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Fondy Feast Features Top Local Chefs

Plus: Two city businesses face suspension and S'Blendid owner spills the tea on new Bay View cafe.

By - Jul 16th, 2023 05:45 pm
Fondy Food Feast. Photo courtesy of Fondy Food Center.

Fondy Food Feast. Photo by Venice Williams.

Fondy Food Center is gearing up for its annual fundraiser, Fondy Feast. This year’s event, set for Sunday, Aug. 27, will include family-friendly entertainment, auction items and a six-course dinner prepared by a lineup of notable Milwaukee chefs.

Funds from the event will support Fondy Food Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to connect Milwaukee area residents with healthy food and economic opportunities through local farmers markets, land access and other resources. The organization also works with its partners to improve the food system for the community.

The Fondy Farm at Mequon Nature Preserve plays a key role in the organization’s mission, offering affordable, long-term leases on quality agricultural land, plus the amenities that underserved farmers need to succeed. The 40-acre farm, 10150 N. Swan Rd., in Mequon, supports a handful of family-owned operations. It’s also the site of the upcoming Fondy Feast.

The afternoon event is set to begin at 3:30 p.m., with tractor tours, live music and auction browsing continuing until 5 p.m.

Auction items will soon be available to view online.

Dinner will be served at 5 p.m. and last until sunset. The six-course meal will feature dishes prepared by Gregory Leon of Amalinda, Jason Alston of Heaven’s Table BBQ, Zakiya Courtney of Vegan Soul, Thomas Hauck of The Immigrant Room, Jenny Lee of Perilla Kitchen and Elena Terry of Wild Bearies.

Former Judge Derek Mosley, who now works with the Marquette law school, and Trueman McGee, founder of Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, will run the show as this year’s co-masters of ceremonies.

The event will take place rain or shine, with a large tent for shelter in case of the former.

Individual tickets are priced at $150 and are available for purchase online. To enquire about becoming a charitable sponsor, in-kind donor or volunteer for the event, reach out to

Deer District Bar Wants To Be Year-Round MECCA

When The MECCA opened in spring of 2019, it joined a downtown entertainment scene that is vastly different than that of today.

Fiserv Forum was brand new, having opened nine months earlier, and the Deer District was still a fawn. In the years since, the area has seen substantial growth, accelerated by the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 2021 NBA Championship, and is now home to dozens of dedicated sports bars, entertainment venues and — the latest addition — a hotel.

The MECCA, 1134 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave., has done some growth of its own. The sports bar and grill recently debuted a new menu that’s chock full of Wisconsin fare. The latest iteration, according to chef Keith Luce, is intended to present The MECCA as a year-round destination for all Milwaukeeans, not just basketball aficionados.

“As the city changes, and as Deer District changes, we’re hoping to invest in the neighborhood and make The MECCA more of a year-round destination,” said Luce, who serves as senior executive chef for Fiserv Forum and Levy Restaurant’s Deer District operations.

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Sav-On Foods Closing After 57 Years

A key Milwaukee destination for affordable groceries will soon close for good after nearly six decades in business.

Sav-On Foods, a grocery warehouse located at 2030 W. Clybourn St., is selling its remaining stock at a discounted price before permanently closing its doors at the end of the month.

Now entering its final days, the store leaves customers with a brief — yet sincere — message, posted on a whiteboard near the swinging entry doors.

“Thank you to all of our customers,” it said. “Without you these last 57 years would not have been possible.”

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Lakefront Brewery Ships Beer, Donations to Ukraine

During the Civil War, soldiers ate hardtack. Bully beef provided key sustenance throughout World War I and service members munched on M&M’s during World War II.

As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery is showing its support by sending cases of locally-brewed beers to Ukrainians.

For generations, soldiers and citizens alike have proven that as war rages on, so too does the pull towards familiar food and drink — whether it be for strength, comfort or simply a brief sense of normalcy.

“Although random bombs are still falling, Ukrainian citizens must go about their daily lives as best as they can,” the company wrote in a social media post. “They deserve the finest beer and foods available, so our importers continue their business around the world. We’re happy our beer will be flowing over there once again!”

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Giant Mozzarella Sticks Concept Coming to 3rd Street Market Hall

Two Milwaukee restaurateurs are joining forces to bring “giant” mozzarella sticks, mac and cheese and other comfort dishes to 3rd Street Market Hall.

Makk’n’Cheese owner Gregory Kieckbusch and Alphonso’s The Original Pizzeria owner Tim Szuta will open Rod & Makk at the downtown food hall, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The new restaurant is expected to open within the coming months inside the former Supernova Coffee & Doughnuts, which relocated within the hall in early June to combine with fellow sweets purveyor Mid-Way Bakery.

Kieckbusch and Szuta have a long history — the industry veterans have known each other since high school, but the new venture will be their first as business partners.

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How Falcon Bowl Was Saved

In late June 2021, Nest 725, the last remaining Wisconsin outpost of the Polish Falcons of America [PFA] announced it was going to dissolve and planned to sell the building at 801 E. Clarke St. in Riverwest that had been its home since 1945. The fraternal organization is “a not-for-profit, member-driven, community life insurer with 20,000 members nationwide.” It was founded in Chicago in 1887, with Nest 725 established here in 1916. The 1882 building and its 1914 addition at the southeast corner of N. Fratney St. was destined to become the Nest’s third, and final, roost.

It is not often that news of an insurance company divesting itself of an old headquarters building would lead to a great deal of apprehension, if not angst, amongst its neighbors in a working-class district of mostly single-family homes and duplexes. Yet that was exactly the case: the 12,502-square-foot Nest 725 building sat on an 8,400-square-foot lot — large for the neighborhood, with a potential for redevelopment. Out-of-state investors with deep pockets are today aware of Milwaukee and its close-in neighborhoods like Riverwest. A neighborhood group was determined that this historic structure was not to be razed or to become an empty nest.

Why such interest?

Rare it is for an insurance company building to come on the market equipped with four bars — one with a pool table — a banquet hall with a proscenium stage, a nice upstairs apartment and six vintage 1956 bowling lanes within the nation’s sixth oldest continuously operating bowling alley, officially sanctioned since 1915. Around these parts, we call it the Falcon Bowl.

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Southside Restaurant Gets 10-Day Suspension

El Tucanazo Taqueria Y Mariscos will soon take a break from dishing out plates of tacos, seafood and steak. That’s because the southside restaurant will be serving a 10-day suspension.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to suspend the license for the restaurant, 3261 S. 13th St., based on a November 2022 shooting that injured one patron.

According to a police report, two friends were eating inside the restaurant when one showed the other a pistol. Not knowing the gun was loaded, one friend accidentally shot the other.

During a June 23 license renewal hearing, members of the Licenses Committee raised alarms over the fact that the shooting occurred after closing time and that employees did not call the police.

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Northside Nightclub Gets 20-Day Suspension

A northside bar and restaurant will be closed for nearly three weeks following a suspension handed down by the City of Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously on July 11 to suspend the license for Eve Lounge, 6222 W. Fond du Lac Ave., as a result of eight-item police report that included complaints of fighting, selling hookah without a tobacco license and — most notably — an on-site shooting that employees seem to have attempted to cover up, according to one alderman.

The nonfatal shooting, which occurred on Feb. 1, 2023, was discussed at length during a June 27 license renewal hearing. Eve Lounge owner Thomas Holmes, who was accompanied by Attorney Emil Ovbiagele, explained that the incident occurred between a staff member and an independent contractor who was renting kitchen space at the establishment.

During an altercation, the contractor became angry, threatened to kill the staff member and attempted to kick down a door, at which point the staff member shot him in the leg.

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Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ to Film Season in Wisconsin

The upcoming season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” is on track to be the cheesiest yet. The reality competition television series will film its 21st season in Wisconsin.

The show, featuring new host Kristen Kish, will be set mainly in Milwaukee and Madison, according to a Tuesday news release from the television network.

Gov. Tony Evers gave a warm welcome to the show, which is set to begin filming later this year.

“We are honored to be able to welcome Top Chef to Wisconsin for its upcoming season,” the governor said in a statement. “We’re proud to be known here for our rich food culture, talented chefs, and exceptional local ingredients. I know our diverse culinary traditions will help inspire the participants, captivate viewers, and showcase all of the great things Wisconsin has to offer.”

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Bay View’s The Blind Tiger To Close

After just under a year in business, The Blind Tiger is approaching its final day of service.

Billed as Bay View‘s only speakeasy, the password-entry bar was hidden within the Makk’n’Cheese restaurant at 2242 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Both businesses are slated to close permanently in the coming months.

But the storefront — which occupies a coveted spot along the neighborhood’s main drag — won’t be empty for long. A new tavern, Pink Agave, is set to replace The Blind Tiger, serving craft cocktails and Mexican street food.

Evalise Navarro, a longtime bartender, is the force behind the upcoming business. From the beginning, Navarro said she has felt at home in the industry.

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Vegan Restaurant Coming To Marquette Campus

Following a wave of restaurant closures across the Marquette University campus earlier this summer, a new cafe is slated to bolster the dining scene ahead of the fall semester.

Gray Jett Cafe, specializing in vegan and vegetarian meals, is slated to open in August at 1617 W. Wells St., inside the former The Broken Yolk. The breakfast restaurant, known by the student population as Bro-Yo, closed in May after 15 years in business.

Unlike the egg, bacon and cheese-heavy menu of its predecessor, Gray Jett Cafe plans to offer a heavily plant-based menu with the goal to “make healthy eating exciting,” according to co-owners Shana Gray and Andren Jett.

Gray and Jett, both dedicated vegans, met during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following year, they launched Gray Jett — born out of a mutual passion for health and wellness — as a catering and pop-up operation.

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Sweetgreen Sets Opening Date

Sweetgreen is on the homestretch to opening its first Wisconsin location, with plans to debut its colorful, plant-forward bowls in the Historic Third Ward neighborhood starting on July 18.

The upcoming restaurant, which was first announced in January, has spent the past several months transforming the former Hudson Business Lounge, 310 E. Buffalo St., into a fast-casual eatery.

The nearly-finished interior features white tiled walls, art from Wisconsin painter Tom Berenz and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks bustling Broadway.

Georgetown graduates Jonathan NemanNicolas Jammet and Nathaniel Ru launched the chain in 2007, opening the first location near their alma mater’s campus. Since then, the Los Angeles-based chain has grown to include approximately 175 locations nationwide.

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Koi Japanese Cuisine is Closed

Koi Japanese Cuisine, a southside destination for sushi and hibachi-style meals, is closed. The restaurant, at 552 W. Layton Ave., shuttered last month after more than a decade in business.

A recent social media post confirmed the closure and suggested that owner Zhou Ni is planning to move out of the state.

During its tenure in the Town of Lake neighborhood, Koi served a menu stocked with Japanese favorites including tonkatsu, gyoza, fried rice, sashimi, sushi rolls and teriyaki dishes.

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S’Blendid To Open Bay View Cafe This Fall

Last summer, Malee Thao was in the earliest stages of launching S’Blendid Boba Tea — popping up at Milwaukee area farmers markets and preparing to open as a debut vendor at North Avenue Market.

After a fast-paced first year, Thao is gearing up to open the first standalone location for the business. And though the journey has been far from easy, there are blue skies ahead for the growing cafe.

S’Blendid is planning to launch its new Bay View cafe this fall at 2229 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The sky blue building, dotted with puffy white clouds, was most recently home to a hair salon, but has been empty for the better part of four years. A coffee shop was proposed for the space in 2021 but never opened.

In the coming months, the building will get a fresh coat of cream paint to reflect Thao’s minimalistic vision for the cafe.

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