Sophie Bolich
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Koppa’s Reopens Deli

Plus: After-hours food truck festival for Ramadan, two chains plan Milwaukee restaurants.

By - Mar 26th, 2023 06:50 pm
Koppa's Farwell Foods, 1940 N. Farwell Ave. Photo taken March 24, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Koppa’s Farwell Foods, 1940 N. Farwell Ave. Photo taken March 24, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

A long-standing Lower East Side corner store is once again selling pre-made wraps, subs and salads. Koppa’s Farwell Foods, 1940 N. Farwell Ave., officially reopened its deli last weekend, reviving belly-filling favorites including the Hodag and the Bread Favre.

Fans were welcomed back with an all-day event held March 18 featuring discounted sandwiches and a wine tasting.

Vern Koppa opened the business Fulbeli Deli back in 1982. It changed hands several times throughout the following decades before current owners Tinari Nandini and Karthik Pothumachi took over.

The grocery section, offering staples such as milk, eggs and cereal, as well as household goods, has remained open for the duration of the pandemic, while the deli has remained mostly out-of-order since the onset of the pandemic.

The newly reopened deli offers dozens of sandwich options including the Elvis, Obi-Wan Bologna and the Deli Lama. A selection of pre-made sandwiches and sides such as coleslaw and pasta salad, are available for grab-and-go from aisle 1A.

Koppa’s Farwell Foods is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Deli hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Sisu Cafe Is Closed

Sisu Cafe, a Scandinavian-inspired coffeehouse and bakery that moonlighted as a steakhouse on weekends, is closed.

Earlier this week, a for-lease sign went up in the cafe’s front window. On Friday, the business was marked permanently closed. Sisu’s website and social media pages have been deleted.

The Bay View business opened at 2121 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in July 2022, serving Colectivo coffee and homemade Finnish pastries, as well as soup, salad and sandwiches.

In November, owners Francisco Sanchez and Ruben Piirainen extended Sisu’s weekend hours to include dinner service — transforming the daytime cafe into an old-school steakhouse.

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Rodeo-Themed Tavern With Mechanical Bull Planned for South Side

A new neighborhood tavern is slated to open on the South Side, with a name that speaks for itself. Fiesta Rodeo would replace Gary J’s Sixteen Street Pub at 3303 S. 16th St., featuring a full bar, entertainment and a mechanical bull — one of a rare few in the city.

Owner Jose Luis Miranda Gutierrez applied for a liquor license for the business, which would be located in a mostly residential area just south of Ascension St. Francis Hospital.

With the mechanical bull checking the rodeo box, Miranda Gutierrez plans to bring the fiesta with DJ performances, a jukebox and movie screenings, according to the license application.

The 6,359-square-foot tavern space would include 11 tables with seating for approximately 45 guests, plus up to a dozen stools at a peninsula bar, according to building plans submitted along with the license application. Miranda Gutierrez also plans to add a projector screen on one wall, as well as activate a side patio space.

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Wauwatosa Restaurant Week Underway

The second annual installment of Tosa Restaurant Week (TRW) is underway as of March 23, inviting diners to patronize small businesses and partake in specially-priced and limited-time menu items.

More than two dozen Wauwatosa restaurants, breweries and food-focused retail stores are participating in the 10-day event, which ends April 1.

Diners can expect a wide variety of options — from fine-dining to casual takeout — including sushi, pizza, Hawaiian fare, burgers, Mexican cuisine, pastries and more.

“Wauwatosa is home to such diverse, locally-owned dining that Tosa Restaurant Week is a great time to head to your favorite spots, and then come back and try something new,” said Beth Gleesing, tourism specialist for the City of Wauwatosa, which leads the event.

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Hot Box Pizza Adding Bay View Location

The owners of Hot Box Pizza are poised for a major expansion, with plans to launch a new, brick-and-mortar restaurant in Bay View while maintaining a presence at Zocalo Food Park.

Doh’p would open at 2509 E. Oklahoma Ave., a building previously planned to be repurposed as a garden center.

Terrell Turner and Suzanne Pham-Banh opened Hot Box in 2020, serving up comfort food in a lot at 1st and Mineral streets in Walker’s Point. In 2022, the truck relocated to Zocalo Food Park, 636 S. 6th St., where it has operated since.

The restaurant’s title is a double entendre — referring both to the dough used for Hot Box’s wood-fired pizzas, as well as a subtle nod to the operation’s marijuana-themed menu.

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Mexican Restaurant Planned For Farwell Avenue

Milwaukee, with its award-winning taquerias, family-run bakeries and abundance of food trucks, has no shortage of Mexican food — and an upcoming restaurant would add another to the tally, with a promise to deliver “authentic, rustic” cuisine, including dishes rarely seen in the city.

At Sonora’s, 2124 N. Farwell Ave., owner and chef George Ortiz plans to serve food and beverages flavored by Mexico City and Oaxaca, and complemented by a laid-back and welcoming atmosphere.

“I want it to look and feel and taste and smell really authentic,” said Ortiz. “Like walking into grandma’s house, and your nose is just exploding with all of these scents of food, that’s my vision. It’s got to feel like home, it’s got to be exceptional.”

A Chicago-native, Ortiz spent two decades as an educator before making a career change to hospitality. He attended Kendall College, a culinary institution, where he focused on French cuisine. While there, Ortiz discovered that many of his classmates had similar stories.

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Pabst to Unveil The Fitzgerald April 5

The Pabst Theater Group will welcome guests next month for the “grand reveal” of its newest event venue, The Fitzgerald.

PTG bought the historic mansion, 1119 N. Marshall St., long known as Villa Filomena, last summer, with plans to host weddings and other events. The newly-renovated venue is set to reopen April 5 with aldermanic and neighborhood support, despite initial misgivings.

In September of 2022, the Licenses Committee voted 3-0 to recommend the denial of PTG’s request for a new license at the address, Urban Milwaukee previously reported.

At the following month’s meeting, PTG came to an agreement with the committee, agreeing to a deal that limits the group to 12 non-wedding special events, none of which can be concerts, and only two weddings per week with a maximum of 48 per year.

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Bar Licensing Issues Causes Council Floor Fight

The City of Milwaukee’s process to discipline tavern owners is under siege with several court decisions overturning suspensions and votes to close businesses. But on Tuesday, the council might have managed to make matters worse.

One alderman flip-flopped on how big of a suspension he wanted, the council openly discussed privileged legal advice with its attorney and another council member blasted a new assistant city attorney.

Then the council voted in opposition to the advice of assistant city attorney Christopher Jackson.

The council entered Tuesday’s meeting ready with a recommendation from its Licenses Committee to issue a 60-day suspension to Infinity Lounge, 4001 W. Fond du Lac Ave.

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Public Museum Selects New Caterer

Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) has named Noble Catering & Events as its new exclusive caterer for external events. Starting May 1, Noble will begin creating customized menus for occasions including weddings, corporate outings and conferences held at the museum, 800 W. Wells St.

The role was previously filled by Zilli Hospitality Group.

“Noble Catering & Events’ commitment to detail and customization will offer a dining experience that complements the uniqueness of hosting an event within MPM’s immersive natural history exhibits—whether the backdrop is butterflies, dinosaurs or ancient civilizations—or within one of the museum’s more traditional event spaces,” said Rebecca Ehlers, vice president of marketing, communications and visitor experience for MPM. “With a team that has been in the Milwaukee-area hospitality industry for more than 20 years, they also bring a wealth of culinary talent and catering experience.”

Noble Catering, a branch of F Street Hospitality, was founded during the pandemic. It’s also the operator of Skylight Bar & Bistro at the Broadway Theatre Center158 N. Broadway and oversees the menu at Gülden Room, located within Dubbel Dutch hotel, 817-819 N. Marshall St.

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Ambassador Hotel Restaurants Reopening

Three restaurants housed within the Ambassador Hotel, 2308 W. Wisconsin Ave., will soon be fully operational for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two of the establishments, Gin Rickey and Cafe Deco, have already reopened, the hotel said in a Tuesday press release, while The Fitz is set to reopen for dinner starting Thursday, May 4.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson has declared that date as “Ambassador Hotel Day” in honor of the hotel’s 95th anniversary.

The restaurants, as well as a newly-added catering division, will be under the purview of Juan Pablo Vallejo Martinez, executive chef at the hotel.

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Council Slaps Infinity Lounge With 60-Day Suspension

Infinity Lounge, a tavern and hookah bar in the Sherman Park neighborhood, is serving a 60-day suspension based on a six-item police report that included complaints of excessive noise, violence, litter and alleged strippers.

The Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday issued the bar, 4001 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., a two-month suspension, though some members pushed for reducing it due to the council’s recent struggles to defend its decisions in court.

The suspension went into effect on March 21, though the bar has been closed since its license expired Feb. 28. Infinity Lounge can reopen May 20, according to the the Licenses Committee recommendation.

A March 1 Facebook post from Infinity Lounge announced that the bar would be closed through March 7 for remodeling. The bar hasn’t posted an update since then.

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Food Truck Festival Offers Late-Night Meals During Ramadan

A handful of Milwaukee area food trucks will operate after hours to accommodate Muslim diners this upcoming Ramadan.

The Fatty Patty, Romero’s Taco Truck and others will congregate on April 7 for Suhoor Food Truck Fest, an event offering halal food and entertainment following the evening prayer.

The festival is the result of a partnership between Eat Halal Milwaukee and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, the event host and sponsor. Suhoor Food Truck Fest will take place in the parking lot behind ISM, 4707 S. 13th St., from 10:30 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Milwaukee’s festival follows in the footsteps of larger cities such as Detroit and San Francisco, where similar events are commonplace, said organizer Bushra Zaibak.

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Health-Focused Restaurant Coming to Paper Table

A new restaurant is expected to open next month at Paper Table, bringing healthy and energizing options — with an emphasis on kosher-friendly foods — to the downtown food hall, 733-737 N. Milwaukee St.

The new concept, Urban Eats Fresh, is slated to open in April.

For the past 10 years, owner Yvonne Arvanitis served as a state recruitment manager at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) annual airshow, where she oversaw five restaurants and approximately 200 workers.

After a decade of serving a larger organization, Arvanitis said that the new restaurant is something she’s doing for herself. The Milwaukee-native said she’s looking forward to returning to her hometown, as well as the opportunity to provide healthy, convenient and accessible meals to the community.

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Mad Chicken Coming to Northwest Side

Milwaukee-based Mad Chicken was poised to open a new location on the Northwest Side last year, but those plans fell through. Now, the restaurant is eyeing a new building just a few blocks away.

Mad Chicken would open its third Milwaukee location at 7424 W. Appleton Ave., in the former Wong’s Wok space. The business recently purchased the property for $600,000, according to state real estate records.

The property, located near W. Capitol Dr., includes a 2,187-square-foot building with a drive-thru and a handful of parking spaces.

Co-founder Nabil Mutlaq told Urban Milwaukee that the decision to change locations came about due to plumbing problems at the original building, 7818 W. Capitol Dr. The new restaurant is expected to open in late April or early May.

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Freshii Closes Last Wisconsin Location

Freshii has closed its downtown location, marking the chain’s exit from the Wisconsin.

The “health-casual” restaurant opened at 250 E. Wisconsin Ave., in 2018, but closed in recent weeks.

Wisconsin’s penultimate Freshii, in Buchanan, shuttered last May.

As of December 2022, Freshii operated 343 restaurants throughout the United States, Canada and several other countries. Canada-based restaurant franchisor Foodtastic acquired the brand at the end of 2022. Along with Freshii, the company owns more than 20 brands including Pita Pit, La Belle & La Boeuf and Quesada Burritos & Tacos.

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Canela Café Is Sweet Place for Breakfast

Ghosts of the former Coffee Trader on N. Downer Ave. greeted my companion and me at Canela Café. From 1974 until 1999, this beloved coffee shop/restaurant served locally roasted coffee and my favorite, the Ratatouille Omelet. The omelet is long gone, but the restaurant space looks mainly the same with beamed ceilings, large windows to the world on Downer, and those luscious Cream City brick walls that line the north side of the restaurant.

In later years The Original Pancake House had been located in this space, but it closed in 2021 and after some seven months Canela opened here, under owners Dina and Ray Awadallah – who had gotten experience working at El Beso Mexican restaurant in Greenfield and the Mad Rooster Cafe on 44th and Greenfield Ave.

Before opening Canela, they added a display of large contemporary art pieces to liven the brick walls and replaced the wood floor with neutral-colored tiles. Together they give the space a bright upscale and inviting ambience.

Thanks to our 11:00 reservation on a very busy Sunday morning, we were immediately seated by a friendly and efficient server. Because we let her know we were headed to the theater, our meals were delivered in a timely manner, but not before we enjoyed Classic Mimosas from a list of five choices.

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New Dunkin’ Planned For Capitol Drive

A new location for Dunkin’ is slated to replace Wong’s Wok on on E. Capitol Dr.

The upcoming restaurant, 242 E. Capitol Dr., would be takeout only, with plans to offer drive-thru service as well as a pick-up window for walk-in customers. In order to accommodate the streamlined service, Dunkin’ plans to remodel the interior of the 2,527-square-foot building and expand the existing drive-thru.

The business shares a 12-space parking lot with neighboring O’Reilly Auto Parts.

Dunkin’, which officially shortened its name from Dunkin Donuts in 2019, sells breakfast items including egg sandwiches and wraps, hash browns, stuffed bagel bites and muffins, as well as a wide variety of doughnuts and doughnut holes, better known as munchkins.

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