By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Aug 06, 2003 at 5:35 AM

Downtown's first smoke free pub and grill, Ardor, 607 N. Broadway, is now open. In the true spirit of its name owners Eli and Dianna Freckmann are ready to bring warmth, passion and affection to a space that has seen its share of pubs come and go in the past.

"We just fell in love with the feel," said Dianna Freckmann. The "Up-North," underground, London-style joint used to house John Hawk's Pub, Brass Ring, Benjamin Briggs and most recently Brinkley's. Brinkley's closed on January 1, and the space has been vacant since. But, the Freckmann's see no problems in bringing the place back to life.

With more than 15 years of industry experience, the Freckmanns are realizing their dream of operating their own place that opened July 28. "We've been looking for two years, and everything just gelled with this location," said Eli Freckmann, who most recently worked at Butch's Steakhouse. "The dirt was a challenge, but we wanted to open up to the street and pull away from the underground pub look." The classic pub look still remains, but changes have made the space more inviting.

"We used a minimal budget to make maximum impact," he says, acknowledging that the dark windows are gone and the space is much brighter.

Ardor will focus on its food first. Wraps, homemade veggie burgers, hand cut fries, fresh cornbread, salads, pulled pork, 100 percent black Angus burgers and other "upscale," and healthier than normal pub selections are all on the lunch and dinner menu. Chefs Dave Lamb and Carl Phillips will expand into an evening entrée menu later in the year. New pork tenderloin, Cornish game hen, sweet potato fries and beef tenderloin recipes are all in the works. "A great variety," added Freckmann.

Variety for Ardor also means bluegill. Yes, bluegill. The Friday Fish options include the standard cod and even Walleye, but "in order to pay homage to Up North" Ardor will serve battered bluegill for $10.95 with the traditional tap of Leinkugel's, fries, Yankee slaw, rye bread and tartar sauce all on the side. "A true north woods fish fry in our smoke-free, big city/country feel," added Freckmann.

{image1} The space may seem a bit cursed since so many places have come and gone there, but the new owners are embracing downtown's rebirth and taking back the street in an urban design step that our Mayor would be proud of.

"Our outdoor (street-side) patio will start small and feature the great backdrop of this historic building," says Freckmann.

Ardor is located in the historic Loyalty Building at the corner of North Broadway and Michigan Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. Built in 1886 as the home office of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, it was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style by the celebrated Midwest designer, S.S. Beman. The building features a four-story atrium with original ornamental ironwork and a patterned glass skylight.

Ardor, unlike the past pubs that have filled the space, attempts to make the most of the unique space and embrace its warmth to the street. Even Ardor's new signage fits well with the historic building.

"It's just a cool place with a nice vibe," says Dianna Freckmann.

Live music will be added as the place grows. And if the smoke-free environment isn't enough of a draw for you, maybe Ardor's specialty Bourbon drinks will be. Ardor is open 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. daily, with weekend hours expanding later in the year. Call (414) 224-1476.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.