INdustri Cafe: Fine dining without pretensions
Robert Klemm knows his way around restaurants.
He has worked in kitchens and the front of houses at Smith Brothers, Sake Tumi, Ristorante Bartolotta and Shully's Catering. He operated his own restaurant consulting business.
"In our hearts, we are fine dining guys," he says about his new business partner, Chris Miller, and himself. "But I don't care if you serve the food from the left or the right. I just want the food to be phenomenal."
That is the concept and goal behind their recently opened INdustri Cafe, 524 S. 2nd St., in Walker's Point. There is nothing fancy or pretentious in the 75-seat restaurant, and that would include you.
Wear jeans and a hoodie, if you want, while dining on the cognac wild mushroom gratin appetizer ($9), braised angus short ribs with Door County cherry risotto ($16) and a side of sweet corn fritters ($6). You can probably even wear your jammies to Sunday brunch while you munch a turkey and bacon frittata ($8).
INdustri Cafe takes its name from its industrial neighborhood and its 130-year-old building, which for about 125 years of its life was a machine shop. Klemm says he and Miller would also like it to be a restaurant industry hangout for the cooks and servers who want to grab a bite and a beer after their business has closed. The full menu is available until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Miller has been a cook at Ristorante Bartolotta and Moceans, and he was formerly executive chef and general manager at Sake Tumi. He is responsible for INdustri's kitchen, while Klemm handles the front of house. Klemm's father, also Robert, is a third partner and does the restaurant's accounting.
Open for lunch or brunch and dinner seven days a week, INdustri has a sandwich menu that includes a PB&J built with house-made cashew peanut butter, house-made forest berry jam and is stuffed with sea salt kettle chips ($8). A half-pound burger on a sourdough roll features a roasted poblano barbecue sauce, smoked gouda, applewood bacon, red onions and sauteed tart apples ($13). Sandwiches are accompanied by a chocolate chip cookie and fusilli pasta salad or sweet and smoky kettle chips with roasted garlic aioli.
A selection of salads includes a Waldorf with Greek yogurt, dried Door County cherries, tart apples, walnuts, barley, mint and frisee ($8). The chopped seven layer salad features frisee, hard boiled egg, applewood bacon, pickled red onions, early peas, Wisconsin cheddar cheese and sweet balsamic aioli ($8).
Entrees include meat loaf stuffed with Polish sausage ($14), stout beer braised corned beef hash and eggs ($14) and a vegetarian artichoke and wild mushroom pot pie ($13). A 10-ounce sliced hanger steak is $21 and grilled jumbo prawn skewers with a rich cognac lobster sauce are $26.
For dessert, you can try a white parsnip cake with spiced pecans, cardamom and mandarin orange cream cheese frosting ($7) or a caramel apple bread pudding with cashews and a salted caramel cream sauce ($6).
"We're a cafe on steroids," Klemm says. "We sell a very high quality product at a reasonable price. It's classic American comfort food."
The preparation of that food is technique driven, according to the co-owner. That involves layering flavors. "We don't just add water and boil the heck out of something," he explains.
The restaurant is making local farm to table providers, including the Braise co-op, its go-to suppliers. "We really try to source from here, with 85 to 90% of our kitchen food using Wisconsin product," Klemm continues.
"Why should I go to Texas for product? We support the local small guys."
INdustri serves organic produce, lettuces grown in hydroponic systems and humane-certified Wisconsin meats. Committed to being green, it uses organic plate ware, energy efficient appliances and sugar cane take-out containers.
The local theme also applies to the INdustri bar. All 26 beers served from the tap and bottle are brewed in Wisconsin, and Rehorst Premium Milwaukee Vodka is the base for all of the infused vodka INdustri sells.
The restaurant's layout includes 24 seats on a mezzanine over the bar. A comfortable lounge on a platform near the front door features an oriental rug, five pieces of leather furniture and a rugged coffee table. The area can be used for dining or by customers waiting for a conventional table.
Cream city brick walls, a hardwood floor, wooden pillars and beams, and the metal door of a large freight elevator all contribute to the industrial ambiance. The gritty feel is furthered by INdustri's logo -- the universal triple triangle within a circle symbol for the presence of nuclear activity.
As a new restaurant owner, Klemm does not fear these dicey economic times. He explains, "If you do things right, and you take care of the details, there is no reason you shouldn't survive."
I've been here twice already. first time just for a bloody, second was for a lunch with friends. Great experience both times. Above all I love to see people investing in the future of Walkers Point. Exciting to see what will happen here in the next ten years.
Robert Klemm | Feb. 28, 2011 at 3:26 p.m. (report)
Thank you for all of your kind words. We will continually strive to improve and evolve. Our focus is high quality FOOD, in a comfortable atmosphere. For the record, we do not have an office and thus any computer work, marketing, etc must be done in the open restaurant. We are a "cafe" and welcome other business people to feel free to use theirs as well. We do have WiFi for public access. Cell phone usage is kept to a minimum. Owners and bartenders only are allowed to promote the restaurant via their cells... and ONLY at slow periods in order to not hinder service. Thank you for supporting the INdustri.
i dont think staff being on their cell phones should be an issue unless the place is busy. if that happened during slow hours, no problem at all. doesn't bother me any if it doesn't interfere with food getting to my table
UNECEPTAPLE! staff on cell phones-why does the owner/management allow that? tell the staff to leave their cell phones and lap tops at home or in their cars. the customers must come first-not rude employees on cell phones. if this restaurant is so badly managed customers will go elsewhere and this restaurant will not last. thank-you
i went two weeks ago and the food was truly excellent. if they'd just make that N lower-case...
Show me the other 2 Talkbacks
7 comments about this article.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.