Fine tuning the Firefly
Vesna Madunic has an enduring memory from childhood that guides the Wauwatosa restaurant she owns, Firefly Urban Bar & Grill.
"My mom was an incredible cook," she says. "She never opened a can in our kitchen."
Fresh food prepared with care from scratch is the mantra at Firefly. "We know the public is aware of the dangers of overly processed food," Madunic says. "Even the chicken tenders (on the restaurant's kids' menu) are homemade."
Firefly has recently undergone some fine tuning, the result of Madunic assuming sole ownership. The changes have ranged from a new drink menu to some management and staff realignment. The basic concept and food offerings remain the same.
The daughter of Croatian immigrants, Madunic was majoring in international studies at UWM when she took a part-time job with the high-end catering firm Gracious Events. Her duties varied from cooking to event planning, and she discovered she had an affinity for the work.
"I loved the creative side of the business," she says. Soon her sister, Marija, joined her at Gracious Events, and after being employees for a while they bought the company in 1996 from the original owner.
Eight years later the sisters expanded into the restaurant business, opening Bjonda in an older building that housed an early Ford dealership in the Wauwatosa Village. The site had been occupied by the Cajun restaurant Jolly's on Harwood before the siblings moved in.
Gorgeously designed to be both plush and sleek, the new eatery was aggressively upscale. "We wanted to bring a level of style to Wauwatosa that people would enjoy," Madunic says. Being a restaurateur complements the seasonal nature of the catering business, she adds.
The restaurant's name, Bjonda, meant blond in Croatian. "My sister and I are blonde-ish," Madunic says with a smile." The word also describes a dominant color in the interior design.
Bjonda regularly served three and five course gourmet dinners, often at an eight seat chef's table in a small private room. The restaurant once provided a 14-course meal to a group.
But economic times changed, and in 2007 the sisters shifted gears, lowering menu prices, becoming more family friendly, and adding attractions such as a deejay who appears in the Skylight lounge at 10 on Friday and Saturday nights. Bjonda became Firefly Urban Bar & Grill.
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Kristen B | Feb. 24, 2011 at 2:16 p.m. (report)
Im always thrilled to see whats new on Fireflys menu when I go there. Last week I tried the buffalo shrimp linguine. Was so delish I went back two days later. I don't know what I'll do if they ever remove it from the menu. I like the ambiance of the Sky Lounge a lot. I ask to sit back there each time because its hip, upscale yet casual. Definitely a treat for Tosa. One of the above threads balks about price. Maybe thats a Milwaukee thing. All I can say is travel someplace outside Milwaukee and then come back. Youll quickly realize Firefly is (and most Milwaukee restaurants for that matter are) affordable. Maybe try their happy hour because my opinion is Fireflys bar food is even exceptional and fairly priced for the quality.
Firerfly is a beautiful relaxed place to hang out and it has a lot of potential. But the management is horrible the service is unperfessional and the food is over priced and the wait is to long! I waited 45 min for my entree and i was given the wrong drink! The manager reeked of alcohol and the service i was given was extremely fake! The atmosphere was great and the place was clean! Other than that i would have to say I would never go back and I do hope the whole team of people that work there do get replaced with a more perfessional and go get it attitude!!!
interesting. just checked out the website last night, as I'm being taken out for my b-day dinner tommorow. however the site gave me more of hip, bar vibe, than a restaurant. As my 60 yr old my doesn't drink, we scrapped the idea. the picture in this article, showing the bar, reinforces the thought. If you want to serve more food to families than cosmos to 20 somethings, something else needs to be done.
We had our wedding reception at the Firefly and it was fabulous! Great food, wonderful staff and a lovely, romantic space. Our guests loved it too. It's a great place to go on a date or just out with friends.
I briefly worked for Vesna about nine years ago. I always admired her flair for style and hospitality. I learned so much about entertaining and food from her. Beyond that, she was a kind and generous person. I have never been to Firefly, as I rarely leave the 53212, but I am looking forward to stopping in. For those who had less than stellar service, the article makes a point to say she has made changes in those areas now that she is the sole owner. Why not give it another chance?
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