"I was 24 years old when I went to Jamaica; it was the first vacation of my life, and ever since then I have always wanted to open a Caribbean restaurant," says Michael Dillon, a local graphic design company proprietor and owner of the soon-to-open Edgar's Calypso Caribbean restaurant.
"I've gone back to Jamaica every year for the last 30 years."
This first restaurant venture by the 25-year owner of McDill Design, seemed a natural move. Dillon's office is upstairs from the restaurant, which was formerly inhabited by Swank, and years before that, H.H. West office supplies.
When the landlord asked Dillon if he was interested in the space, Dillon didn't hesitate. He has undertaken remodeling the space to reflect his love of the tropical island Guadalupe, one of the few islands in the Caribbean where tourism isn't the main industry.
Dillon has spent the last six weeks painstakingly hand-painting the interior of the new restaurant, and building out a design that features multiple levels, real and artificial palm trees, canopies and thatched roofs.
"I love to cook and entertain," says Dillon, whose passion for cuisine includes French and East Indian foods, curries, and other Jamaican and other Caribbean spices. Dillon's panel of chef friends and employees have created a menu that incorporates many of his favorites in an "unusual but elaborate" menu. Options will be reasonably priced, with dinner entrées hovering in the $9 to $13 range and lunch options slightly cheaper.
"The Caribbean stretches from Mexico to Cuba, touches the French and English and Danish and African, and it's so much more than people think of their vacation in Cancun or Jamaica."
Notes Dillon, "People tend to think of [Caribbean food] as really spicy but mostly it is not, it just has lovely flavors and is just simply wonderful. I have four published books on food and I think the best food is in the Caribbean. It's a place completely dedicated to vacation and people having a good time. I would love to see my patrons ‘Take a vacation for lunch.'"
Edgar's Calypso will celebrate a soft opening for friends and family to benefit the Milwaukee Public Library. The official opening date is Monday Oct. 29, at 11a.m. Dillon is planning for regular business hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, but says he will allow the downtown traffic to drive his closing times.
So, how does a successful business man like Dillon pursue his 30-year American dream of opening a restaurant? "I have a successful design firm with 20 designers working for me," says Dillon, "I love my job and if it weren't for the people who work for me, I wouldn't be able to do this. Everyone has been just wonderful. Everyone has been so helpful."
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.