By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jan 27, 2022 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

There’s a new friendly neighborhood bar opening in the former home of Sabella’s Pub at 2850 N. Brookfield Rd. in Brookfield. 

In fact, the aptly named C.C.’s Elbow Room is slated to open on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 4 p.m., offering a menu of cocktails, beer and wine along with a small curated list of housemade bar fare.

Exterior of C.C.'sX

A dream deferred

Behind the bar is namesake Cee Cee Ceman, an owner who got her start in the hospitality industry at the age of 15, taking on a variety of roles from hosting and serving to bartending. 

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to own my own bar and live upstairs from it,” she says, noting that as time passed and she got married and had children, the dream fell to the wayside.

But, after her husband fell ill and passed away about a year and a half ago, Ceman says that she was inspired to make a life change.

“For a year, I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “I’d worked in the financial industry and I contemplated going back; but that seemed boring. But, then a lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that it was the perfect time to find my bar. Life is too short. And I decided that I wasn’t going to waste any of the time I had left.”

Rick Schmidt and Cee Cee Ceman
Rick Schmidt and Cee Cee Ceman
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As Ceman began her search for a location, serendipity came into play. Through a friend she connected with Rick Schmidt, a longtime restaurant consultant, who assisted her in finding the former Sabella’s Pub property.

The property was ideal for a host of reasons, she says, not the least of which was that it brought her home to Brookfield, where she’d been a longtime resident. But when she discovered that the owners – Katherine and Silvio Sabella – owned and operated the bar with their two daughters, Ceman says she felt an immediate connection.

“Even more, it was Katherine who was really the driving force behind the business,” she says. “So, that was really meaningful for me.”

Building a neighborhood bar

Ceman purchased the property on Brookfield Road last July, and with Schmidt’s help, she gutted the space and rebuilt the interior from top to bottom.

“I wanted a corner neighborhood spot with a horseshoe bar…” she says. “My dream was to have a spot like ‘Cheers’ where people could come and socialize.”

While Sabella’s had the horseshoe bar, it wasn’t in great condition. But fortune struck once more and Schmidt was able to secure the former Blatz Brewery Tasting bar, which was installed in the former Milwaukee-based brewery sometime in the 1930s.

Broad view of barX

The bar, which boasts a unique rippled glass base, was retrofitted to fit the space. The cherry wood detailing was restored and installed, along with a new grey stone-look bar top, with help from Lechner Custom Woodworks in Waukesha, who also built the tables, back bar and bar rail for C.C.’s.

A portion of the glass leftover from the rebuilt bar can be found in the back seating area, where it reflects light and color back into the bar.

Seating areaX

Ceman reached out to Scathain, who created the antiqued mirror which forms the foundation for the back bar, and she worked with Brad Lee Koch on carpentry and details for the space, including the installation of five televisions which will broadcast sports games for customers.

Schmidt also headed up the design for the bar’s small open kitchen, which is equipped with time saving technology, including a top of the line Alto-Shaam Vector Multi-Cook oven, which offers much needed efficiency for the petite space.

‘“Cee Cee has really put a lot of money and energy into this place,” notes Schmidt, “And we’ve both spent a lot of time to make sure this was what she wanted.”

On the menu

At the bar, guests will find the usual suspects, including a list of house cocktails, from margaritas and Manhattans to a house old fashioned made with Lustau brandy that's been aged for three years in American oak casks which previously held Amontillado Sherry. Ceman says she’ll also offer guests the option to add Hydrate or Monin vitamin shots to any cocktail.

old fashioned cocktailX

But C.C.’s will also feature a collection of eight tap beers, including local craft brews from Brookfield’s neighborhood brewery, Biloba, along with Eagle Park, Third Space and New Glarus. Meanwhile, a well-curated list of domestic and international wines allows guests to order a wide range of varietals by the glass or bottle.

“I wanted a good wine list so that guests who are celebrating can buy a nicer wine or a bottle of bubbly to split,” says Ceman, noting that she’ll also be listening to customers and taking note of their requests so that she can round out the bar’s offerings.

The bar’s food menu is small, but emphasizes quality items that can be made efficiently with limited kitchen space. Guests can expect items like cooked to order burgers, snacks like fried cheese curds, along with a menu of sandwiches – including choices like a Cubano and Reuben – and a rotating selection of soup, including chili.

ChiliX

The kitchen will also offer pinsa pizza, a Roman style of pizza renowned for its light, airy crust which is crisp on the exterior and tender and airy inside thanks to a proprietary blend of wheat, rice, soy and sourdough flours.

PizzaX

And yes, C.C.’s will also be rolling out a Friday night fish fry featuring battered cod, fries, coleslaw and rye bread.

Just wait until summer

Ceman says that guests can also look forward to the summer months. After all, once spring hits, they will get to work on the addition of a new poured cement patio in front of the bar.

The patio, which is expected to accommodate about 10 tables, will not only serve as a welcome extension for the cozy bar, but will also be a destination for live music on clement summer evenings.

Patio rendering
Patio rendering by Patera Architecture
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Ceman says she’s truly excited to open the doors of C.C.’s Elbow Room, which she says has shaped up to be the neighborhood bar she’s always wanted.

“It’s been so much work,” she says. “But I’ve gone home with a smile on my face every single night.”

Beginning Feb. 1, C.C.’s Elbow Room will be open Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. (bar open later) and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to close. Keep up with C.C.’s by giving them a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

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.