Jeramey Jannene

The Bellagio Is Coming To Milwaukee

Soul food restaurant and event space opening on far Northwest side.

By - Apr 7th, 2022 11:57 am
Fried chicken. Photo by Mike DelGaudio from USA, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Fried chicken. Photo by Mike DelGaudio from USA, (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

When someone mentions the word Bellagio, what comes to mind? For many, it would be the Las Vegas Strip casino and hotel and its massive fountain. But Darryl Simmons wants you to think soul food.

Simmons is working to open Bellagio Soul Food at 8665 W. Brown Deer Rd. A proposed menu includes southern fried chicken, baked chicken and turkey legs, meatloaf, smothered pork chops, catfish fillets and beef short ribs. The business would also have a full bar.

Simmons told the Licenses Committee Wednesday morning that the business would be split in two. One side would be a restaurant and another a lounge, intended to offer hookahs. Commonly associated with the Middle East, a hookah is a single or multi-stemmed vessel piece used to heat and smoke flavored tobacco using attached hoses.

Area Alderwoman Chantia Lewis said the Granville Advisory Committee was “really excited” about the food, but not the smoking component. “The advisory committee was not thrilled about having a hookah lounge in that space,” she said.

Simmons agreed to drop the hookah lounge. “Unfortunately I did pay a lot of money for my hookahs,” he said. A compromise could allow them to be used in part of the space.

Lewis said she was excited to see Simmons move forward with his business. An earlier plan from a different operator would have had a vegan soul food restaurant and barber shop.

The new business would be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. An occupancy permit has already been issued for the space.

With a capacity of 150, the Simmons’ Bellagio could host comedy acts. Simmons said it could also be rented for private events.

Located on the western edge of a large strip mall down the street from the former Northridge Mall, Simmons’ venture is taking over a space most recently occupied by BigCountry’s Barbecue & Cater. East of the space is a BP gas station owned by strip mall owner Jay Walia and minority partner and registered agent Satwinder Singh.

The Bellagio would be in the same shopping center as the proposed Mr. B’s restaurant, which would also host comedy acts as well as live music.

What actually is Bellagio? It neither originated with the Las Vegas casino, nor a chain of nail salons in the Milwaukee suburbs. Bellagio is a small town in Italy that sits on what is effectively a narrow peninsula in Lake Como. The name, in the United States, is commonly associated with luxury.

The Licenses Committee unanimously recommended approval of a liquor license for Bellagio Soul Food. Full council approval is still required for the business to open with alcohol, a fact that caused some controversy shortly after the committee voted and resulted in a warning that strippers were not allowed under any scenario.

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