By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Feb 11, 2020 at 3:01 PM

Ardent, the fine dining restaurant at 1751 N. Farwell Ave., is getting ready for some serious upgrades.

The restaurant, which will close for remodeling beginning Feb. 23 is expected to reopen in early April, debuting a reimagined space which will incorporate a relaxing lounge and bar menu.

The impetus behind the remodel is accessibility, says chef and owner Justin Carlisle, who opened the tasting menu based restaurant in 2013.

"We’ve been really fortunate to have done well over the last six years," he says. "But we really want to make ourselves accessible to more people. We want people to come and experience Ardent. Maybe they’ll stop in for a bite to eat and a drink on one occasion and come back for a tasting menu at another point."

What to expect

All told, the remodel will include a new bar, flooring, tables and lighting, upgraded, along with myriad aesthetic enhancements. The kitchen – which has long relied on induction burners and other innovative equipment – will also be upgraded to include a more conventional hood and accompanying ventilation, allowing both better air flow in the restaurant as well as flexibility for menu offerings.

To bring the vision to life, Carlisle is working with the creative minds at Three Sixty, a design and build firm which will handle all aspects of the remodel from planning to execution. 

The dining room – which currently features a small bar area and tables – will be redesigned to accommodate a new comfortable lounge space featuring couches and coffee tables.  There will also be a counter near the windows where guests can stand to enjoy their drinks. The space will provide not only an alternative to the more formal dining area, but a place for patrons of Red Light Ramen to grab a drink while waiting to be seated.

Meanwhile, a new bar area will accommodate walk-in diners who can order from a new curated a la carte menu that showcases Ardent favorites like tartare along with a rotating selection of dishes from shellfish to finger foods. Carlisle says the offerings will focus on "fun, snackable items," with occasional one-day specials. In tandem, the bar menu will also be expanded to include a full complement of cocktails and an expanded wine list to suit every occasion.

As for the overall look and feel of the space, Carlisle says the newly designed restaurant will embrace a more natural color scheme featuring white, off-white, terra cotta and wood accents. "We want to keep that homey, comfortable feel that we’ve always had," he says, noting that the dining area will also be reconfigured with new furniture.

For example, the custom built cabinetry which currently houses Ardent’s serveware will function as a divider of sorts between the bar and dining area, allowing additional flexibility in configuring the space to accommodate both diners who’d like to indulge in Ardent’s traditional 10-course tasting menu ($95, plus $65 for beverage pairings) or walk-in guests who’d like to enjoy a meal before venturing out to a theater performance or night on the town.

Carlisle says they’ll also be taking the opportunity to revisit the tasting menu offerings at the restaurant, allowing them to evolve and take on an even more interactive nature.

"Ultimately, our goal is to offer all of our diners the same comfortable atmosphere we’ve always provided," he says. "And we’ll be providing the same level of service – whether you’re coming in for a glass of wine and the ala carte menu or a tasting menu … We don’t want it to feel any different."

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.