By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 29, 2021 at 12:17 PM

Comet Cafe, 1947 N. Farwell Ave., is slated to reopen for service sometime in Winter of 2022. But it will do so under new ownership.

In fact, the cafe will actually make its return with help from Valeri Lucks (of Honeypie Cafe, Palomino and SmallPie) who – alongside her brother Adam Lucks – assisted in converting the former coffee shop into a full blown restaurant back in 2005.

Today, Lucks is the founder and co-owner of Pie Inc., the company behind Honeypie Café, Honeypie Bakeshop, Palomino and SmallPie. But between 2005 and 2015, she and her brother Adam were the operators of Comet, before departing to focus on their own concepts, Honeypie and Palomino.

“It was my first restaurant,” Lucks notes. “Founded in 1995 by Scott Johnson and Leslie Montemurro, Comet started out and operated as a much-loved neighborhood coffee shop for 10 years.  Adam and I partnered with them in 2005 to expand it to a full restaurant and bar.

"Adam developed a menu championing locally sourced and scratch-made comfort food and craft beers at a time when all of that was still new to the industry. We had so much fun at Comet and worked with so many great people.”

Lucks, who now operates Pie Inc. with partner and co-owner Chef Derek Petersen (a chef who got his start as a dishwasher at Comet in 2006), says that she's extremely excited to return to the cafe where her career in restaurants began.

“Our goal at PIE Inc is to bring joy to our communities with amazing food and great spaces,” says Lucks. “Bringing Comet back into our fold is an exciting step in our growth.  Comet means a lot to us personally. We think it is an important place in the community.  So many of us in the company got our start there.  We have Comet in our DNA. We are honored to take stewardship of such a beloved cafe and operate it again.”

As for changes to the concept, Lucks says that's not the goal.

"We'll be painting, making basic repairs, installing new light fixtures..." she says. "But I really love what we built back in the day, and the intention is to keep it that way."

That means maintaining the cafe's comforting menu, craft beer list and drinks, as well as bringing back the pies and baked goods that were once served.

“My late father helped us build the bar," Lucks says. "And my brother and friends built the booths, counter and tables that are still there. Much of that menu we created in 2005 ourselves. So, we couldn't be more excited to return to it."

Leslie Montemurro, who operated Comet with partner Scott Johnson before signing the restaurant over to Pie Inc. on Oct. 15, 2021, says they couldn't be happier with the outcome.

“We are very excited for Val and Derek to reopen Comet Café,” she said in an email. “This is great news for the neighborhood and the city. We know the community will be happy that Comet will reopen without a lot of change. 

“Val understands the vibe of Comet, loves it, and was a huge part of evolving Comet from the single storefront café to the full service diner and bar that it became. It’s in good hands and its awesome that now Comet will be around into the next decade.

"It’s been a privilege for us to own and operate Comet since 1995 and be a part of the develop of the awesome restaurant scene that Milwaukee has today.”

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.