Graham Kilmer

Downtown Ghost Kitchen’s First Food Purveyor Coming

MilTex to serve soul food, diner favorites and bar food classics, plans May opening.

By - Apr 20th, 2022 05:26 pm
Virtual food hall construction. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Virtual food hall construction. Photo taken March 11, 2022 by Jeramey Jannene.

A new downtown food hall being built out specifically for delivery focused businesses has a first tenant that is preparing to open.

MilTex Kitchen began as a food truck offering offering a fusion of Milwaukee and Texas fare. Now it’s setting up shop at 733 N. Milwaukee St. in the new food hall owned by KBD Holdings, a California real estate firm that says it manages $5 billion in real estate holdings around the world.

A search of business licenses applications filed with the City of Milwaukee did not turn up applications for other businesses preparing to move into the space.

The food hall is one of many “ghost kitchens,” as they’ve been dubbed, popping up around the country. This new business trend whereby singular sites, or food halls, are built out to accommodate as many delivery based business as possible is made possible by food delivery tech companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash, private equity and oil wealth from at least one Gulf state. A 2019 piece in TechCrunch described a mad dash by investors to scale up companies and corner the market that includes none other than Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick. As the Wall Street Journal reported, his new ghost kitchen empire is being built in part with a helpful $400 million investment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.

This isn’t KBD Holding’s first entry into the ghost kitchen arena. The firm has ghost kitchen projects in other cities like Seattle and Las Vegas.

KBD bought the building at 733-737 N. Milwaukee St. in 2021 for $850,000. Urban Milwaukee previously reported the firm could house well over a dozen restaurants, each with a 200 square-foot kitchen, in the 5,746 square foot building. A selling point for potential delivery focused businesses is that KBD will handle delivery and pick up for the individual businesses. Plans submitted to the city show a small, shared dine-in area at the front building.

The small kitchen will likely be an upgrade for MilTex and its food truck operation. On March 23, owner Raven Bivens Gee posted on an instagram page for the business, “I got my Key’s for my new Restaurant today! I’m super excited.”

A business application states MilTex is moving into a “virtual food hall,” which is what KBD called the business in an application filed with the city in February.

MilTex’s food will be a blend of soul food dishes, diner favorites and bar food classics; and many are named for a landmark, neighborhood or park in Milwaukee or Texas. Items include the North Avenue reuben fries, the Jamaican Beach egg rolls (a nod to the city in Texas) and the Sherman Street Polish.

According to the business application filed with the city, MilTex plans to open its new space by May 1, and its planned hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. seven days a week. Gee could not be reached for comment by Urban Milwaukee.

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