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It’s been quite some time since guests were able to enjoy a meal at the restaurant in Turner Hall. But thanks to the work of Mike Eitel and his Caravan Hospitality Group, the restaurant will be reopening to the public at 1034 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
If you’re wondering what to expect on your first visit, keep reading. We got a peek at the new venue during its soft opening this weekend. And, while it's definitely still a work in progress (just read the myriad signs on the walls), it's not difficult to see the way the venue will embrace both a new identity and its Milwaukee history in a relatively seamless way.
The bar & dining room
If you haven't been in Turner Hall for a while, you might not immediately notice much of a difference in the dining area, which lies just to the north of the bar. Around the room's hightop tables, you'll find familiar dark wood paneling along with historic murals painted in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But you'll also a fresh coat of paint in a shade Eitel describes as "Nomad" green. And the small niche toward the front of the restaurant is now home to a pool table where guests can enjoy a casual game between bites.
Banquettes stand out against freshly painted walls sporting a color Eitel calls "original Hi-Hat red," in the parlor, a dining area that is cozier and more private than the rest of the space.
The menu – which is more than appropriate for guests looking to grab a quick bite before or after Fiserv Forum games or Turner Hall concerts – is filled with snackable tavern fare including Scotch eggs, Ahi tuna crudo, red pepper hummus and The Tailgater Platter featuring a Milwaukee Pretzel Company pretzel, bratwurst, hotdog, fried chicken, beer cheese sauce, scallions and dijon mustard (feeds 2-4 people for $22).
Wings are $14 a dozen and come in flavors like piri piri, "tavern" (sweet with a slight kick), Buffalo and lemon parmesan garlic. Housemade dipping sauces include buttermilk ranch, tamarind chutney, blue cheese and spicy thai chili.
There are also options like loaded fries, including Doggie Fries, described as "Latin American fry and hot dog art" featuring deep fried hot dogs, French fries, mayo and chombo hot sauce ($7).
Beyond appetizers, the menu is filled with options from street tacos and salads ($6-12) to Nalu bowls ($9-12), burgers ($7-12), sandwiches ($6-9) and entrees ($14-28). Specials include a Friday fish fry ($14) and Saturday night prime rib dinner ($22). You can view the full menu here.
The Palm Garden
This room is probably my favorite of the new spaces. It’s relaxed and with a feel not unlike that of the Green Room in the Riverside Theater.
Walls are painted "Nomad" green, and the walls sport posters of Turner Hall shows both past and present. And there are plenty of loungy spaces to enjoy a drinks with friends, some more sprawling and others tucked away to the side.
And there are nods to rock 'n' roll nostalgia in repurposed items like these percussion cases being used as coffee tables; it's a theme which will be further cultivated in the space as time moves forward.
A piece of arts history
At the helm of the Palm Garden, you'll also find a display of the letters which once adorned the iconic Sidney Hih building – once home to musicians, artists and myriad shops – on 3rd and Juneau. The letters, which are being preserved by Fred Gillich, owner of Too Much Metal For One Hand, will be on display at the Tavern through the end of the year.
Pool & darts
For those who'd like to hang out with a beer or cocktail, there are also plenty of ways to pass the time, including two pool tables, multiple dart boards and even a shuffle board.
Beginning Oct. 3, the Tavern at Turner will be open seven days a week. Hours are Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. The venue will also open two hours prior to any weekend events.
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.