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Local favorite named one of state's best cafes
Amy Harkrider of New Glarus has owned Amy's Corner Cafe since 2014 with her husband, Chris, who helps cook. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Amy's Corner Cafe has been a staple of Monroe for decades and has now caught the eye of a publication that names the best things about the state.

Best Things Wisconsin, a website specializing in listing the most worthwhile state restaurants, shops and activities, named the cafe as one of the "Best Mom & Pop Restaurants in Wisconsin," citing its "crispy hash browns and unparalleled customer service."

"It was kind of a surprise, I was just sitting home drinking a cup of coffee ... and I was like 'wow, look at this,'" Amy Harkrider, business owner, said. "It's really neat too because I read the other day about Buggyworks and Baumgartner's; to get that publicity for Monroe is awesome, it really is, for all businesses."

Purchased by Harkrider in 2014, the restaurant has been known as the Corner Cafe for decades. Harkrider began with a serving job, continuing work through college. When her boss announced he was selling, she jumped at the chance, changing the plans she had laid out for herself while in school to preserve the place she'd spent 14 years as a waitress.

That method proved successful, as lines of people wait to be seated at a worn counter seat or to slide into one of the half-dozen booths available each Saturday.

"They start coming in at 10 after five in the morning; we don't even open until 5:30," Harkrider said with a laugh. "The customers who come in here are amazing. There have been just a ton of relationships built over the years. It really is an at-home, family-like atmosphere."

Harkrider has made it a goal to keep the restaurant true to its past, which specializes in homemade comfort food. Harkrider noted that each daily special gets prepared from scratch.

Paul Schmit, a regular patron who always drinks coffee but rotates his meal nearly every time he comes in, credited Harkrider and her husband, Chris, on the cafe's operation.

"I've never had a bad meal," Schmit said. "I love the atmosphere."

He said the small, old-fashioned restaurant has been a "great place to meet the guys" and get more of "the local gossip."

As he sat at the counter devouring an egg salad sandwich, casual conversation and jokes with Harkrider took place while Chris stood at the grill preparing a tuna melt. Servers met the needs of customers and everyone was greeted with a smile and warm comment, which likely contributed to the description naming the cafe the 10th best establishment of its kind within the state.

Harkrider attributed the success of the business to her staff of roughly 15 people. She expressed gratitude with the relationships employees have been able to develop with customers who continue to return. She pointed out that the homemade pie does not hurt business either.