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DanDan Sauces Hit Shelves at Sendik’s

Plus: Three new restaurants for Bay View, Ruby's Bagels goes brick-and-mortar and goodbye Kwench Juice Cafe.

By - May 5th, 2024 05:20 pm
General Tso's sauce,

General Tso’s sauce. Photo courtesy of DanDan.

After nearly eight years of dishing up Chinese-American cuisine to restaurant-goers, DanDan is spreading the love to home cooks, too.

Dan Van Rite and Dan Jacobs, the James Beard-nominated chefs behind the Historic Third Ward eatery, recently launched a retail line featuring DanDan’s signature General Tso’s and Mongolian sauces.

The products, sold in 12-ounce bottles, hit shelves at Sendik’s in late April.

During the earliest days of the launch, Van Rite and Jacobs could be found in stores, handing out samples and chatting with customers.

The Mongolian sauce, described as sweet, savory and smoky, is said to pair well with beef, chicken, tofu and veggies. General Tso’s, meanwhile, strikes a balance with sweet, tangy and spicy notes. In addition to flavoring its namesake chicken dish, the sauce can be poured over chicken, tofu and rice, or tossed with cauliflower for a meat-free meal.

It’s been a banner year for Van Rite and Jacobs, who recently opened their private fine dining concept, EsterEv, as a standalone restaurant in Bay View. The pair are also finalists for the James Beard Foundation’s  2024 Restaurant and Chef Awards.

Meanwhile, Jacobs has kept busy promoting his participation in season 21 of “Top Chef.”

Wing Zone Opening Soon on Capitol Drive

Wing Zone is preparing to rejoin the Milwaukee market this month, with plans to open its first location in the city since 2010.

Franchisees Matt and Jodie Schroeder announced Friday that the restaurant, 138 East Capitol Dr., will welcome guests for a grand opening on Tuesday, May 7.

Wing Zone, a Las Vegas-based chain, specializes in Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, tenders and wings; the preparation is distinctive for its spicy flavor, crunchy texture and bright-red hue.

The Milwaukee restaurant will occupy a 1,400-square-foot retail space — previously the site of a T-Mobile store — within a larger shopping complex anchored by Outpost Natural Foods.

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Mexican Restaurant That Was Pandemic Casualty Reopening on Blue Mound Road

After a four-year absence, Fat Valdy’s plans to reopen this summer with a modern ambience, revamped menu and fresh approach to Mexican cuisine.

The restaurant, 5108 W. Blue Mound Rd., closed in fall 2020 amid the pandemic. It was briefly replaced by Caliente Latin Kitchen & Rum , which opened in early 2021. The building has been vacant for more than a year.

Upon its return to service, Fat Valdy’s aims to lean into authenticity, offering handmade tortillas, arepas, gorditas and huaraches, as well as fresh-sliced tacos de pastor.

“It’s going to be very traditional Mexican, as if you were eating at home,” said Patricia Ruiz-Cantu, who is partnering with Valdemar Escobar, the original owner of Fat Valdy’s, for the project.

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Gluten-Free Festival Returns to Lakefront Brewery

The third annual Maifest is set to return to Lakefront Brewery later this month, offering a full day of gluten-free programming while celebrating the arrival of warmer weather.

The spring-themed festival is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 19 inside the beer hall, 1872 N. Commerce St., offering food, beverages, flower crowns and myriad other wheat-free festivities.

Kristin Hueneke, executive chef for Lakefront Brewery, said the festival’s popularity has cemented its status as an annual event — at least for now.

“If the people keep on coming, we’ll continue to make space for them,” she said in a statement. “We’re just happy to be able to provide a safe, gluten-free event for the community.”

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Vietnamese, Burmese Restaurants Planned For Bay View’s KinetiK

A Bay View apartment building is preparing to welcome three new restaurant concepts on its ground level, bringing an additional wave of development to an intersection that has seen rapid change throughout the past year.

Ni Burmese, Roll Up and Mochinut plan to open in adjacent retail spaces at KinetiK, 2160 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The new, fast-casual restaurants will join the recently-opened Paloma Taco and Tequila, which anchors the southern portion of the building.

Nyo Nyo Lin, co-owner of Ni Burmese, said the restaurant will showcase traditional foods from her mother’s upbringing in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

That could include dishes like mohinga, a rice and noodle soup flavored with fish, ginger, banana stem and lemongrass. Often viewed as the national dish of Myanmar, mohinga can be customized with chilis, lemon, fish sauce and more to fit individual tastes, Lin said.

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Water Street Bar Owners Buy Into The Nomad

The ownership group responsible for Red Rock Saloon and McGillycuddy’s is poised to take the helm of another popular bar. This time, on Brady Street.

Wild Planet Hospitality Group, led by Drew Deuster and J.J. Kovacovich, has partnered with Mike Eitel‘s Caravan Hospitality Group with plans to purchase Nomad World Pub in the coming weeks. 

But customers, according to a press release, are unlikely to notice any changes to the pub itself. The new ownership group said it plans to continue operations as-is, maintaining Nomad’s extensive patio areas, covered deck, parklet and coffee bar at 1401 E. Brady St.

Eitel, who opened the business in 1995, said he’ll stay on as an operating partner, adding that he’s “thrilled” to join forces with Deuster and Kovacovich.

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Ruby’s Bagels Plans Westside Location

Since its launch as a food truck in 2019, Ruby’s Bagels has quickly climbed the ranks as one of the city’s most notable bagel purveyors. Soon, fans of the business will have another location to love.

Ruby’s Bagels is planning to expand its Milwaukee footprint with a brick-and-mortar location at 5513 W. North Ave., the former site of Whiskey Haze.

Owner Daniela “Ruby” Varela announced the development on social media last week, touting the location’s proximity to Wauwatosa; the building is situated just over four blocks from the city’s western border.

The new, 3,968-square-foot space will merge the business’s baking and retail operations, providing a full kitchen to accommodate bagel-making, as well as a public-facing cafe and dining area.

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Milwaukee Vegan Cafe Owner Appears With Trump, Assails Migrants

A Milwaukee business owner joined former President Donald Trump on stage Wednesday to assail ‘migrants’ and President Joe Biden during a campaign stop in Waukesha County.

Shana Gray, the co-owner of Gray Jett Cafe, a vegan restaurant on the Marquette University campus, joined Trump on stage at the Waukesha County Exposition Center.

Trump vowed to visit the restaurant, 1617 W. Wells St., during the Republican National Convention.

“It’s supposed to be really good. I’m not into the vegan stuff I must say, but I’m going to have to try this. When we come here in a short period of time, into Milwaukee, we’re going to come and try that vegan food. I don’t know if I’m going to like it,” said Trump.

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Downtown Dining Week Returns May 30

More than 30 downtown bars and restaurants will offer special menus for this year’s Downtown Dining Week, scheduled for May 30 through June 6.

The weeklong event, now in its 18th year, encourages diners to explore the local dining scene and partake in multi-course lunches and dinners — all for a set price.

Throughout the week, participating establishments including steakhouses, taquerias, barbecue joints and more will offer lunch specials for $15 or $25 and dinners for $35, $45 or $55, depending on the establishment.

“Downtown Dining Week is one of our most popular events,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, in a statement. “We look forward to showcasing the culinary talent in Downtown’s vibrant dining scene to new and returning guests.”

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New Bars and Restaurants That Opened in April

BaoBao Cuisine

Vietnamese restaurant BaoBao Cuisine welcomed diners for the first time in April, offering a wide variety of items including pho, rice dishes and specialties such as Vietnamese crepes and roasted quail. The long-awaited restaurant, at 4624 S. 27th St., has been in the works since 2022.

Read our earlier coverage

Bon Bon Shop

Bon Bon Shop burst onto the scene in the Brewery District last month, marking its transition from pop-up business to brick-and-mortar establishment. The new cafe, 1259 N. 10th St., sells a variety of coffee drinks, boba teas, smoothies and pastries.

Read our earlier coverage

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Draft & Vessel Owner Plans Cafe at Vel R. Phillips Plaza

The City of Milwaukee has found a new vendor to operate in the soon-to-open Vel R. Phillips Plaza.

Nathaniel Davauer, owner of Draft & Vessel, will open a cafe in the building on the western edge of the plaza. Davauer told Urban Milwaukee his conceptual plans could include bringing back Soup Bros., which closed in 2022.

“The concept is to bring Draft & Vessel, but with the kitchen, some food,” said Davauer in an interview. “It could be a lot of things: coffee, beer, burgers, pretzels, soup, ice cream are all possibilities.”

The 30,000-square-foot, $17 million plaza will fill the south side of W. Wisconsin Avenue between N. Vel R. Phillips Avenue and N. 5th Street. Directly across from the Baird Center, the plaza will include an art piece honoring late civil rights pioneer Vel Phillips and a 2,900-square-foot building.

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Retro-Themed ‘90s2K Cafe’ To Replace Howl at the Moon

Milwaukee’s downtown entertainment district could see a new addition in time for summer. 90s2K Cafe, a throwback bar, is slated to open at 1103 N. Martin Luther King Jr Dr. in the coming months.

The corner tavern space was previously occupied by Howl at the Moon, which exited the building in early 2024 after months of purported — yet undetectable — updates and construction.

Unlike the air of mystery that shrouded its predecessor, however, the new bar has familiar faces at its helm.

Jake Dehne and his brother, Seth, will oversee operations at 90s2K Cafe, which, as its name suggests, will showcase music and decor from the 90s and early 2000s.

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East Side Juice Bar Announces Closure

Kwench Juice Cafe has closed its location on Milwaukee’s East Side after just under two years in business.

The juice bar, part of a national chain, opened in May 2022 at 2220 N. Prospect Ave., bringing fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, acai bowls and more to a first-floor retail space at the Contour Apartments.

Franchisee Lilah Calhoun announced the permanent closure in a social media post last Friday. In addition to thanking the cafe’s employees and loyal customers, the post invited patrons to celebrate the opening of a new cafe. This time, in Florida.

Calhoun, who resided in the “Sunshine State” before relocating to Milwaukee, said she will share the address for the upcoming location on the business’s Instagram page.

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Nepali and Indian Restaurant Planned For Bay View

Bay View is one of the most culinarily diverse neighborhoods in the city, boasting an ever-growing range of restaurants that run the gamut from Serbian cuisine to authentic Thai — and most things in between.

But restaurateur Laxman Gurung still sees potential for growth.

This summer, he and his four partners plan to open a new restaurant, Himalayan Yak, with hopes of introducing a range of lesser-known Nepali and Indian flavors to diners in the neighborhood.

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Whitnall Park Beer Garden Opens This Week

The Whitnall Park Beer Garden opens for the season this week.

Milwaukee County Parks is opening the popular beer garden in Greendale on Wednesday, May 1 at 4 p.m. A ceremonial first pour will be held at 5 p.m., at which time the beer garden will begin serving free beer and root beer, while supplies last.

“Milwaukee County Parks is thrilled to bring you another great season to Whitnall Beer Garden,” Milwaukee County parks Director Guy Smith said in a statement. “What a great way to bring the community back together once again at Whitnall Park.”

The beer garden briefly opened as a winter pop-up in February when Milwaukee was experiencing unseasonably warm weather.

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Anmol Is All About the Spices

As soon as I got out of my car, which I had parked across the street from Anmol, the smell of spices perfumed the air. This delightful aromatic greeting drew me into the restaurant with the promise of something good happening in the kitchen. Anmol is a small, inconspicuous place easy to overlook on the south side of Historic Mitchell Street. There are a dozen tables and a counter where you order and pay, and that is it.

The name of the restaurant, Anmol, is an Arabic word that means “precious” or intended to charm. When you take that definition of precious and apply it to the food at the restaurant, it appropriately refers to something that will be delicious and unique such as the Vegetable Biryani I ordered on my first visit. The chef steamed the veggies, carrots, peas, and corn along with Basmati rice, topped it off with paneer cheese, and served the dish with raita and a spicy green cilantro chutney. The raita, yogurt sauce flavored with garlic, ginger, and mint, was a gentle condiment, while the chutney, made with a chick pea base, lit up the dish with plenty of spicy heat.

The Peshawari Mutton Karahi, a generous serving of tender goat on the bone, came with a large dish of Basmati rice. The sauce had spicy heat and flavors that hinted of ginger, garlic, turmeric, and tomato. The dish, garnished with strips of raw ginger and sliced jalapeno peppers, was a complex combination of flavors which were hard to define but were totally delicious.

The Seekh Kabob and the Afghani Kabob were baked on skewers in a Tandoori oven. They were rolled and shaped like long fat hot dogs and looked like Middle Eastern Kufta Kabobs wrapped in naan, but they had very different seasonings. For the Seeth Kabob, the chef blended ground beef with ginger, cilantro, and jalapeno. For the Afghani, the chef started with ground chicken and then added mint, cilantro, garlic, ginger, and more of the same spices that flavored everything we tasted at Anmol, flavors that were spicy enough to be addictive but not too spicy for the heat-averse.

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New Owners Plot Return of Pizza Man To Downer Avenue

Pizza Man is making plans to reopen on Downer Avenue, less than two weeks after announcing the permanent closure of its final location in the city of Milwaukee.

A permit request was filed Thursday to install its hallmark blade sign at 2597 N. Downer Ave., one of its previous locations. Pizza Man exited the East Side space in early 2023 and relocated briefly to 2060 N. Humboldt Ave., where it operated until the April 16 closure.

As the restaurant prepares for its next steps, there are new owners at the helm. License records indicate that previous owner, Za Man LLC, sold the business to PM2 MGR LLC in early 2024.

The new ownership group includes Thomas Schafer and Krzysztof Zielinski, each of whom own a 48.5% share of the business. Jose “Miguel” Mayoral is the restaurant’s executive chef and is listed as the registered agent for the limited liability company.

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Brisa Do Mar Bringing Mediterranean Cuisine to Former Riverfront Pizzeria

Ramsés Alvaréz has cooked for James Beard award-winning restaurants, large-scale gatherings and NFL stars. From one-bite amuse bouches to banquet feasts the chef has never been one to back away from a challenge.

His latest venture, though, could be the most difficult yet.

Alvaréz, formerly of Brasserie Des Arts, Brew’d Burger Shop and Dia Bom, is preparing to open a new, 300-seat restaurant, Brisa Do Mar, at 509. E. Erie St., the former home of Riverfront Pizzeria.

The Mediterranean-inspired concept is set to begin its private soft opening in the coming days, with plans to welcome the public beginning Thursday, May 2.

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