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Taco John’s Opens on South Side

Plus: state's first Ben & Jerry's, The Wolf on Broadway sets opening and farewell to Balzac.

By - Nov 19th, 2023 04:13 pm
Taco John's. File photo by Sophie Bolich.

Taco John’s. File photo by Sophie Bolich.

Taco John’s, a fast food purveyor known for its “West-Mex” cuisine and crowd-pleasing potato olés, has officially opened on Milwaukee’s far South Side. The restaurant, at 4650 S. 5th St., held a grand opening ceremony — complete with a taco-topped balloon arches — earlier this week.

The newest Taco John’s joins recently-opened locations for the chain in West Milwaukee and West Allis. Another is proposed on the city’s North Side. The recent upcropping of restaurants follows a May announcement from Taco John’s, which detailed plans to add 10 to 12 locations in the Milwaukee area over the next several years.

Taco John’s sells a variety of burritos, soft and hard-shell tacos, grilled wraps and quesadillas, as well as Mexican-inspired rice bowls, salads and crispy potato olés. The restaurant is also known for breakfast options including breakfast burritos, potato olés scrambler and Mexican doughnut bites.

Brett Itterman, CEO of Pentex Restaurant Group, is the licensee for the new restaurant. Pentex is a leading franchisee of Taco John’s as well as HuHot Mongolian Grill, according to the company’s website. Taco John’s reports operating or franchising nearly 400 restaurants in 23 states, mostly concentrated in the Midwest.

The new Taco John’s is located in Milwaukee’s Garden District neighborhood, near Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport and the recently-opened Who’s on Layton.

The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

New Indian Restaurant Opens Downtown

Turmeric Indian Cafe & Bar quietly opened in Yankee Hill earlier this month, bringing a menu of traditional Indian and fusion dishes to the former site of Mykonos Gyro & Cafe.

The new restaurant, 1014 N. Van Buren St., named for the bright orange root with powerful health benefits, is the latest venture from restaurateur Paramjit Kaur, who also operates Royal India.

The restaurant made steady progress toward opening since its February announcement. A revamped outdoor patio with sunflower-colored paint and bright umbrellas was visible to passersby. But it was only last week that the shades were pulled from the windows to reveal the refreshed interior, which sports fresh paint and remodeled bar and seating areas.

Turmeric also recently posted a sidewalk-facing sign and huge, floor-to-ceiling menus for passersby to peruse.

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2023 Black Friday Beer Release Guide

To the wider world, the day after Thanksgiving is a time for rest, leftovers and getting a jump start on holiday shopping. But for Milwaukee beer drinkers, Black Friday is among the most highly-anticipated release days of the year.

Next week, nearly two dozen breweries throughout the city will offer up their booziest, often barrel-aged, brews to the masses. Some require pre-ordering while others (like Lakefront Brewery, known for its hours-long line) require only patience.

In Riverwest, a brewery-hopping shuttle — better known as Five Three Brew One Two — will make for easy access to several local favorites. The free shuttle will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., making stops at Lakefront Brewery, Black Husky Brewing, Company Brewing, Gathering Place Brewing Company and Amorphic Beer. A full schedule s available to view online.

City Tours MKE will also be running a free shuttle between 10 breweries from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The service will make stops at Dead Bird Brewing, Pilot Project Brewing, Eagle Park Brewing Company, Explorium Brewpub, Wizard Works Brewing, Component Brewing Company, Torzala Brewing Company, Indeed Brewing Company, 1840 Brewing Company and Broken Bat Brewing.

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The Wolf on Broadway Opening Soon

A long-awaited downtown restaurant will officially open its doors to the public next week. After a series of soft openings taking place in early November, The Wolf on Broadway will welcome its first guests on Friday, Nov 24.

The restaurant, located on the first floor of the Kinn Guesthouse at 600 N. Broadway, is the latest project from Wolfgang Schaefer and Whitney McAllister. The pair also operate Uncle Wolfie’s Breakfast Tavern and the co-located lifestyle store Orange and Blue Co.

For the new, upscale concept, Schaefer and McAllister have assembled a team of industry veterans that includes Chef de Cuisine Val Bartram and Executive Chef Kristen Schwab, along with Nick Witte as general manager and Erik Wickman as bar manager.

Schwab, whose career has included work at local eateries including DanDan, Odd Duck, Goodkind and others, drew inspiration from her previous gigs in crafting a globally-inspired, playful yet upscale menu for The Wolf on Broadway. Bartram, also an alum of DanDan, brings a complementary skill set to the table.

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Press Waffles Will Pop Up On South Side

Press Waffles will resume its pop-ups at Hawthorne Coffee Roasters, offering a lineup of sweet and savory, sugar-crusted liège waffles every Saturday through the end of the year.

The weekly pop-ups will be held 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 18 and 25 and Dec. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 at the southside cafe, 4177 S. Howell Ave., in the Town of Lake neighborhood.

For the duration of the pop-ups, Hawthorne will pause its own food service, including its build-your-own breakfast sandwiches, egg and avocado toast, country biscuits and more. Grab-and-go bakery and soups will still be available.

Press’s return to Hawthorne marks the revival of a tradition dating back to 2016. But this year is a little different, as it follows the October closure of Press’s brick-and-mortar cafe in the Historic Third Ward. It’s also a few weeks past the end of outdoor farmers market season, meaning fans of the sugar-crusted waffles are no longer guaranteed a weekly visit to Trailer Jane, Press’s signature mint-green camper, which doles out warm waffles with seasonal toppings at a variety of locales during the spring, summer and early fall.

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20 Restaurants Offering Thanksgiving Meals

A number of Milwaukee restaurants will be open for service on Thanksgiving Day, and more still are offering pre-orders for heat-and-eat meals. Whether you’re looking for just a few sides or the whole spread, a traditional dinner or a selection of contemporary dishes, one of the following establishments is sure to meet your needs.


Located on the second floor of Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., Aria will serve a Thanksgiving harvest dinner from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 23.

The dinner menu includes maple apple cider-brined turkey, honey-bourbon-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, sausage and sourdough sage stuffing, curried brussels sprouts, green bean and cauliflower casserole, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, orange sage biscuits, apple cider doughnuts, bourbon cream pie and triple silken pumpkin pie.

The meal is $79 for adults and $35 for children. Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling (414) 270-4422.

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Central Standard Doubles Down on Sustainability

Central Standard Craft Distillery may be known for its old fashioneds, but the Milwaukee spirits producer is looking to take a modern approach to sustainability.

Through a new partnership with Wisconsin-based The DeLong Co., Inc.‘s Grown Climate Smart Brand, Central Standard has committed to sourcing local grains grown using sustainable and climate resilient agricultural practices for the production of its bourbon, whiskey, vodka, gin and Pour Ready Cocktails.

Those practices include using cover crops, reduced or no till, nutrient management plans and windbreak establishment and renovation — all of which prevent erosion, control pests, reduce carbon emissions and contribute to healthy, nutrient-rich soil for years to come.

The new initiative adds to sustainability measures already in place at Central Standard, including its use of Wisconsin honey, Door County cherries and other locally-sourced ingredients.

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Brady Street’s Balzac Will Close

Balzac, a Lower East Side destination for wine and small plates, will close its doors at the end of November. Fans of the cozy bar should plan to pay a final visit before the final service on Nov. 22.

The closure, which comes just shy of Balzac’s 19th anniversary, is related to the lingering effects of the pandemic, said co-owner Leslie Montemurro.

“What can I say, closing a restaurant is never easy… but this one is extremely difficult,” she said in a statement. “The truth is — and I know you’ve heard it before — but since the pandemic, everything has changed. The perpetual obstacles of labor shortages, increasing costs, slower than expected sales numbers, and supply chain issues are just too much of a hindrance to business. It’s time to pause and re-evaluate.”

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Rod & Makk Opens at Third Street Market

Rod & Makk has officially arrived at 3rd Street Market Hall. The new vendor has already generated buzz with its massive mozzarella sticks, but the rest of its menu, as well as its funky ’90s aesthetic, are sure to leave a lasting impression, too.

After its quiet opening over the weekend, Rod & Makk drew a respectable lunch rush Monday afternoon, with guests eager to sample the viral Lightning Rod mozzarella sticks and their spicy sibling, Hot Rod.

Measuring a foot long and several inches thick, the fried cheese logs are handmade with Wisconsin mozzarella and coated in garlicky breadcrumbs. The sticks have become an online sensation across multiple social media channels, racking up millions of views on Tik Tok and Instagram.

While the Lightning Rod is savory and served with homemade pizza sauce, the Hot Rod gets its heat from spicy seasoning and buffalo drizzle. It’s served with homemade spicy garlic parmesan sauce.

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Lowlands Winter Experiences Back With Bigger Igloos

Outdoor dining through the winter months has become a yearly tradition for Lowlands Group, which first launched its eye-catching rooftop domes at Cafe Benelux in 2018.

Since then, the group has expanded its offerings to include winter experiences at each of its eight cafe and supper club locations throughout the Milwaukee area and Madison.

Reservations for this season are now open for events starting Nov. 16, with more options than ever to choose from. That includes new Hollander Igloos for larger gatherings, as well as drink specials, a curated Rice Table experience and more.

“We’re really excited to be able to accommodate larger groups this year with the addition of our Hollander Igloos,” said Eric Wagner, CEO of Lowlands Group, in a statement. “Not only are we continuing to build new gathering spaces for guests where memories are made, but we’re also working to elevate their eating.”

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Ben & Jerry’s Coming to Third Ward

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is readily available at grocery stores throughout the area, but Milwaukeeans will soon be able to order scoops of Cherry Garcia, The Tonight Dough and other famous flavors directly.

A franchisee for the Vermont-based company is planning to open the first Milwaukee-area “scoop shop” at 203 N. Broadway, in the Historic Third Ward. It would also be the first in Wisconsin.

The future Milwaukee ice cream shop will occupy approximately 1,000 square feet at ground level of the five-story InterLace Lofts building, located in the heart of the neighborhood.

Margaret Martin owns the building, as well as the property immediately to the north, which houses MOD GEN.

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Landlord Seeks New Operator For Tavolino Space

Looking to open a restaurant in the heart of the East Side? Michael Vitucci has just the spot.

Vitucci, who owns the multi-tenant building at 2315 N. Murray Ave., is seeking an operator to take over the former Tavolino space following the Italian restaurant’s abrupt closure in October.

Tavolino, opened in 2020, occupied a central space within a two-story, 13,568-square-foot building that is also home to Kawa and Izzy Hops, both of which opened in 2017.

In June, all three restaurants closed temporarily after a fire started at Kawa. Izzy Hops and Tavolino reopened in August, and though the latter proved to be short-lived, future operators can look forward to a refreshed interior — the Italian restaurant got a new coat of paint and completed minor repairs during its 12-week closure.

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