photo credit: Jakob Layman
Spoke Bicycle Cafe
It’s natural to sometimes want to emulate other people. Maybe it’s a cousin who lives in Paris and shows up at holidays in a beret without looking stupid, or a neighbor who has impeccable taste in indoor plants, or Amal Clooney because she’s Amal Clooney. You sense yourself wanting to be more like them.
Walking into Spoke Bicycle, the utopic outdoor cafe/bike rental shop along the river in Frogtown, will cause a similar reaction. It’s that rare kind of restaurant that’s so cool, so different, and so full of interesting people, you can’t help but pretend you’re someone else for the duration of your meal. Someone who bikes to work, grows their own produce, and probably has four rescue chinchillas in their backpack right now. Or at least just someone who hangs out at Spoke Bicycle all the time.
Spoke Bicycle started as an actual bike repair/rental shop for the neighborhood. Over time, they added beverages on the weekends and smaller food items until eventually it became the fully-fledged outdoor cafe experience it is today. And that’s exactly why this place doesn’t feel forced. Spoke isn’t some contrived concept designed to trigger social media warriors. It’s just a place, with an amazing patio by the river, an area off to the side for bike rentals and repairs, and a somewhat healthy food menu that’s also very good.
Spoke’s menu was designed initially to be fuel for visiting bikers, and that hasn’t changed. Expect farro bowls, toasts, and plenty of other things your metabolism will thank you for. But it’s not just for healthy snacks and triathletes either. The veggie burger, with a savory mushroom and beet patty, is one of the best ones we’ve ever tried. The avocado toast is massive and comes covered in grilled corn and other fresh vegetables that make it actually worth ordering. They also have a great burger, housemade waffle fries, and a breakfast sandwich we’d get up early to eat - if it wasn’t served all day.
We aren’t telling you to drive across the city for a farro bowl. We’re telling you to drive across the city to hang out at a place unlike most regular restaurants. As you sit on Spoke’s patio, eating good food and sipping beer, looking out at the mountains and listening to records play as bikers ride by, you do get to be a different person. A person who isn’t doing what everyone else is doing on a Saturday.
Spoke Veggie Burger
Veggie burgers fail when they try to taste like actual meat. Spoke attempts no such thing. Their housemade mushroom and beet patty is fantastic, with a real smokiness to it. Topped with arugula, caramelized onions, and garlic aioli, this is probably the best thing on the menu and an absolute must-order.
Not all avocado toasts are created equal, and Spoke’s version is proof of that. Topped with grilled corn kernels, arugula, pepita seeds, and feta cheese, this is how you jazz up a standard food item without making it ridiculous. Oh, and obviously get the fried egg.
Filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese, and chipotle aioli, there’s nothing over-the-top about this dish and that’s why we like it. Besides, you need to get back on a bike later.
Cauliflower Farro Bowl
On an already pretty healthy menu, this might be the healthiest dish. That said, it’s still worth ordering. Filled with feta, castelvetrano olives, and roasted chickpeas, this is an ideal dish for something lighter when you still want to be satisfied.
Right when you think this place is all health, you try the burger. Cheddar, applewood bacon, and a spicy remoulade make this worth ordering no matter how far past your caloric intake goals you are for the day. While you’re at it, get the waffle fries, not the salad.
Open-Faced Breakfast Toast
Probably the only dish at Spoke we would skip. It’s not terrible, but it’s not all that different from the avocado toast. And for as much ricotta as they smear on it, you can’t really taste much.