menu that has well-executed dishes suited for any taste (oftentimes with a Mexican-leaning twist), the relatively low prices, the delicious house coffee and cocktails, excellent service—shout out to Elise for being super attentive and friendly while running the front-of-house solo during our last two visits!—and the nice atmosphere, Orenda Cafe is quickly climbing the rankings of our favorite Milwaukee brunch spots. It seems like the secret is at least kind of out, but in the instance you haven’t stopped in yet…or if it’s been a while since you have, do yourself a favor and help this oft-overlooked Silver City restaurant get over the five-year hump and hopefully stick around for many years to come.

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.