If you can look past all the misery and awfulness, one of the stranger quirks of the COVID-19 pandemic has been beloved businesses disappearing with little or no fanfare. Take the original Fuel Cafe, which opened in Riverwest in 1993. To call it a Milwaukee icon would be an understatement. In July 2020, however, Fuel announced it would be closing “for the foreseeable future.” Surely the time would come when this Center Street stalwart would reopen, right? Nope. Even as many businesses (including the 5th Street Fuel) reopened, the original Fuel remained closed (save for some carryout service). It slowly faded into a memory-cloud of killer coffee, lousy service, and cigarette smoke back when you could smoke indoors.
But things change. Time moves on. Former Mandatory Milwaukee subjects disappear. And you know what? It’s fine. There’s always something new. There’s always something fresh. In the case of the former Riverwest Fuel space, that new and fresh thing is The Daily Bird.
Operated by Dan Zwart, The Daily Bird began its life in April 2021 as a pop-up coffee shop just a few doors down, at Cafe Centro. Less than a year later, it’s taken up permanent residence at 818 E. Center St. The once-funky and eclectic space is now a bright, uniform yellow. Messages like “YOU ARE LOVED” and “DO NICE THINGS” decorate the walls. (Those messages have a special meaning to Zwart.) It’s impossible not to feel a jolt of positivity as you walk through the door.
The Daily Bird currently serves Anodyne coffee and a few bakery items. Breakfast and lunch items (and ice cream!) are planned for the future. The cafe opens at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s bright. It’s new. It’s positive. And remember:
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• Comet is reopening (under new ownership) and the original Fuel is now home to The Daily Bird
• My unsolicited copycat recipe for Fuel Cafe’s beloved “Buttafuoco” sandwich
• Comet Cafe and Fuel Cafe Center Street to close “for the foreseeable future”
• Mandatory Milwaukee: Fuel Cafe has specialized in “killer coffee, lousy service” since 1993
• The new Fuel is nothing like the original Fuel, and that’s fine