By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 31, 2021 at 11:36 AM

The owners of Café Corazon have big plans for a long-vacant property at 4102 W. Bradley Rd. And, provided all goes well, customers may be able to get their first taste of the restaurant’s farm-to-table Mexican cuisine as early as this summer.

The building on the property, which most recently housed Sammy’s Express Gyros & Custard, was built in the 1960’s to house an A&W Root Beer stand; but has sat vacant for over a decade.

But Café Corazon owners Wendy and George Mireles saw the potential in the property, purchasing it last November. Initially, Wendy Mireles says, they thought they’d purchase the building to use as a small commercial kitchen for their growing catering business.

“I’ve always been adamant that we would never become a chain, and that we’d stay true to our farm-to-table mission,” she says. “But the more we discussed it, the more we realized it would be a shame to create a catering hub with no outward facing business at that location.”

The decision, she says, was fueled in part by the community.

“There are so many people who grew up in the area,” she says. “And there’s so much nostalgia around that space, even going back to when it was an A&W Restaurant. Being part of the community is so central to our mission, and we love that aspect of it. So we decided it would be best as a restaurant.”

The vision

Mireles says they’ve learned so much in the past year as they faced the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. And the new restaurant will be built with some of those lessons in mind.

The restaurant itself, she says will be small (much like the Riverwest location), with the kitchen occupying most of the footprint. There will also be a small bar and seating for around 15 customers.

But the focal point will be a large vibrant patio, complete with a bar and outdoor lighting that Mireles says she anticipates will seat up to 75 guests.

“During the summer, we’ll rely heavily on the patio,” she says. “And in the winter,  we anticipate that 90% of our business will be  generated by carry-out and delivery.”

She says they also hope to take advantage of their proximity to the nearby bike trails, potentially sponsoring a Corazon ride or other bicycle-focused events.

Mireles says they purchased the property out of need, but also out of appreciation for its character.

“George has always been attracted to interesting, unique buildings,” she says. “And our goal will be to maintain a good deal of the original character, including the brick elements of the building – which will complement our color scheme –  and the old school sign out front.”

Plans for the restaurant are slated for review by the Village of Brown Deer on April 12-13.  If all goes well, the Mireleses hope to launch patio service this summer, using their food truck to provide a basic menu of  tacos, burritos and other fare to guests, along with drinks from the outdoor bar.  The hope is that the restaurant will open fully, with an expanded menu later in the fall.

Mireles says that, unlike their past projects which have been largely executed by George, they’ll be working with both JSD Professional Services and Wauwatosa’s Perspective Design Inc., to excavate the parking lot and update the building, which she says has “good bones” but needs a great deal of work.

The Brown Deer restaurant will be the fourth for Café Corazon, which debuted in the Riverwest Neighborhood in 2009.  Since that time, the Mireleses have expanded the concept to include locations in Bay View and inside the Mequon Public Market.

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.