Sophie Bolich

Hot Dish Pantry Plans South Side Location

Midwestern comfort food restaurant would expand to former Iron Grate BBQ building on Howell Ave.

By - Dec 6th, 2022 01:13 pm
Site of Iron Grate BBQ Co. Photo taken Nov. 9, 2022 by Sophie Bolich

Site of Iron Grate BBQ Co. Photo taken Nov. 9, 2022 by Sophie Bolich

Hot Dish Pantry is expanding its Milwaukee footprint, with plans for a new restaurant at the former site of Iron Grate BBQ Co., 4125 S. Howell Ave.

The midwestern comfort food restaurant recently filed a license application for the address of the former barbeque restaurant, which closed Nov. 20.

Owners and self-proclaimed “Milwaukee kids” Nathan Heck and Laura Maigatter first launched Hot Dish Pantry as a pop-up amid the pandemic, later moving the operation to a rented kitchen in Oak Creek.

In early 2022, the restaurant made its debut at 3rd Street Market Hall as one of four hawker stalls under the purview of anchor restaurant Dairyland Old-Fashioned Frozen Custard and Hamburgers.

Hot Dish was among the first round of businesses to open in the hawker stalls, and is the only one remaining from the original lineup. Lover Boy, a soft pretzel concept; and an Italian-American vendor are planned to open soon in the adjacent stalls.

Hot Dish Pantry is known for its tater tot hot dish and handmade pierogies with playful, non-traditional fillings such as crab rangoon and loaded baked potato.

Though hot dish (or casserole, depending on where you’re from) is typically seen as a casual, nostalgic and homey meal, the 3rd Street Market Hall restaurant’s menu features upscale touches, incorporating seasonal and local ingredients as well as unexpected flavor combinations.

In addition to pierogi and its namesake hot dish, the restaurant offers handhelds and snacks such as the crispy potato pancake topped with caramelized onions, dill sour cream and sauerkraut; nacho-inspired loaded tater tots, hot honey cheese curds and chai-spiced puppy chow.

The restaurant also offers online ordering for pickup.

The new location for Hot Dish is expected to open Feb. 1. Similar to Iron Grate, the restaurant would offer counter-service, with the option to dine in or carry out.

The owners also applied for a liquor license, and expect to generate approximately 18% of revenue from alcohol sales, 80% from food sales and the remaining 2% from merchandise.

A license application indicates that the location could also operate as a base kitchen for pop-up or mobile vendors.

Tarek Fleifel is the current owner of the 1,605-square-foot building, which originally operated as Boy Blue, a soft-serve ice cream stand. The 1950s-era structure maintains its retro charm, featuring large windows and a sloping roof.

Following its planned launch in spring 2023, Hot Dish Pantry’s new location would be open daily from 8 a.m. to midnight according to the license application. Maigatter, in a statement after the article was first published, said the business would not be open for that entire window.

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