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Milwaukee Chef Competes on Food Network’s ‘BBQ Brawl’

Plus: Kawa reopens, Awi sushi joins Crossroads Collective and farewell to 1033.

By - Jul 7th, 2024 01:26 pm
Chef Ashley Turner's BBQ brisket tacos at Hacienda Taproom and Kitchen. Photo taken Nov. 16, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Chef Ashley Turner’s BBQ brisket tacos at Hacienda Taproom and Kitchen. Photo taken Nov. 16, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Milwaukee chef Ashley Turner will showcase her talents to a national audience during the upcoming season of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl.”

The show, which unfolds across 10 episodes, pits 12 barbecue-focused chefs — coached by celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Sunny Anderson, Michael Voltaggio — in a competition to become “Master of the ‘Cue.”

The challenge plays to Turner’s strengths.

A third-generation restaurateur born and raised in Texas, Turner spent her early career working in all kinds of establishments, ranging from food trucks to fine dining restaurants. Nearly all of her experiences, though, shared a common thread of Texas-style barbeque.

After relocating to the Midwest, Turner took over the kitchen at Hacienda Taproom & Kitchen, where she completed a menu overhaul emphasizing Tex-Mex flavors. She now serves as executive chef for the Milwaukee County Zoo.

This will be Turner’s second appearance on Food Network; she took second place on the network’s fast-paced “Chopped” in 2023.

“BBQ Brawl,” now in its fifth season, takes place in Texas. It’s scheduled to premiere July 8 on the Food Network at 8 p.m. CST.

Midwest Sad’s Quest For Industry Change

A series of bold-lettered flyers leads like a trail of breadcrumbs to Midwest Sad. The counter-service bakery, located down a winding flight of stairs in the basement of the 770 Building, is slightly off the beaten path.

For Sam Sandrin, though, it’s a home away from home.

As owner of Midwest Sad, Sandrin spends more than 12 hours each day in the commercial kitchen space, churning out trays of rich brownies, hand-dipped rock candies and wafer-studded portions of banana pudding.

All the while, she’s flanked by a small team of employees and a growing collection of tchotchkes that adorn the service window. The space has the feel of a quintessential midwestern home, down to the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies wafting through the front window.

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South Side’s La Bodega is Closed

The term bodega is a tricky one to define. Officially, the label is reserved for small convenience stores — typically owner-operated — selling packaged snacks, household goods and hot food to go.

From there, the variants are limitless. Some are stocked with special products such as homemade kimchi; others have cats meandering through the shelves. At Milwaukee’s own Koppa’s Fulbeli Deli, visitors can play a game of Atari 2600 while waiting on their sandwich orders.

Further south, La Bodega has spent the better part of a year redefining its title. And while it’s not quite a true bodega — at least by New York standards — the business still ticks many of the same boxes: authentic, no-nonsense and always stocked with comfort foods.

The Latin American-inspired cafe and restaurant opened last fall at 731 W. Historic Mitchell St., bringing coffee, sandwiches and an art-filled gathering space to the neighborhood.

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Two Sushi Restaurants Open on East Side

Selina Zheng is well-practiced in going with the flow. That might explain why she named her restaurant Kawa, after the Japanese word for river.

The title is especially fitting now, as Zheng celebrates her hard-won battle to keep the business afloat after a devastating fire.

On June 7, 2023, Zheng woke up to find her restaurant, 2321 N. Murray Ave. heavily damaged following an overnight blaze. At the time, she estimated that repairs could take eight months or more to complete.

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1033 Announces Closure, Planned Rebrand

Caviar hot dogs, firefly squids and fried Sawagani river crabs — all these and more have made their way onto the eclectic, inventive and ever-changing menu at 1033 since its opening in May 2023.

After just over a year in business, the seafood-focused restaurant and wine bar on Monday announced its upcoming closure. 1033 will have its final service on Saturday, July 13. (Update: after publication, 1033 rescheduled its closing date to Tuesday, July 2).

“It’s been an amazing 13 months,” Co-owner Rob Levin said in a video posted to the restaurant’s Instagram page. “We trudged through and worked hard to get to where we are, but we believe in our hearts and souls that in order to have a long-term existence here in the city of Milwaukee and in Walker’s Point, we need to do some reevaluation and change our platform moving forward.”

Levin and his business partner Tony Bisciglia hope to reopen the concept with a stronger emphasis on wine and other beverages. The move would not only be more lucrative, but leans into the duo’s proven strengths; the two also operate 2A Wine Merchants in the Historic Third Ward.

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10 New Bars and Restaurants Opened in June

Giving Tree Garage served its first pours amid a flurry of rainbow confetti, the clack of high heels and intermittent showers of assorted candies.

The new beer garden and tap truck showroom, 902 S. 2nd St., opened in tandem with Milwaukee’s 20th annual Pride Parade, on June 9.

Led by Draft & Vessel owner Nathaniel Davauer, Giving Tree Garage is a laid-back addition to the Walker’s Point neighborhood, offering a variety of local brews, riser-style outdoor seating and a sloping shade tree that looks to be straight out of the eponymous Shel Silverstein book.

In keeping with its retro theme, the business offers a Nintendo gaming setup and decor inspired by artists such as David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and The Beatles.

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