During the late-afternoon lull, I stopped in at Wayward Kitchen Co., 1407 S. 1st St., and spent time chatting with owners Tyler and Megan Mason. The couple quietly opened the bar and restaurant last month after completing major renovations to the structure that formerly housed Mona’s nightclub.
The space – which is divided into two sections separated by a bar that’s accessible from either side – looks and feels completely different, with exposed cream city brick, modern light fixtures and light-colored walls. They will soon add local art.
Coincidentally, Tyler cooked in the same space 17 years ago when it was a pub and grill called Who’s On First. Tyler and Megan were both born and raised in Milwaukee and they currently live in Bay View.
Prior to opening Wayward Kitchen, Tyler cooked at the Milwaukee Ale House in the Third Ward and simultaneously ran the Grafton location for three years.
Wayward Kitchen serves lunch and dinner six days a week – it’s closed on Mondays – and will serve brunch starting Saturday, Feb. 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. in the evening.
"We want to offer brunch to people who got a late start to their day or those who served brunch themselves," says Megan.
The menu is "new American" and will change regularly. The "new American" concept includes foods that originally came from other cultures but over time became American favorites.
The dinner menu features "smalls" that are priced at $5-$9 such as Korean fried chicken wings, chorizo fried rice and chicken tortilla soup. "Mains" feature braised beef short ribs, pork verde and cauliflower and orecchiette gratin ranging from $14 to $19.
There are also six kinds of tacos ($6-$8), burgers ($10-$12), sandwiches ($10) – the grilled meatball with provolone and pesto looks appealing – and salads. ($6-$8.)
"Everything is made from scratch here – from the ricotta to the ice cream," says Megan. "It’s a small menu but everything is really good."
Megan and Tyler – who serves as the chef – collaborated on the menu together.
"Megan has just as many cooking skills as I do and she has contributed a lot to the flavors here," says Tyler.
The full bar features primarily Wisconsin beers on tap along with a variety of bottles. The drink menu offers craft cocktails from a cranberry margarita to a New Old Fashioned. Many Wisconsin spirits including Rehorst Vodka are used in the cocktails.
Wayward Kitchen Co. also serves wine, Anodyne Coffee and Rishi Tea.
Happy hour takes place every day from 3 to 6 p.m. with food and drink specials.
Tyler says they picked the name because the word "wayward," which he defines as "unruly and unpredictable," symbolizes his vision for the business.
"That’s exactly how I want it to be here in general," says Tyler. "A little bit of everything."
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