Beans & Barley is a cozy spot nestled right off the corner of North & Oakland on Milwaukee's East Side. I have been to this spot for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought it was an appropriate time to finally try out their breakfast, as I had scoped out a few options on their menu including their vegan biscuits and gravy.
This spot is super unique, as it serves as a small grocery store and has little trinkets and gifts that can be bought. The exterior is more modern than anything, and really stands out in the sea of older, more historic buildings around and on North Avenue. Likewise, customers can order food from this spot's deli and get it to go versus sitting down to eat, a nice touch for people who are busy and want quick eats. There is even a neat bar area off to the side right before you arrive in the main seating area, which leads me to my meal and experience.
As I sat down to look at the menu, I was debating between vegan pancakes, sausage and potatoes and the vegan biscuits and gravy, and after seeing someone order the latter option, I was pretty much sold. Also, this option was only $6.50, which is a STEAL. Mara opted for the challah almond french toast, which was only $8, and the prices at Beans and Barley are all moderately priced and remind me a lot of Beerline Cafe's prices. A side of roasted potatoes are only $1.50, orange juice $2.25 and a host of other sides are all under $2. Simply put, you can get a bang for your buck here for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
When our food arrived, I was ready to dig in and after taking a couple bites, I was thoroughly impressed with the seasoning, flavor, vegan sausage and gravy that topped these biscuits. There were also scallions in this dish and added a lot of flavor, while there was a little spiciness to these biscuits and gravy and added to the potent flavor of this dish. I have not eaten biscuits and gravy in a long time, and this vegan option was delicious, seasoned and hearty. I should not have gotten any roasted garlic potatoes as a side because I was super stuffed after eating my meal. However, the garlic flavor accentuated my flavors that were bursting from my plate. The amount of gravy to the biscuits was a little too much, but I also am not one to complain about getting too much gravy or fixings in general. The mushrooms in the gravy also provided a nice change of consistency when eating with biscuits, which can be a bit more on the fluffy side.
Although I have been one to call Beans and Barley too simple, all of their food is fresh and made mostly from scratch. I can't really complain in the sense that a lot of their food is always prepared made-to-order. However, my side of potatoes did come out a little lukewarm, but they graciously sent them back and then came back with more hot, fresh potatoes than I had originally received. This quick change to give me fresh food, while also giving me more potatoes was a nice touch, and I was very appreciative that they did this for me.
The ambiance of Beans and Barley feels a bit hipster and only a tad bit grunge. The paint on some of the wooden side panels of seats are chipped, while the floor looks like a linoleum surface that needs some new panels. While the outside looks sleek, the inside could definitely use a touch-up in their restaurant area. Everywhere else looks fine and updated, and the white photos with wooden frames of Milwaukee artists and creators is a nice touch. Overall, Beans and Barley's EXTENSIVE menu that includes tofu-packed burritos, omelettes, chili, walnut burgers, salads, tuna melts and much more make for a great place to grab lunch, brunch (on Sat. & Sun. from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., find meatless options and eat at moderate prices. I'll be back for more soon!