The word “grand” may have been removed from the name, but the vision for The Avenue has remained as grand as ever, with development moving forward at a swift pace in recent months. That includes plans for the much anticipated 3rd Street Market Hall, a project fueled by the hope and promise of revitalizing an historic section of Milwaukee Downtown.
In fact, if all goes well, the food hall is likely to open by late summer with a slate of about a dozen tenants, plus a variety of interactive elements to engage guests.
Despite the years that it has taken to get there, the new 40,000-square-foot food hall is poised to become a dining epicenter for the Westown Neighborhood, offering varied dining options for Downtown employees, residents of the fully leased Plankinton Clover apartments, convention center attendees and virtually anyone who visits the area to take in a concert, theater performance, sports game or other activity. The location is also easily accessible from Milwaukee’s extensive skywalk system, which provides easy all-weather travel for up to 4,000 people per day.
“Our strategies have really changed over the course of this project,” says Jaime Jacobs, operations manager for the 3rd Street Market Hall. “In the process, we set our focus on attracting vendors that represent different aspects of great food in the city. Our goal is to have representation from those favorite spots where everyone wants to go, along with new vendors that offer something different.”
The ultimate goal: give folks a genuine taste of Milwaukee.
Welcome to Dairyland
Dairyland Old Fashioned Frozen Custard and Hamburgers, a fitting concept which specializes in well-executed Cream City and Wisconsin staples, signed on this week as an anchor tenant for the forthcoming food hall.
Dairyland, which is expected to occupy 3,200 square feet at the 3rd Street Market Hall, will feature a commercial kitchen space shared by Mid-Way Bakery and up to four rotating hawker stall vendors.
Founded in September of 2020 by Chefs Joe McCormick, Katie Fogle and Kurt Fogle and Brent Fogle, the Dairyland concept was created to steward the nostalgic flavors found in Wisconsin classics like old fashioned flat top burgers, breaded cheese curds and Friday night fish fry.
“As we saw a decline in the quality of burgers overall, and a move away from the ingredients and techniques that made old fashioned burgers so memorable, we saw an opportunity to create a brand that put high quality burgers back into peoples’ hands,” says Kurt Fogle.
To do so, they made a commitment to creating burgers made the old fashioned way with fresh, house-ground beef.
“Frozen patties weren’t ubiquitous 30 years ago,” notes McCormick. “But they are today. We are in agreement that – at the very least – a burger place should grind their own meat. Does it take more effort? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely.”
Currently serving at their trailer at Zócalo Food Park, 636 S. 6th St., and via a ghost kitchen in Oak Creek at 924 E. Rawson Ave., the concept will soon become a hallmark operation in the 3rd Street Market Hall, offering a menu of burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, house-seasoned French fries, beer-battered cheese curds, breakfast sandwiches and fish fry.
At the new Downtown location, guests will also be treated to a classic Wisconsin indulgence: small batch house-made custard served in cups, cones, shakes, malts and sundaes, plus pints to take home for later.
Unlike most custard stands, Dairyland will not be purchasing the usual commercial base for their custard. Instead, they will be creating their own custard bases from scratch, balancing each one against the flavor profiles of any add-ins.
Among their offerings will be sweet cream custard, a fresh alternative to vanilla custard that highlights the rich flavors inherent to high quality Wisconsin milk.
They will also offer chocolate custard made with high quality chocolate (like Valrhona), plus a rotating selection of over 350 custard flavors, including special offerings for holidays.
“Our goal is to create a catalog of balanced custard flavors by breaking down the flavor profiles and deciding from there what the flavor base will be," says Kurt Fogle. "That includes a vanilla custard that captures the vanilla flavor to its fullest extent without the use of chemicals or flavor additives.”
Full control over their premium scratch-made custard base also allows them to create a base that’s as stable as possible, which means pints can be sold and stored without a loss of texture or the crystallization that’s typical of store-bought custard.
Meanwhile, Dairyland will also be joined by Mid-Way Bakery, a vibrant 1990s county fair-inspired concept specializing in desserts that utilize classic French techniques to reproduce the beloved flavors of time-honored desserts in modern, innovative formats.
The bakery, led by pastry chef Katie Fogle, will feature sweet treats including cookies, “Dutchies” (hand-held cobbler style desserts) and bars, some of which have debuted at Dairyland’s Walker’s Point and Oak Creek locations.
But Katie Fogle says they will also feature more intricate creations including croissants, kringle, cream puffs, kouign-amann and petits gâteaux. Those offerings will be supplemented by cafe-style items like housemade sandwiches, soups and salads.
“The bakery will evolve over time,” notes Katie Fogle. “We’ll constantly be improving and changing and adding new items to our offerings.”
Four hawker stalls on the northern side of the space will also be managed by Dairyland. These unique stalls will showcase an ever-changing collection of exciting food-based concepts, including nascent brands, experimental concepts or passion projects.
“Our goal is really to create another rung in the ladder that helps passionate cooks move forward toward entrepreneurship,” says Brent Fogle. “If you have a great product, we want to help you to see if it will stick.”
Fogle says the stalls, which are likely to be available for six or 12-month terms, are meant to offer chefs and passionate food lovers a low risk way to dip their toes into the waters of restaurant ownership.
“There are a lot of people out there who are food creators and who simply haven’t had the opportunity to open a brick and mortar,” he says. “We can offer assistance to someone who wants to benefit from exposure in a world class food hall. We’ll give them a commercial kitchen space, as well as mentorship and guidance that can assist them in developing an efficient operation for their brand.”
For some, the stalls will function as a sort of incubator space. For others, they will serve as a platform for building visibility for a successful concept.
“We want to create a community of talent and information sharing,” says Kurt Fogle. “We also want to reduce the risk for folks that truly want to pursue their passions.”
McCormick says he also sees the hawker stalls as an opportunity to continue to enhance the dining scene in the Cream City.
“It’s one of the ways that we can really push the culinary scene in Milwaukee,” he says. “So many people know how to put their hearts on a plate; but we can help them actually see their plans to fruition. There’s also potential to host some really innovative pop-ups.”
More to love
The food hall is the result of years of research and brainstorming by a passionate team, including property owner Josh Krsnak of Hempel Companies, developer Tony Janowiec of Interstate Partners and restaurateur Omar Shaikh, who spearheaded the curation of the food hall. The team visited up to 40 food halls around the country, pulling together the best elements of each into the plan for the game-changing Downtown food hall.
The hall itself will reflect a modern industrial look and feel showcasing true neon signage, a deep, dramatic color scheme and exposed cream city brick which pays homage to the city’s history. Unlike the predictable design of a less interactive food court, the space has also been designed to be exploratory, with new vendors and activities around every corner.
The focal point of the food hall will be a centrally located custom 40-seat bar, which will serve a comprehensive menu of cocktails, craft beer and wine.
From there, the food hall will open with between 11 and 12 vendors (with capacity for up to 24 as time moves on). Each vendor will occupy a uniquely designed space beneath “cloud structures,” overhead areas created from sturdy steel c-channels fixed above each stall.
Slate of vendors so far
Dairyland and Mid-Way Bakery will comprise two of the primary vendor stalls, with four widely varied hawker stalls under their purview. Meanwhile, vegetarian and plant-based fare will also be provided by two new vendors, Make Waves and The Greenhouse.
Brew City brand, a longtime Grand Avenue tenant and iconic Milwaukee retailer, will also have a space in the food hall. More vendors are slated to be announced in the coming weeks.
Inclusive seating options throughout the space will include high tops, bar seating, picnic-style tables, booths and standing space to accommodate single diners, groups and families. The hall will also accommodate a variety of dining options, including onsite dining and efficient set-ups for both carry-out and delivery.
In addition to food and retail vendors, the 3rd Street Market Hall will have six-lane slot car racing, a big-screen gaming console area, an area for Snook Ball (a giant billiards game played by kicking soccer balls), shuffleboard, a green turfed area which will accommodate lawn games, and two Top Golf suites. There will also be a “selfie museum” with ever-changing photogenic exhibits, as well as numerous private event spaces.
Watch OnMilwaukee for updates as they become available.
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.