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Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008

Cultivating the Community

Artful dining in Uptown Crossing

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Our goal is to be a gathering place in the middle of our neighborhood where people can walk, and not have to drive, to get a great cup of coffee and enjoy a good meal,” says Marvin Jones, owner of A Taste of Art Coffee Bar and Deli. Jones and company spent a year refurbishing a unique corner location into a comfortable, spacious and bright gathering spot at 47th Street and Lisbon Avenue in the Uptown Crossing neighborhood. The coffee bar features rotating art shows by prominent Milwaukee artists and live music through its “Love is the Key” musical series. Jones intends to host spoken-word events later in the fall.

Commitment to community is core to Marvin Jones, and his coffee bar and deli are a projection of that belief. “Knowing that we can’t be everything, we still want to be a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” he explains.

The employees at A Taste of Art are hired right from the neighborhood. Jones sees his business as a steppingstone for his young hires, a safe place to develop before moving on to bigger and better things. Every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., lunch is on Jones. Neighbors are invited to enjoy his “Recession Special,” a free entree that, in the past, has included chicken casserole, jambalaya, spaghetti and Southwestern chicken.

A Taste of Art has opened its doors to the nearby S.O.S. Center, a counseling pro gram that provides support to women and their children. On occasion, Jones also invites area youth to his restaurant to teach them dining etiquette. Down the hall from the coffee bar and deli, Jones has a 15-seat conference room that organizations can use free of charge. On any given night, you’ll find people participating in small business groups, yoga classes, tutoring lessons or martial arts instruction.

A graduate of Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts, Jones aims to provide nutritious meals to a neighborhood where corner convenient stores and fast food restaurants abound. He has an established relationship with a farm in the West Bend area and hopes to soon offer a menu fashioned entirely from Wisconsin-made ingredients. The product of his union with agriculture? “We own a cow now!” Jones says with a laugh. “We just can’t get too attached.”

A Taste of Art serves Alterra coffee in the form of lattes, mochas and the like, as well as fresh pastries and muffins made by Cranky Al’s in Wauwatosa. The menu is simple and straightforward: sandwiches, soup and a hearty daily special. Just how good is his food? Though Jones didn’t win first place, his ribs sold out in 15 minutes at the “Brew City’s Best BBQ Competition,” a cook off observed by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and held during the 2008 MLK Street Jam in celebration of Harley-Davidson’s 105th anniversary.

Jones is currently narrowing down his selection of possible locations for his next endeavor, aptly named The Other Place. With his earnest and steadfast desire to cultivate the community, the neighborhood that is chosen can expect great things.

A Taste of Art is located at 4701 W. Lisbon Ave. Free Wi-Fi is available. For more information, call (414) 447-0740 or visit www.tasteofart4701.com. Open Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.



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