By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Dec 04, 2018 at 10:01 AM

There’s been a good deal of anticipation associated with Crossroads Collective, the new East Side food hall planned for 2238 N. Farwell Ave. And curious diners will be delighted to know that the venue will host its grand opening on Monday, Dec. 17.

At that point, Milwaukeeans will be able to glimpse the hard work that’s gone into repurposing the former home of Oriental Drugs to create an eye-catching, functional community gathering place.

"I didn’t want Crossroads to be just a food hall... or just a good food hall," notes Tim Gokhman of New Land Development,  "I wanted it to be one of the best in the country. And as I traveled to different food halls, I noted that the best of them are about location, design and the whole package. In fact, we've redesigned the space a few times so that we could really get it right."

Gokhman and his team have used social media to offer glimpses of the new space, which will feature contemporary design using varying patterns and textures to create a sleek modern space with technology friendly features like plentiful outlets and USB ports.

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Gokhman says the food hall will also operated in an environmentally friendly way thanks to the use of compostable flatware, cups, straws. napkins, parchment paper and reusable trays. A partnership with Compost Crusader will ensure that items are diverted from area landfills and returned to the earth in a safe, sustainable manner.

Curating greatness

As for the main feature – the food – Crossroads Collective is ultimately slated to house eight vendors (and two bars) among which there are familiar names like Beerline Cafe, Falafel Guys, Laughing Taco and Scratch Ice Cream.

"We were very thoughtful about the vendors we chose," he says. "We knew the food hall had to be a place where people could come again and again and have something different... and a place where multiple people could come and enjoy themselves. In the spirit of Oriental Drugs, we wanted it to be a place that provides something for everyone."

To create that type of place, Gokhman traveled fairly extensively, visiting places like Denver and Montreal to see what made a food hall work.

"We wanted the vendors to have an interesting back story… like the way Laughing Taco sources their beef from the Carlisle farm … or food that’s visually interesting, so much so that people would be compelled to capture it for social media. And so far, all six of the eight have really satisfied that requirement. And what we have is really this collection of all-stars."

In addition to more established brands, there will also be new concepts. One is Frida, a vendor specializing in housemade soup and sandwiches. It will be operated by the owners of Tess, an East Side staple which has built its reputation on seasonal bistro-style dishes served in an upscale casual environment.

There will also be barbecue from Heaven’s Table BBQ, a catering company owned and operated by longtime SURG chef Jason Alston. Alston honed his skills working alongside chefs including Carnevor's Jarvis Williams, Justin Carlisle (now owner at ArdentLaughing Taco and Red Light Ramen), Israel Cruz, along with Kurt Fogle (now chef at Bass Bay Brewhouse) and Aaron Patin (of Iron Grate BBQ Co.). He also launched the Southern style barbeque program at Mi-Key's in 2014, featuring his smoked brisket, pulled pork, sausages and spare ribs. More recently, Alston has taken on work as an education assistant at MATC, while preparing to launch his own restaurant.

On the beverage side, Crossroads Collective will feature two bars. The first is a main bar which will feature beer, cocktails along with a notable selection of sparkling wine and oysters on the half-shell.

The second is a cozier, off-the-beaten path locale called Shanghai. According to Gokhman, this speakeasy style bar will feature  a "secret" entrance as well as a truly unique design. That includes a back bar decorated with mural art created by local artists Carli Ihde and Charity Ekpo.

Watch OnMilwaukee for additional details on the new food hall in the next week or two.

In the meantime, follow Crossroads Collective on Facebook and Instagram for sneak peeks into the food hall’s progress as well as to find out how you can get a sneak peek at the new venue.

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.