Michael Holloway

Don’s Diner is Now [Temporarily] A Grocery Store

The grocery formerly known as Don's Diner & Cocktails is now selling toilet paper, hand sanitizer, takeout food and spiked milkshakes.

By - Mar 20th, 2020 01:21 pm
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Don's Liquor & Grocery. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Don’s Liquor & Grocery. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

What do the people need? They need alcohol and toilet paper. Don’s Diner & Cocktails, now Don’s Liquor & Grocery, is responding to this crisis with grace, giving the people just that and more.

Earlier this week, in response to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers ordered a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people and limited all bars and restaurants to take-out and delivery only. So, in an attempt to save a few jobs, Don’s adapted and became a grocery.

Don’s Diner & Cocktails opened in the Walker’s Point neighborhood at 1100 S. 1st St. in 2018. It’s known for its elevated diner food and boozy milkshakes. And despite their transition to a neighborhood grocery, they will still offer some diner favorites as takeout options.

“Seeing how much this impacts everyone in a number of ways — not just in the restaurant industry, but the people that are staying at home with kids and practicing social distancing — this was a way for us to be able to offer supplies and necessities that people are in need of as well as help us keep our doors open,” says Sean Wille of Eat. Stand. Drink. Hospitality, the group that owns Don’s.

Don's Liquor & Grocery. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Don’s Liquor & Grocery. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Rather than laying off most of its staff, Don’s was able to keep about 14 staff members that helped convert the restaurant’s dining room into a more retail-friendly environment.

“We had people building shelves, running out to the hardware stores, grabbing supplies and doing construction work,” Wille says. “We’re learning new skills of stocking inventory and shelves and learning a little more about the retail business. Everyone was eager and willing to jump in to make this work.”

All of the restaurant’s tables, chairs, benches, booths and stools were stacked into a private dining room. Shelves and racks were installed for groceries, and local artist Michael Cerda stepped in to paint new signs on the windows displaying the name change.

Don’s Grocery & Liquor will offer an abbreviated take-out version of Don’s Diner’s menu, featuring some of the restaurants top-selling dishes such as the Naughty Angel Burger (American cheese, Naughty Angel sauce, chopped onion, pickles, lettuce, tomato and a choice of up to 3 patties on a brioche bun), the Chicken Sammy (buttermilk fried chicken breast, pomegranate honey mustard, marinated cucumber and iceberg lettuce on a white bun) and the Milwaukee Hopple Popple (shredded beef, tater tots, house giardiniera, cheddar cheese and two fried eggs). Vegetarian options include the Impossible Burger (the same toppings as the Naughty Angel Burger, except with a plant-based patty) and Giardiniera Grilled Cheese (gouda, mozzarella, gruyere, American cheese, house giardiniera and spinach on buttered bread). There are kids options as well — the Lil’ Naughty Burgers come with two burgers topped with American cheese and the Lil’ Cheesy Melt is simply a grilled cheese with American cheese only.

As for groceries, Don’s has your quarantine covered with whatever you might need, from antibacterial hand soap to cases of water. The now much-sought-after toiletry products such as toilet paper rolls and hand sanitizer will also be sold, although at the time of this writing, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes had already been sold out. And an assortment of dry goods such as cereal, cans of soup, chips, and beans will be available, as well as frozen pizzas, including gluten-free and vegetarian options.

In the liquor department, Don’s will not only be selling liquor and beer to go, but also its signature milkshakes. Non-alcoholic versions are available, but if customers want that extra bite, Don’s will include a mini bottle on the side for spiking the shakes at home. Don’s will also offer cocktail kits which include all of the ingredients needed to make classics like gin and tonics, Bloody Marys and Moscow mules at home.

In an effort to limit the amount of time customers spend shopping, Don’s will eventually sell care packages that include a little bit of everything: toiletries, snacks, canned meals and beer. The idea is that this will expedite most customers’ shopping experience. The store will limit its guests to 10 at a time, and the employees will have hand sanitizer of their own at the ready.

“We’re asking everyone to keep in mind that this is a time of health and safety,” Wille says. “We’re taking health and precautionary measures — it’s first and foremost what we’re doing.”

On top of everything else that Don’s is offering, customers can purchase gift cards which will then be dispersed to anyone who signs up to receive assistance through its “Community Gift Card” list. To purchase gift cards or sign up for assistance, visit Don’s website.

“The support is already there for us and has been since we opened in 2018,” Wille says. “This community is so great, so the more we can spread the word and set examples for people and help each other — that’s a big part of the goal.”

Don’s Liquor & Grocery is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pick-up and delivery orders can be placed online or by calling 414-805-0805.

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