By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Feb 22, 2018 at 11:02 AM

It’s official: there’s a brand new concept coming to the former Water Buffalo restaurant at 249 N. Water St. in the Historic Third Ward, and it promises to quench not only your thirst, but your hunger for imaginative cuisine.

According to information from Hospitality Democracy, the name for the new venue will be Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria (BBK). 

It's a name that begins and ends with tequila.

The first word is a direct reference to the blue agave plant (agave azul), a desert succulent native to Mexico which is prized for its role in the production of tequila. Meanwhile "Bat" refers to the small nocturnal mammal, whose thirst for the sweet nectar of agave flowers makes it a key player in the pollination of the agave plants.

"Some bats have actually been brought back from the brink of extinction with the efforts of the tequila industry," explains Angie Sorge, co-founder of Hospitality Democracy. "So the name is meant to be both playful and serious, just like the food, the tequila and the restaurant."

As you might guess, the long revered agave-based beverage will play a starring role at BBK  both in select dishes on the menu as well as at the bar. But the goal, notes Joe Sorge, is to showcase the agave-based spirit as an approachable, appreciable beverage.

"It’s not just a spring break shooter anymore," he says. "It's actually very much like wine; you just need to understand the basics in order to really develop an appreciation for it."

"Tequila is really the new bourbon," adds Angie Sorge. "There are so many tequilas out there to explore. So we're looking forward to really opening the door to tequila for people who may not be as familiar."

Alongside the tequila, BBK’s menu will feature a variety of creative bowls, snacks, salads and eclectic and uniquely conceived tacos, many of which will showcase inspired flavors stemming from the Sorges' travels and experiences.

"Great food comes from everywhere, and we celebrate that diversity of flavors in both familiar and unique dishes," says Joe Sorge. "We’ve had many joyous meals while traveling and tasting, and together with executive chef Alex Sazama, we’ve created the BBK menu to bring our food memories back home to Milwaukee. Many menu items have a story behind them – how we found them and why we love them  and we can’t wait to share them with you."

Dishes will include appetizers like fried Brussels sprouts served with lime, cotija cheese, pecans, dried cranberries and chipotle aioli and fresh salads including one with seared salmon salad with chili verde, mango chutney and cucumber sesame honey.

A varied selection of "eclectic craft tacos" and bowls will veer from the expected, inviting guests to choose from a variety of wraps including both traditional corn or flour tortillas along with fun alternatives like butter lettuce, cabbage leaves, na’an or flatbread. 

Fillings will include both the familiar (battered fish, cabbage, chipotle mayo) as well as less traditional (fried green tomatoes, lettuce and buttermilk dressing). Taco fillings can also be enjoyed as gluten-free bowls served with brown rice and rajas; and bowl toppings can be similarly converted into tacos.

In keeping with its fun, casual vibe, BBK will feature both a ground level restaurant and lower level bar where happy hour is observed all day, every day. The interior, which will be orchestrated by the folks at Flux Design, will take full advantage of the restaurant’s riverfront location with bright airy views, high quality finishes and surfaces and easy access to both the patio and Riverwalk.

"Our goal is to take full advantage of the riverwalk location," notes John Walch, President of Marcus Investments Restaurant Division. "We know this restaurant will be a huge asset to both our company and the Third Ward community."

Watch OnMilwaukee for additional details on the BBK concept as they develop.

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.