The chocolate-covered strawberry waffle is one of 23 varieties.
The brutal Wisconsin winter is fading outside, and sun streams through the windows of this warm and comfortable cafe on the far west side. A woman coos to her newborn. An elderly couple play cards. A wiry, bespectacled man strokes his neatly trimmed beard, engrossed in a novel in a comfortable-looking chair.
The bookshelf includes a manga collection and Nick Hornby's About a Boy. Locally produced art, available for purchase, adorns the walls. TnT's Coffee & Cafe feels of a piece with the immediately adjacent Alicia Ashman Library, both relaxing places to settle in for a while and contemplate life. The friendly staff doesn't seem to mind if you linger — so how about a cup of joe?
Colectivo is the house bean, and it keeps TnT's firmly grounded in the coffee house tradition. That's a big part of their thing: coffee drinks for miles. You can get a black eye (a shot of espresso in coffee), café miel (espresso with honey and cinnamon), café mocha with white chocolate, or a latte macchiato topped with a drizzle of caramel.
Beyond coffee fare, these folks have an interesting menu of breakfast sandwiches, Belgian waffles and breakfast burritos. And home-stewed pulled pork with sliced red onion and tomato on a pretzel roll.
But let's start with the stupendous surprise, the astonishing array of Belgian waffle recipes. TnT's 23 versions of this breakfast concoction range from the obvious (dotted with berries, chocolate chips, sliced bananas, whipped cream) to the unanticipated (a chocolate waffle topped with crushed peanut butter cups).
The waffles, crunchy on the exterior and light and fluffy inside, are dusted with confectioner's sugar. I like them especially set against tart, firm strawberries and chilled whipped cream, as in the “Tooty Fruity.” A standing menu item of dark chocolate waffles smothered with raspberries and tiny nuggets of white chocolate feels rich and life-affirming. Irregular edges speak to the homemade nature of each plate; the batters for the Belgian waffles are grainy, subtle and tinged with vanilla. A gluten-free version is available for a $1.25 upcharge.
TnT's waffle breakfast combo, with a half Belgian waffle, two eggs, a slice of pineapple, and bacon or sausage, is a nice way to put it all together for a morning feast.
Breakfast sandwiches — this is happening too. Design your own, choosing style of eggs, cheese and bacon. Or skip the mental processing and get a specialty sandwich like the Thai Breakfast Bagel. The creator of this gargantuan affair stacks two eggs over-easy on a bagel smeared with YumButter spicy peanut butter, then adds sliced cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and bean sprouts. Huge. This is two meals.
Breakfast burritos here don't approach the platonic ideal of the form found in Austin, Texas, but the Mexican Chorizo Burrito is nonetheless hot stuff on a chilly Wisconsin morning. Herbed potatoes, onions, peppers, eggs, cheese and chorizo are stuffed into a plate-sized flour tortilla. Most people probably can't finish a burrito of this girth in one sitting — it's a calorie committment — but it sure is satisfying.
At lunch, the chicken salad on a fluffy croissant is the knockout punch at TnT's. Savory chunks of smoky chicken intermingle with sweet grapes, poppy seeds, almonds and celery.
Bacon, lettuce and tomato on dark rye is straightforward but maybe a little bland; as a BLT lover, I had trouble getting excited about this. However, a housemade corned beef on rye Reuben, served with a dill pickles and homemade potato salad, hits the deli-belly center dead on.
The lunch menu also encompasses a dozen sandwiches and wraps, nearly as many hot sandwiches, a handful of quesadillas — plus fresh salads. All sandwiches come with a choice of sides like homemade potato salad, coleslaw or fresh fruit.
One person runs the counter and another is in the kitchen preparing each dish from scratch, so if you order for four people, expect to wait a bit. It's obviously and adorably a totally home-grown scene.