By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Sep 02, 2021 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

It’s almost time for East Tosans to put on their best burger eating pants. That’s because Crafty Cow Tosa is getting ready to fling open the doors to their third location at 6519 W. North Ave.

Starting at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9, the inventive family-owned burger destination will officially roll out its menu of appetizers, stuffed and loaded burgers, creative entrees and fried chicken, along with the craft beer and cocktails for which the brand has become known.

Co-owner Devin Eichler, who owns the Tosa location with his wife Simone Gaspar, says the restaurant will operate with an abbreviated menu for the first few weeks, serving dinner only. However, lunch is expected to be added by Sept. 16 with brunch to follow sometime in fall. 

Crafty Cow Wauwatosa - exteriorX

A peek inside

Step inside the restaurant and you’ll find a space that reflects Crafty Cow’s comfortable rustic aesthetic, along with a full bar, plenty of tableside seating, a small private dining area and an outdoor patio.

But it’s the little details that make each Crafty Cow location unique. In Wauwatosa, the bar has been refaced with repurposed staves from red wine barrels sourced from Bogle Vineyards in California by The Barrel Broker. The staves have been mounted with the inside portion of the barrels visible, so the variations in the oak are on full display, including the pink to violet stains from contact with aging wine.

Wine stave bar facadeX

Step inside The Barn, an extension of the Crafty Cow dining room that will also be available for private events in the coming months, and you’ll find upcycled barn board walls pulled from a barn in Oshkosh, Wisconsin hung with hides and varied antiques, some of which were sourced from area rummage sales and others from Hippie Tom’s Serendipity Farms in Waterford, Wisconsin.

The Barn at Crafty CowX

Even the tables tell a story; their tops are made from bits and pieces from the former Strehlow’s True Value Hardware which once occupied the Crafty Cow location in Bay View.

Appropriately, a white-washed sliding barn door separates The Barn from the remainder of the dining room and bar.

Barn door on The Barn at Crafty CowX

The L-shaped dining room features plenty of seating at (mostly) wooden four-tops set against a backdrop of sage green walls and cement floors. The Eastern wall sports a Crafty Cow signature: a beer can wall, showcasing myriad cans of varying ages from domestic breweries as familiar as Blatz, Old Style, Pabst and Coors to Tuborg Beer, Meister Brau and Old Vienna.

Beer wall in Crafty Cow dining roomX

Head all the way to the back of the restaurant and you’ll find semi-private seating for eight to ten guests at a long table surrounded by upcycled wagon wheels, farm tools and an impressive collection of hand saws.

Large group dining table and hand saw wallX

You’ll also find a kitschy, well-appointed (and Instagram-worthy) lounge area where guests can linger with drinks to wait for tables on busy nights. 

Kitschy loungey waiting area at Crafty CowX

In addition to plush seating, trophy accents and rustic photos which give the lounge the look and feel of a cool retro basement, you’ll find items like a wooden home bar which Eichler says was physically their “bar of choice” when he and Simone were home during the pandemic shutdown.

A home bar for the lounge at Crafty CowX

In addition to its function as a comfortable, practical waiting area for guests, Eichler says the lounge will eventually accommodate live entertainment in the months ahead.

And yes, the Crafty Cow experience comes complete with a spacious enclosed patio which easily accommodates an additional 30 guests.  Eichler says the patio will be open for the remainder of the season this year; but he has plans to enhance the space significantly for next year.  

“We have some pretty big plans for the space,” says Eichler, “We are hoping to get approval for an outdoor bar, as well as some other elements that will make it into a really unique outdoor space.”

Patio at Crafty CowX

Crafty cuisine

As for the menu, folks will find Crafty Cow staples, including chicken wings, loaded cheese curds and a slew of signature burgers, including options like the True Grit, a signature Crafty Cow beef patty topped with white cheddar, bacon, battered onions, jalapenos and BBQ sauce ($11). (The burger is an ode to Eichler’s grandfather, who was a huge fan of Westerns).

True Grit Burger at Crafty CowX

Guests will also find unique offerings like Nashville Hot Ramen, a take on the classic featuring Nashville hot chicken ($15); and the Peach Please, a vegetarian fried chick'n sandwich featuring lettuce, jalapenos, fire-grilled peaches, honey chipotle and cilantro aioli served on a doughnut bun ($12.50).

But the Tosa location will also have a number of dishes to call its own, including a signature appetizer, burger and two distinctive sandwiches.

First up, there will be Fried Elote Bites, a variation on the popular Mexican street food featuring a breaded, deep fried mix of corn, pickled carrots, green onions and Cotija cheese served with cilantro aioli for dipping ($10).

Elote bites at Crafty Cow Tosa
Photo: Crafty Cow
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On the burger side, there’s the Thai-RRific, a Crafty creation featuring a burger patty (or grilled chicken or Beyond Meat patty) topped with pickled carrots, jalapenos, cilantro, pulled bacon and Thai peanut sauce ($12).

Thai Burger at Crafty Cow Tosa
Photo: Crafty Cow
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Another unique-to-Tosa option is the Pork Rib Sando, a baguette based sandwich featuring crispy pork ribs, marinated tomato, bacon jam, bacon and snap pea and broccoli slaw ($15.50).

Rib Sando at Crafty Cow Tosa
Photo: Crafty Cow
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Finally, as an homage to Hue Vietnamese Restaurant – whose move opened up the space to Crafty Cow – Eichler will be introducing a brand new Fried Chicken Banh Mi featuring a banh mi bun filled with fried chicken, pickled carrots, jalapenos, cucumber, cilantro and sambal aioli ($13).

Fried chicken banh mi at Crafty Cow Tosa
Photo: Crafty Cow
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You can view the full Crafty Cow menu online.

Once Open, Crafty Cow’s inaugural hours will be Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. (bar open until 11 p.m.); Friday and Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. (bar open until midnight) and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. (bar open until 10 p.m.). 

Lunch service, expected to launch Sept. 16, will be offered beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday, with brunch to follow later in the fall.

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.