Coquette Cafe, the longtime staple at 316 N. Milwaukee St. in the Historic Third Ward, has closed.
The French restaurant served its last meals on Sunday according to chef and owner Nick Burki, who expressed much gratitude to those who supported the restaurant over the past 19 years.
"I want to thank my amazing staff for all of their dedication and hard work," he says. "I also send my thanks to all of our loyal and supportive customers for their many years of patronage and friendship."
It's been nearly two decades since Chef Sanford D'Amato opened the cafe, modeling it after bistros he'd visited and enjoyed during trips to Paris. Its first menu included Milwaukee’s first hangar steak, as well as coq au vin and French onion soup. The atmosphere provided a quiet respite from the Milwaukee street – precisely as D’Amato had hoped.
In March 2010, mentors Sanford and Angie D’Amato handed over the reins for Coquette Café to chefs Nick Burki and Chris Hatleli. The two chefs met while working at Sanford in the early 1990s and both were part of the crew that opened Coquette in 1999.
And the two did the cafe justice. From the day they assumed ownership to the day the restaurant closed, they put their all into remaining true to the restaurant and its classic French cuisine.
In 2013, I recall chatting with both Burki and Hatleli while writing my book, "Milwaukee Food: A History of Cream City Cuisine." I'll never forget a quote gleaned during our conversations.
"The soup onions are still being sliced painstakingly by hand. We’re still serving 350 plates of coq au vin ... and ultimately, when the going gets tough, it’s best to just put your head down and start slicing."
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.