Urban Beets Cafe & Juicery will be opening a second location in Wauwatosa this summer. The cafe’s newest spot, opening no later than August 1st, will be in the former Milwaukee Career College building at the corner of Highway 100 and Burleigh.
“There are a lot of things going in this building that are all wellness-related,” Urban Beets Cafe’s charitable events coordinator, Jess Flagg, tells me. “It was kind of like the perfect fit.”
The original Urban Beets Cafe opened in early 2016 in the north end of downtown Milwaukee. The menu is entirely vegan, with smoothies, toasts, bowls, sandwiches and more. I discovered the cafe earlier this year, while I was scouring Milwaukee for the perfect açaí bowl (found it!). Since then, my friend and I have made it practically a pre-yoga ritual to stop by Urban Beets each week for smoothie bowls with a side of avocado toast. Neither of us are vegan, but it’s absolutely one of my favorite spots downtown – and I’ll admit, I was surprised initially at how filling plant-based meals can be.
“I don’t think you can go wrong with anything here,” Flagg says. “It’s not like anything tastes funky or really extreme. I think [founder] Dawn Balistreri really makes sure that she caters to anyone who wants to walk through the door. She’s really good about that.”
If there’s a bell curve for vegan-only options in Milwaukee, Urban Beets would certainly be among the early adopters. In the time since its first location’s opening, On the Bus has opened in the Historic Third Ward’s Public Market, and at least two more vegan restaurants have sprung up on Milwaukee’s East Side: Strange Town and Celesta (opening this month). I ask Flagg if it surprises her seeing the burst of vegan options downtown.
“I don’t know if it surprises me,” she muses. “Because I do our social media, I see a lot of what’s going on, and veganism is actually becoming a little bit more mainstream, which is awesome. And I think Milwaukee, for a long time, has had this very – rightfully so – stereotype of being all about meat and cheese and beer. That’s fine – but at the end of the day, that’s not very healthy.”
That’s why she thinks Urban Beets has found its niche.
“It’s just nice to have a balance,” Flagg concludes. “It’s just nice to have some healthier options pop up.”
Urban Beets is not only providing vegans (and others) with lighter fare options, but it’s also offering patrons the chance to give back to different animal organizations, through a fundraiser called “Paws and Straws.” Once a month, 50% of the cafe’s proceeds from 5:00 to 9:00pm go to an organization, as well as 100% of the proceeds from the sale of glass straws. This month’s edition will be held on Thursday, June 14th, benefiting the Happy Endings No Kill Cat Shelter. Previous organizations include Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission and the Wisconsin Humane Society.
“They’re getting a little bigger every time, which is nice,” Flagg says. “I think when we first started, people were kind of confused. I would promote it and put cat pictures on our Facebook and people would be like, ‘why do you have cat pictures on a restaurant’s page?’ But I think now people get it.”
As for the Wauwatosa location, Flagg says the team is working on another kind of fundraiser, which will be announced at a later date.
If you’re interested in attending next week’s Paws and Straws fundraiser, you can check out the Facebook event here.
The downtown Urban Beets location is open Tuesdays thru Sundays and is located at 1401 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.