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 Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.