By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Dec 08, 2020 at 1:01 PM

There’s a brand new upscale sports bar concept coming to the Story Hill Neighborhood, just a hop away from Miller Park. 

Caliente Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar is slated to open as soon as mid-January at 5108 W. Bluemound Rd., in the former home of Fat Valdy’s Bar & Grill. And it promises a menu featuring a broad range of dishes from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a bar stocked with over 20 types of rum. 

Behind the concept are Jesse Fonseca and Hernan Castillo, owners of Sabor Tropical, the Latin inspired kitchen and lounge at 2258 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Bay View. And Fonseca says they are excited to bring another Latin-inspired concept to the near West side.

“I’ve always loved the area,” says Fonseca. “But I’ve never been able to find the right space for the concept we had in mind. So, when this space became available, I was excited. We are surrounded by so many great places, including Kelly’s Bleachers and Story Hill BKC. We love the community, and the neighbors have already been so welcoming.”

Fonseca, who took over a lease on the space late this summer, says they’ve put a great deal of work into upgrading the look and feel of the space, updating the bar and upgrading a variety of  aesthetic elements from the paint on the walls to the flooring  and kitchen.  Ultimately, he says, Caliente is meant to conjure an upscale vibe appropriate for mature diners and sports bar fans who are looking for a nice place to catch a game, grab dinner or enjoy a night out.

On the menu

At the bar, Caliente will feature a massive collection of over 200 rums with a menu featuring 20 mojito riffs, five pina coladas (all served in pineapples) and rum flights, allowing customers to experience the wide variety of rums available from throughout the world.

As for the menu, it will cover similar territory to that at Sabor Tropical. But it will feature numerous additions, including dishes from both the Dominican Republic and Colombia. 

Highlights include deep-fried Caribbean inspired empanadas with fillings like spicy chicken, marinated pork, creole shrimp and birria shredded beef; mofongo rellenos (green plantains then mashed with salt, garlic, pork skins and butter and served in a wooden pilon stuffed with a choice off chicken, shrimp, fish or lobster cooked in Cariibbean creole sauce); and 

Guests will also fiend La Bandera Dominicana, Dominican seasoned fried chicken served with white rice and red beans; and the Bandeja Paisa, a platter with origins in the Northwestern Antioquia region of Colombia featuring a 10-ounce skirt steak, chorizo, chicharrones, morcilla sausage, amarillos, white rice, red beans and arepa topped with a fried egg.

A late night menu will also be available featuring items like wings, empanadas, quesadillas and burgers.

Next summer, guests can also look forward to an expansive patio complete with outdoor fireplaces. Fonseca says the bar and restaurant will also provide shuttle service to Bucks, Brewers and (likely) Packer games.

Once open, Caliente is expected to to offer service seven days a week from 11 a.m. to close. 

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.