Five industry folks. One iconic Milwaukee pizza joint. And a collective dream.
These are the things of which the forthcoming Bay View restaurant, Goodkind, is made.
Enter talented chefs Paul Zerkel and Lisa Kirkpatrick, whose Milwaukee legacy begins at Roots Restaurant and continues with their work at Odd Duck as well as a freelancing pop-up operation they named Butcher, Baker.
Throw in the ever energetic lawyer-turned-prodigious-bartender Katie Rose of Burnhearts, along with uber industrious Burnhearts’ owners Jessica and William (B.J.) Seidel and you have the deceptively motley – but almost super-heroish – crew who’ve taken on the job of bringing new life to the tired space at 2457 S. Wentworth Ave., formerly the home of Mama De Marini’s.
Even the name, which was inspired by a can of peas someone picked up at an Elkhorn flea market, came about as a collective decision.
"We’d been going back and forth between the five of us about a name," says Zerkel. "Trying to get five people to agree on anything was a challenge. But, it was a beautiful label with buttered peas on it from Wisconsin’s Iron Ridge Canning Co. And it just felt right."
But, for the Goodkind crew, working together is more than a simple friendly collaboration.
"Everyone has a particular strength," Zerkel tells me as we sit at the wine bar inside Groppi Food Market, just down the block from the new space. "Lisa and I will handle the food. Katie has the cocktail side. B.J. is brilliant with beer. And Jess will do the books."
In addition to their talents in beer and bookkeeping, the Seidels are also facile with the remodeling process, skills they honed while opening Burnheart’s in 2007. So, they’ve provided a lot of the firepower behind the demolition of the old space – a proposition that Zerkel says they saved $20,000 by doing themselves.
"It’s been rough," says Rose, who actually broke her metacarpal during the demolition. "We did all the demo in the polar vortex. And there was no running water, so we got pretty creative."
Making friends with the neighbors was a necessity during demolition, since the crew needed places to warm up and grab a bite to eat every now and again. But, Zerkel says that building those relationships is central to the overall goal for Goodkind.
"The spot was really key in the search," says Zerkel. "We love the idea of it being hidden and off the beaten path. And it’s going to be a neighborhood spot. I hate to bring up Cheers as a metaphor. But, let’s say you have a snow day… maybe you just want to have a drink. Maybe you get hungry. We want this to be the place you go."
Zerkel says the restaurant will offer up an environment that captures the spirit of community. A large centralized oval-shaped bar will set the stage for an intimate dining experience "where everybody knows your name" – or at least that’s the idea.
Even the kitchen will operate as a true collaboration – with input coming from everyone on staff. And, despite previously defined roles as chef and pastry chef, Zerkel says he and Kirkpatrick will work as a team without the usual delineations.
"It will be OUR kitchen," he says. "What a lot of people here in Milwaukee don’t know about Lisa is that she was an amazing chef before she did pastry. She was running kitchens in Portland well before I was. She’s always been my mentor. She’s the smartest cook I know."
As finishing touches are made to the building, Zerkel says they’re busy working together to fashion a menu that revolves around seasonal classic European food – like pastas and comfort foods – with a twist.
"About a quarter of the menu will be rotisserie-based," he says. "It will reflect the old school French methods of spinning meat over a bed of vegetables and potatoes. We’ll do chicken, goat, pheasant, ducks… anything I can throw on a spit."
Offerings will be driven by what’s available from area partner farms – including LotFotl and Long Arm Farm – as well as hard-to-find items like cardoons and heirloom vegetables being grown specifically for Goodkind.
"It will feel like your grandmother went to cooking school," Zerkel says with a chuckle.
Of course, if you’re looking to pair that "grandma food" with a craft cocktail, Goodkind sounds like it will be the place to do it.
In addition to 20 craft beers on tap, Zerkel says there will be a selection of craft cocktails that have been created specifically to pair with each dish on the menu.
"We have a true marriage between the bar and the kitchen," says Rose, nodding in agreement. "We will work side-by-side to decide what the appropriate pairing will be."
The marriage will include daily meetings during which Kirkpatrick and Zerkel discuss new dishes with Rose, who will take those concepts back to the bar staff.
"We’ll literally break it down ingredient by ingredient, process by process, until we understand it," says Rose. "We’ll look at regionality… why the ingredients are important… why they’re important to the dish… why Paul and Lisa believe things belong in the dish."
Ultimately, Rose says, they’ll create cocktails to match the characteristics and flavor profiles of each dish.
"The cocktail offerings will be borne from food," she explains, "Created from infancy. It won’t be just riffs on the classics. And we want people to be as excited about the experience as we are."
To showcase what they’re doing, Zerkel says they are planning to offer monthly pre-fixe menus that include pairings.
Goodkind, which is expected to open in April, will seat 20 at the bar and an additional 20 customers at surrounding tables. The restaurant will offer patio seating on the surrounding sidewalks during the summer months. The kitchen will be open from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m., with the bar open until 2:30 a.m.
Watch OnMilwaukee.com for additional details leading up to its opening.
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.