Turns out I’m not the only one with a soft spot for the building on the corner of Highland Boulevard and Martin Drive that was once home to Highland Pies and Birdie’s Cafe.
The half-timbered Tudor cafe at 4110 W. Martin Dr. has always exuded warmth and a welcoming vibe. It feels – and looks – like you were being invited into someone’s home.
News emerged recently that Il Mito and Zesti Chef Michael Feker and his wife Maricela will open a Mexican restaurant called 2Mesa in the vacant space in the Martin Drive Neighborhood in January after some renovations are complete.
"I loved this location since my first visit to Highland Pies in 2001," Feker told me this weekend. "I also became aware of how hungry this neighborhood and my surrounding neighbors are for great food, a cozy atmosphere and great value since the closing of Birdie’s Cafe."
Birdie’s closed in 2014 after about six years in the space. Feker said he doesn’t plan to mess too much with the vibe of the intimate space.
"When I saw the space during my walk-through prior to making an offer I could see some leaks and the usual wear and tear from lack of attention," he said, "but I could see it is nothing that some TLC can’t fix.
"We closed on the building at the start of October and immediately decided that we will not do any alteration to the physical layout of the space, since its layout is the charm of the space. But we decided to make some cosmetic changes so that
the space will complement the theme."
Feker said he is altering the layout of the kitchen and the counter/bar by adding a wall to separate the kitchen and bar area.
The chef added that a perceived parking shortage has been addressed.
"One of the issues that we heard of while deciding about the purchase of the location was parking," he said. "But, that issue has been addressed by the city. They have added an additional 26 parking spaces already, and during breakfast and lunch there are a lot of empty parking spaces."
While Feker also operates the Italian-themed Il Mito and the more global Zesti in Hartland, 2Mesa will be his first foray into Mexican cuisine.
"Since the start of my culinary journey in Los Angeles, I always wanted to a Mexican restaurant," the chef said, "but I did not feel ready to implement and execute the flavors that were necessary.
"But now having Maricela who was born in Mexico as my partner and love of my life 2Mesa's food and the foundation of all recipes will be all hers, her mom’s and sisters’ and aunts’."
Feker said 2Mesa will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"Now that I understand the flavors of Mexico a lot better, at 2Mesa I will focus on textures, flavors, the quality of ingredients and of course their timely execution. We will be serving some Fekerized Mexican flavors and regional food."
Feker said the name 2Mesa has a double meaning.
"It could stand for two tables or if just heard (as "tu mesa") it means ‘your table.’ I wanted to make sure that the surrounding neighbors and community knows that we are their table and that we are their table away from their home."
2Mesa will be open Monday through Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., Friday, 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.