By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Feb 17, 2021 at 10:14 AM

“Meet me in the dining car,” could well be a popular text among guests at Cafe Centraal Grand Cafe & Tappery, 2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., thanks to a unique new outdoor dining experience which officially launches tomorrow, Feb. 18.

The new Streetcar on Lincoln marks an expansion of the Lowland Restaurant Group’s popular outdoor winter dining experiences, offering guests (and folks in their pods) an opportunity to take advantage of a one-of-a-kind dining experience in one of three new individual dining cars, each of which offer distinctively Bohemian decor and specially outfitted heating systems.

Dining car on Lincoln AvenueX

“I think we’ve all got a bit of wanderlust right now since we’ve been unable to travel,” said Eric Wagner, Lowlands Group CEO. “Swapping stories in the dining car of a train is one of the many joys of traveling by railway, and we’re  hoping to evoke that feeling of forward motion in a time where everyone is feeling incredibly still and a little trapped.”

What to expect

The Streetcar, comprised of three unique dining compartments located in the parklet along Lincoln Avenue, was developed in collaboration with Lyle Stoflet of Containers Up, who also assisted Lowlands with the build-out of the Cafe Benelux Container bar which launched this summer

Like the restaurant itself, the dining cars pay homage to Centraal Station in Amsterdam, an international travel hub which welcomes guests to one of the Netherlands’ most exciting and globally influenced cities. But each car also lends a nod to the energy and spirit of the Bay View neighborhood, with colorfully painted exteriors and cozy, eclectic interior dining spaces that are warmed by special heating systems that take the edge off the winter chill; but which can also be converted for more open-air-style dining during the summer.  

Corinne Leach painting the dining carsX

Meanwhile, thanks to the creative skills of longtime Cafe Centraal bartender, Corinne Leach, each compartment’s exterior is uniquely decorated with colorful patterns and hand-painted dogs (each of which was modeled after real life pets belonging to Eric Wagner and members of the regional management team). 

Dogs, luggage and beer painted on dining carX

Inside each car, guests will find family style bench seating that accommodates up to six guests, along with Bohemian style urban-chic decor including tapestry pillows, fabric table coverings, trailing ivy accents and internationally inspired lighting fixtures.

Peek through the door on the dining carX

Because the heated cars still allow for some ventilation, guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets (for a more comforable dining experience) and games to enjoy alongside Centraal’s food and beverage options during their 90-minute reservations.

“We’ve been blown away by the response to our Outdoor Winter Experiences, and we’re excited to extend that to our guests in Bay View,” added Wagner. In the midst of this bitter cold snap, our goal is to continue to provide warm, cozy options for getting out of the house and dining together, safely.”

Snackcuterie, cocktails & family meals

Every Streetcar reservation comes complete with a complementary Snackuterie box for munching. Guests can choose from Mid-day Munchies (bacon, corn and basil chicken salad; garlic crostini; herbed pita; candied bacon; pickled green beans; cucumber; hemp seed pesto; apple; strawberries; grapes; sharp cheddar cheese; tomato salsa; mini sweet peppers;  brownie bites; and sweet espresso glaze); to the Sweet & Savory Brunch Box (Canadian bacon, jalapeno biscuits, candied bacon, jalapeno cream, garlic crostini, sweet peppers,cucumbers, grapes, brie cheese, strawberries, sharp cheddar cheese, watermelon radish, sweet candied walnuts and cranberry spread). Extra boxes can be ordered for $35 each.

Food spread out on table

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Done with snacking?

Make it a meal with family style options like the Banh Mi That’s Good (Six crispy chicken banh mi sliders with jalapeño mayo, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and cilantro and six cheeseburger sliders with aged cheddar, and ale braised onions, friets and sweet potato waffle frites, $45); or the BYO Taco Trio (Adobo sirloin and fajita pepper blend, crispy chicken, chorizo black beans, grilled tortillas, cotija cheese, avocado salsa, pineapple relish, and jalapeño creme, $50).

Prefer brunch? There are family style brunch options as well including the Centraal Big Breakfast (Cheddar, bacon and avocado scramble; breakfast potatoes; six fluffy pancakes; oliebollen doughnuts; warm berry jam, butter, and syrup, $42); BYO Steak and Egg Breakfasst Tacos ($50) or Fried Chicken and Biscuits Brunch (12-piece spice-fried chicken legs, cheesy scrambled eggs, chorizo sausage gravy; and jalapeño cheddar biscuits, $42).

You can also customize your experience with any number of beverages from beer to Streetcar beverage bundles (each includes drinks for four or five) including options like spiced pear mules ($30), pomegranate margaritas ($35), chamomile toddies ($30) or Apri-O Mimosas featuring apricot liqueur, cava rose and orange juice ($32).

Cocktail in a dining car with food sitting behind itX

Safety measures in effect

Each Streetcar compartment is scheduled with staggered reservation slots to ensure groups arrive and exit at different times. Lowlands has also built in 30-minute blocks for cleaning and sanitation between each reservation slot.

In addition to the restaurant’s Moving Milwaukee Forward Enhanced Approval 72-point safety  procedures, Lowlands also makes use of atomizer fog bombs to target airborne pathogens and bacteria, as well as ensuring airflow and fresh air ventilation in each Streetcar compartment. 

Guests are asked to wear masks whenever entering and leaving the Streetcar, as well as while interacting with Lowlands personnel, including servers.

Side view of dining car featuring dogs, luggage and beerX

Reserve your dining car

Reservations are now available at lowlandswinter.com. A $50 advance reservation fee secures your Streetcar reservation, which is good for 90-minutes and up to six guests. Every reservation includes guests’ choice of one Snackuterie Box.

Bookings for peak weekend and evening hours will be available through Tock, and walk-ins will be accommodated based on availability.

Guests can also continue to enjoy Centraal’s Winter Garden of Eten experience, featuring heated tent-covered seating in the restaurant’s courtyard patio along with live music Thursday through Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. through the end of March.  

Members of Lowlands’ loyalty program will also receive special offers and updates. To sign up, search “Lowlands Rewards” in the app store or text the word “Lowlands” to 43618.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.