“James Bond has a license to kill, rockstars have a license to be outrageous. Rock is about grabbing people’s attention.”
– Gene Simmons
If you wanna talk about attention-grabbing, just take a look at the Milwaukee location for Rock & Brews, a rock music-themed restaurant created by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of the band KISS.
The restaurant, located just beyond the Skywalk at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, hosted its grand opening on Tuesday. Festivities included appearances from Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Simmons and Stanley, a performance by cover band PRISS, food sampling and more. But even if you missed the official ribbon cutting, rest assured there’s a banger of an experience waiting for you on your visit to the rock-and-roll-themed eatery.
Rock & Brews, which boasts 23 locations across the country, is built upon the notion of giving music fans a truly unique dining experience. And each venue does so through eye-catching music-infused decor and a menu that focuses on American classics with a twist.
The Milwaukee location features 6,000 square feet of pure rock and roll bliss, from guitar pick-shaped high-top tables (each of which pays homage to a different rock band) and colorful light-up glass booth dividers to platinum albums embedded in the flooring along the bar. Meanwhile, 23 televisions broadcasting synchronized rock videos offer up a full-on MTV-era vibe.
Look up at the ceiling above the dining area and you’ll find stage-style lighting which frames out a collection of giant illuminated poster-style images of rock icons including The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Tom Petty.. And don’t miss the little details like the bright red dining chairs, each of which sports embroidered Rock & Brews branding.
Other notable decor features include a Brew City Medallion constructed of cymbals, drums, records and local beer taps, which pays homage to musicians with connections to the Cream City, from Les Paul and Garbage to Steve Miller, Al Jarreau and The Violent Femmes.
The medallion sits astride a gorgeous mural depicting a vibrant, young Aretha Franklin.
Brews & Rocktails
The Rock & Brews Bar, which serves up a rotating selection of 48 craft and domestic brews on draught (including a good showing from local breweries including 3 Sheeps, Eagle Park, Lakefront, Hinterland, MobCraft, New Glarus, City Lights, and Raised Grain), plus ciders, ready-to-drink cocktails and a curated selection of mostly domestic wines. Brews average $7-$10 with wine in the $7-$14 range.
And yes, for those who’d prefer, there are also well-priced hand-crafted Rocktails including cleverly named quaffs like the “It’s Cold Gin Time Again” (featuring Kiss Cold Gin), the “M, M, M, My Paloma” and the (currently Milwaukee-only) debut Rocktail “Whiskey in the Jar,” a delicious selection featuring Metallica’s Blackened Whiskey with vanilla syrup, blackberries, lemon and soda. All Rocktails are $10-$12 each.
The bar itself doubles as a gaming area with comfy seating and digital poker stations for those who don’t want to lose time breaking for a burger and a brew.
And… thanks to a raised stage behind the bar, guests can also catch live performances from rock bands on Friday and Saturday nights
From Opening Acts to Encores
But the atmosphere is just part of the picture. Executive Chef Ben Jones heads up the rock spot’s near-scratch kitchen which serves up a menu of American favorites from signature wings (bone-in or boneless) and burgers to salads, tacos, sandwiches, pizzas and entrees.
Appetizers include Hand-hacked guacamole and house tortilla chips ($8.95); and Street Nachos topped with housemade chips, queso, red onions, sweet peppers, jalapenos, roasted corn, chili sauce, lime aioli, guacamole and cilantro ($12.95; add chicken or steak for $3.95 or $4.95 more).
There are also deep-fried Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds (served with ranch dressing, $12.95); loaded tater tots ($15.95); and garlic parmesan fries liberally doused in garlic sauce and parmesan cheese ($8.95).
South X Southwest eggrolls feature roasted chicken, black beans, pepper jack cheese along with peppers, onions, roasted corn and chipotle ranch for dipping ($11.95).
Salads range from classics like Fire-grilled chicken Caesar ($13.95) and Hotel California Cobb ($13.95) to fresh strawberry avocado salad with feta and lemon pepper vinaigrette ($13.95) and Asian Chicken with cabbage, snow peas, carrots, grilled chicken, peanuts, cilantro, sesame ginger vinaigrette and wonton strips ($13.95, pictured below).
Taco lovers can get their fixes with Baja-beer battered fish, fire-grilled steak, bang bang shrimp or spicy chicken tacos ($13.95), while burger fiends can settle in with signature options like Alice Cooper’s Poison Burger featuring pepper cheese spread, reaper ranch, fried jalapenos, crispy onions and Alice Cooper’s Poison Hot Sauce ($15.95) or the more tame Brew City Butter Burger featuring a butter burger on brioche with double melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions and pickles ($12.95).
On the sandwich front, there are myriad choices from a French dip ($16.95) to a Philly chicken cheesesteak ($13.95). A pulled pork sandwich called the We Salute You (normally $12.95) is available free for veterans, active military and first responders on Veterans Day.
And then there’s the Demon Chicken, an homage to Gene Simmons featuring deep-fried chicken breast, Rockin’ Hot Sauce, pepper cheese spread, chipotle slaw, marinated red onions, thinly sliced jalapenos and chipotle ranch ($14.95). The menu gives it two spicy guitars for heat; but unless you are entirely spice-averse, I’d say it’s a pretty safe pick for most people who just want a bit of kick with their chicken sandwich.
In the entree category, you’ll find shrimp linguini and blackened chicken pasta along with coconut shrimp, beer-battered fish and chips, blackened salmon and surf & turf featuring a 10-ounce ribeye with red wine butter, BBQ bacon-wrapped shrimp, broccolini with garlic and scalloped potatoes ($29.95). Most entrees run $14.95 to $24.95. There's also a selection of BBQ, including Memphis style ribs ($19.95-$29.95), Keto dry-rubbed ribs ($15.95-$25.95) and a fire-roasted BBQ half-chicken ($15.95).
Meanwhile, Front Row Pizzas are 10” personal-style pizzas available on artisan or gluten-free crust. Offerings include pepperoni, Margherita-ville, Bill Graham BBQ Chicken, the Supreme’s and cheese, which can be spiffed up with guests’ choice of toppings from black olives and artichoke hearts to pineapple, jalapenos, pepperoni and Italian sausage ($12.95-$14.95; toppings are $1.95 each for build-your-own).
On the sweet side, there are Purple Rain Drops (chocolate filled donut holes with raspberry sauce and whipped cream); a giant brownie sundae; Cinnamon Girl bread pudding; and the very shareable S'mores Dip featuring a base of melted Hershey's chocolate, toasted marshmallows and graham crackers for dipping. All desserts are $7.95 each.
Rock & Brews also offers breakfast/brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Check out the full menu online.
Be sure to check out the selfie stations located just outside of the restaurant. Take a seat with friends on the oversized guitar throne for an "Us-ie" or snap a selfie with life-size statues of Simmons and Stanley.
More to come
Rock & Brews is just one element in Potawatomi’s ongoing $190 million renovation, which is scheduled to wrap up by the end of this year.
“There's much more coming,” notes Potawatomi CEO Dominic Ortiz, highlighting the casino’s $15 million VIP lounge which includes a show kitchen, entertainment stage and high-limit gaming tables.
"You think 2023 looks great,” he says, “Wait until you see what Potawatomi has in store for Milwaukee in 2024.“
Rock & Brews is open seven days a week with hours Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to midnight.
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.