Neighbor Spotlight: Leah Breitrich

photo by Becky Vinz On a warm spring night in Riverwest the corner of Clarke and Bremen feels more like Paris than Milwaukee. There’s a trio of musicians out on the sidewalk; a bass, a guitar that sounds like a mandolin, an accordion that sounds like a violin. They play gypsy music that’s sweet and fresh and optimistic.  Five young men range themselves on the four corners of the sidewalk, tossing a Frisbee with a light in the center that changes color – green to magenta to turquoise – as it arcs above the street. The music is punctuated by St. Casimir’s church bells and the occasional “boom box car” that pauses at the stop sign. All the action takes place at Bremen Café, the eighborhood bar and eatery on the corner.This is where Leah Breitrich spends her days, taking delicious food and managing all the details that are the responsibility of the bar manager. She has worked on-and-off at Bremen since  2006, starting again in April of 2008. Leah likes working in Riverwest. She says the atmosphere is more laid back than other places. There’s more of an emphasis on neighborhood than on  just business.” And the patrons she serves appreciate that – there are a lot of regulars.  “You always have same people that  come back,” Leah said. “There’s a real  neighborhood feel. People come in and act like it’s their living room.” She says working at Bremen Café is like  working at two different places. By night, it’s a neighborhood bar, age 21+, with music  and events. By day, it’s a neighborhood café. “It’s quiet,” Lea explains. “College students come in to study and use the free Wi-Fi. Neighborhood kids come in to play pool. Families with little kids come in, and the kids play with the games.” Games? Oh yeah, it’s the games that draw Leah back in the evening, and change her from an employee to a customer. “I really like Old School Game Night –you can usually find me here on Tuesday  nights,” this brings out a grin. “We play Risk, Candyland, old school Nintendo games – you feel like you’re a kid again on Tuesdays.” Leah’s got other stuff going on besides her  job at Bremen Café. She is a design student at MATC – “Taking my sweet time with  that” – and this fall plans to switch to a medical assistant program to become an  echocardiographer. What about design? It’s still a big part of her  life. “I love to make food – and make it look really nice. When I make dinners or pastries, I decorate them so they look like pieces of art. I like to construct it – stack things up so  they don’t fall down, drizzle a little sauce on  top. It’s fun.” She gets compliments on the food she creates  at the café. Her favorite dishes to make? “The  things I make up,” she states. You can find  those items on the specials board any day at lunchtime. How does Leah see herself? “I’m generally a  very happy person – a good-hearted person. I might not always be smiling, but I’m usually in a good mood.” But Leah admits to an oddball twist. “I think I see things differently ftrom other people,” she says. How so? “Well, one person might see an easy way to do something, but I might choose to do it a more difficult way. It’s like if you’re playing a video game, it’s normal that if the controller points down, you look down. I might look up. I might see things in a different way than might be expected.” Leah has a wry little smile when she chooses to use it. It’s the look of someone who sees things that other people might not see. And it’s part of the atmosphere at the Bremen Café. “I’m just odd,” she says. “But that’s a good thing.”