of the cityís founding neighborhoods, Walkerís Point, has evolved
from its roots as an industrial area, filled with machine shops and
warehouse spaces, to a neighborhood brimming with top notch
restaurants and artisan food producers.
really the hottest dining destination in the city, as far as Iím
concerned," says Jonathan Manyo, chef and owner of Morel
Restaurant, which is celebrating its first anniversary this August.
Manyo says he
looked at downtown and Bay View before deciding to purchase a building
on Second Street. "What has really surprised me is that thereís
been such a great amount of foot traffic, which is the best
advertising for a restaurant," Manyo says. "The second
surprise is how supportive chefs are of each otherís restaurants. We
all promote each other to raise awareness of Walkerís Point as an
That area, or
restaurant row as it is becoming known, is South Second Street and its
environs, home to more than a dozen different chef and
restaurateur-owned restaurants, not to mention more than half a dozen
different food purveyors of ice cream, chocolate, beer, cheese and
spirits. "The diversity here is just amazing," says Darnell
Ashley, who opened up his second barbecue restaurant, Ashleyís Que,
on the corner of Second Street and National Avenue just three years
ago. "Suddenly, wherever you look, thereís a new restaurant or
(food) store opening up."
just a decade ago, Walkerís Point was kind of a food desert, and it
was known more for its party bars and antique shops than its five star
Magister, who opened Crazy Water 13 years ago in the spot that used to
house Zur Kroneís, a German tavern. "I didnít have the money,
so I couldnít go just anywhere," Magister recalls, adding that
she had visited a neighborhood in Chicago "where there were these
little restaurants that had high-end food, but not the high-end
was kind of grungy, but I knew I had to get out of Cedarburg, and
there was this for rent sign so one thing led to another," says
Magister, who lives in the neighborhood. "I just knew I had to
The only other
high-end restaurant in the area was Chez Jacques, opened by French
native Jacques Chaumet. Their success led other chefs and
restaurateurs to follow. Peter Sandroni opened La Merenda in 2007, and
then last year opened up Engine Company No. 3. Both eateries are on
restaurant corridor really started to take shape in 2011. Thatís
when the Noble opened, Thomas Hauck opened c. 1880, and David Swanson
opened his restaurant and cooking school version of Braise in the
space Chez Jacques first operated (Swanson previously hosted farm
dinners and other events elsewhere). "Five years ago, I didnít
even consider Walkerís Point a food neighborhood ó thatís just
how much the neighborhood has developed," says Jennifer Streicher,
general manager of the Black Sheep tap wine bar and restaurant.
Iíve noticed when I take people on the Walkerís Point dine around
tour is that people who have lived in the Milwaukee area their whole
lives come on the tour and theyíre just blown away by what the
neighborhood offers," says Teresa Nemetz, owner of Milwaukee Food
and City Tours. "Ten years ago, it was desolate, but today itís
so beautiful. Even two and a half or three years ago, Walkerís Point
didnít have this high level of quality of restaurants or little
shops that have made a big difference in the neighborhood, Nemetz
says, are Purple Door Ice Cream, Clock Shadow Creamery and Indulgence
Chocolatiers. "What has been really great about Purple Door is
they started inside Clock Shadow Creamery, but theyíve done so well
they were able to expand and build-out their own facility,"
Nemetz says. "Not only did they start in Walkerís Point, but
theyíre staying there as they grow."
of community is just getting better all the time," says Bob
Wills, who owns Clock Shadow Creamery. Wills says that local
restaurants not only use his products, but theyíve all stepped up to
help him when heís needed a hand.
Recently, he was
grilling cheese for a neighborhood event, and the folks at Sazís
Catering loaned him a grill to do it. Then, another neighbor came and
delivered him a six-pack of beer from Milwaukee Brewing Company.
"I tried to pay him for the beer, but the guy told me, ĎItís
not right for somebody to be grilling without a beer,í" Wills
Brewing Company and Great Lakes Distillery made Walkerís Point their
homes in 2008, the same year the Iron Horse Hotel opened. "Things
were pretty limited then," says Guy Rehorst, owner of Great Lakes
Distillery. "We moved here because the property was
industrial-like, which was required for what I was doing, but I also
liked the location because it was as close to downtown as you could
get without having problems with parking." The ease of finding
parking is still ó even with its tremendous growth ó an asset,
Manyo says. "We rent the lot across the street," he adds.
industrial-like space continue to be draws in the beer and spirits
world. Both Central Standard and Twisted Path distilleries have opened
in Walkerís Point, as well as Brenner Brewing Company. Next year,
Madisonís MobCraft Beer will open a Milwaukee location in the
when we had the idea to open a craft distillery, Walkerís Point was
the only neighborhood in town we were focused on," says Evan
Hughes, one of the founders of Central Standard. "Everybody in
this neighborhood has an entrepreneurial spirit and is extremely
creative. People are making a product because they love making it,
because they love cooking really good food. Not to mention, everybody
is nice down here."
The next step,
many restaurateurs and chefs say, is to have more residential
development and more retail. "Walkerís Point is one of the last
few neighborhoods that is so close to downtown that has a lot of
potential," says Justin Anthony, owner of AP Bar & Kitchen
with Magister, his aunt. "We all want to see the neighborhood
continue to develop and turn into something more."
Slowly, that has
been happening, and one of the newest things developing right now is
another boutique hotel and restaurant. Movida owners Aaron Gersonde
and Andrei Mikhail are going to be opening a Spanish-themed hotel,
with restaurant and bar on the corner of Bruce and Sixth Streets.
"It has been absolutely wonderful to be here," Mikhail says.
"Itís very, very humbling, and whatís most surprising is the
great number of people from out of the city and out of state who find
their way here. Itís very dynamic."