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After a pop-up at Boone & Crockett this past weekend, a brand new food truck is preparing to make its official debut at The Mothership, 2301 S. Logan Ave. in Bay View.
The truck, which will be called Gavilán (named for the South American bird of the same name), will serve an eclectic menu of bar-worthy fare prepared by Ryan Hoffman and Patrice Gentile, the operators behind the former Mina concept at Crossroads Collective.
And it’s expected to spread its wings for launch in early April (at the very latest).
“We’ve always wanted to provide food for people,” says Ricky Ramirez, who operates The Mothership with partner Paul Jonas. “We want people to be able to hang out… to eat, to drink.”
Previously, the bar maintained The Oasis, a cooler of grab and go items prepared by local chefs which guests could purchase to enjoy alongside their drinks. But things changed early on in the pandemic.
“It was a strain on the small businesses that were helping us out,” says Ramirez. “And on top of that, we needed every inch of space we could get in the bar to keep things safe during COVID.”
But when the owners of Foxfire decided to close their business, Ramirez and Jonas made the decision to purchase the food truck, calling on longtime customers and colleagues Hoffman and Gentile to join them as the operators.
“We’re unabashed and vocal and we’ve always done things differently than other people do in Wisconsin,” says Ramirez. “We work really hard, and we make really great drinks. So when we talked about adding a food truck, it wasn’t just going to be a burger truck. If we’re going to serve people food, it’s going to be chef-driven and really kick ass. I always loved the food at Mina, so they were the first people we thought of.”
What's in a name?
As for the name, Ramirez says that the name of the truck was another mechanism to share a piece of his personal story, as a kid with a Guatemalan and Dominican heritage growing up on the South Side of Milwaukee.
“Everyone has their stories,” he says. “Some people get their kids to eat their food by zooming it to their mouth in an airplane. My dad would tell us this story about how, in Guatemala, if you didn’t eat your food fast enough, the gavilán would come and snatch it up. And he’d make these little pinching motions with his fingers and threaten to steal food from our plates.”
“As kids, we interpreted it as: our dad was the gavilán and he would eat our food. And it just became an inside joke in our family.”
A crave-worthy menu
Hoffman says that the Gavilán menu took inspiration from both The Mothership itself and simple, casual spots which are often composed of just “somebody behind a grill.”
“The vision was inspired by the surprisingly great food you sometimes find at gas stations in the middle of nowhere, bodegas in New York and spots like the Billy Goat in Chicago,” he says. “At the Mothership, you can get a really great $12 cocktail or you can opt for a $3 Hamm’s. Ultimately, the food is designed to match that vibe.”
The menu is divided into three sections: Fingers (snacks), Hand (sandwiches) and Tool (requires a fork), with pricing that tops out at around $15.
Snacks, priced $4-$8 include a Mina-inspired dish called spuds featuring smashed baby potatoes which have been roasted and deep fried until crisp. They’re served up with the “sauce of the moment,” which is currently toum, the Lebanese sauce comprised of a smooth puree of garlic, oil, lemon and salt.
There will also be chicharrones de harina (AKA Duritos), the the addictive, crunchy wagon-wheel shaped wheat chips, which will be served with a choice of seasonings: nacho cheese or “Cool Ranch”
Guests can also indulge in bar-worthy snacks like sausage and pepperoni pizza rolls.
"They’re like, straight-up Totino's" says Hoffman, “They will be deep-fried, tossed in garlic butter and parmesan and served with our housemade Italian red sauce, based on Patrice’s family’s recipe.”
Sandwiches, which will fall in the $10-$12 range include the ubiquitous New York style chopped cheese featuring ground beef and cheese with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mayo (along with a vegan version made with Beyond burger meat).
There’s also an artichoke parmesan featuring garlic bread piled with artichokes fried on the flat top until crisp, melty provolone cheese, shaved fennel and Italian red sauce; and an “All Day” breakfast sandwich featuring breakfast sausage, provolone, deep fried potatoes, spicy mayo and two fried eggs. It will be served with maple syrup for dipping.
Guests can also drop just $8-9 on bowls of umami-rich Spam fried rice or San Francisco style Vietnamese American garlic noodles flavored with plenty of garlic, butter, oyster and soy sauces and parmesan.
“It’s great to be back on the line again,” says Hoffman, noting that he plans to debut new dishes here and there along with specials as inspiration hits.
Guests can keep their eyes out for the truck, which will eventually be a permanent fixture on The Mothership's patio.
It's also adviseable to keep an eye on the @GavilanMKE Instagram feed for updates, specials and Mothership-esque shenanigans.
Once open, Gavilán will start out with service Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m., with expanded hours expected to hit this summer.
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.