It’s been almost five years since Casey Rataczak opened Camino, the craft beer bar at 434 S. Second St. in Walker’s Point.
In that time, the bar has become a popular destination – not just for its beer but for its well-executed scratch bar menu, which features one of the city’s best burgers, stellar fried cheese curds, custom sausages and inventive sandwiches including a beet reuben and Brussels sprouts grinder.
And soon, West Allis will serve as the location for a larger, slightly expanded version of the successful beer bar and eatery.
Rataczak has purchased the building at 7211 W. Greenfield Ave. – which was most recently home to the Crimson Club – and has plans to open a second location of the popular bar in a limited capacity, potentially offering curbside pick-up and delivery as soon as the end of May.
A great fit for West Allis
"I’ve been thinking about adding a second location for a couple of years," he says. "We outgrew our Walker’s Point location a year or a year and a half ago. So, the idea of being able to offer what we do to a larger audience is really appealing."
Rataczak says a location in West Allis has always been at the top of his list, not only because the area is redeveloping so rapidly but because the bar seems like such a strong fit for the community.
"I’ve always liked West Allis and the strip on Greenfield just gives me a really good feeling," says Rataczak. "It’s cool and a little quirky, and it reminds me a lot of what Bay View was like 20 years ago."
Initially, Rataczak says, he planned to open the bar in July or August. But he says he’s adjusted his timeline with assistance from the City of West Allis, who has granted him permission to open for carry-out while he completes the renovations on the space.
A first round of inspections are scheduled for next week, so if all goes well, Rataczak plans to launch online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery by the end of May.
Meanwhile, he’ll get to work on interior renovations, including opening up the kitchen to be partially visible to the dining room and installing a long rectangular bar, which will serve as the focal point for the comfortable, tavern-style space. Additional features will include a garage door on the front of the building, which will allow open-air dining during good weather, and potential for a parklet in front of the building, a project Rataczak says he’s likely to tackle next summer.
Burgers, fried chicken and more
As for food and beverage offerings, the West Allis location will largely mimic the concept in Walker’s Point with a focus on sandwiches and a healthy selection of craft beer. However, thanks to a larger kitchen and a seating capacity of about 130 (that’s triple the volume of the Walker’s Point bar), Rataczak says he plans to expand the menu to include numerous offerings that just haven’t been feasible in the past.
That includes an expanded selection of custom-made sausages as well as numerous new offerings including brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and a few very special menu items like Rataczak’s family recipe for fried chicken.
"My grandmother owned a tavern called The Dizzy Bar in Princeton, Wisconsin for about 40 years," he says. "And she served her fried chicken there. I’m among only three or four people in my family to have been lucky enough to have inherited the recipe."
The chicken, which relies on a unique wet batter, is different from anything served in the area, he says. "I’ve been calling it ‘Depression era style chicken.’ It’s very good, very fresh and definitely unique."
The chicken, he says, will be a special he plans to offer on Wednesdays and Sundays, along with a Friday night fish fry that uses the same batter.
To assist with kitchen operations, he’s also hired Chef Ramses Alvarez, former executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, to oversee food service at both locations.
"We’ll keep him on as long as he wants to be here," says Rataczak. "He brings valuable skills to our team, and it feels good to be keeping folks working in a time like this."
Despite the circumstances surrounding the opening, he says he’s really excited to be able to embark on the expansion of the Camino brand.
"I’m just happy to be a part of the West Allis Community," says Rataczak "I think it’s a great area and I think our concept will be a really great fit."
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.