The past two years have brought myriad changes to Milwaukee. But among the most stealth has been an utter reimagination of the East Side’s former Hacienda Beer Co. at 2018 E. North Ave.
You wouldn’t know that much had changed simply by stepping into the space itself (there was little about the beautifully appointed space that needed changing); but take a seat at the bar, or at any one of the expansive space’s dining tables and you’ll experience something altogether different from what came before.
Not only does the venue have a new moniker (Hacienda Taproom & Kitchen), it boasts an entirely new management team, an expanded beverage program and an entirely new menu – including brunch and Friday night fish fry – all of which make it a destination well worth revisiting.
Welcome to the new Hacienda
When Hacienda Beer Co. opened its doors to the public in June of 2019, it was huge news for Milwaukee’s East Side Neighborhood, bringing new life to an iconic landmark, the former G. Daddy’s BBC and offering Milwaukee a gathering place to enjoy the experimental brewery’s unique creations.
But just nine months after its grand debut – and well before the taproom and restaurant had the chance to get its bearings – the pandemic turned life on end.
Despite challanges, Hacienda didn’t sit on its laurels. Instead – as they attempted to get things back up and running – they reached out to Joe and Angie Sorge of SideWork Hospitality Consulting, with the aim of bringing the taproom and kitchen back to life stronger than ever.
To enact those changes, the Sorges brought on a new team to lead the way. That includes the appointment of Manager Meghan Keyes, Snack Boys alum and former general manager at the Dubbel Dutch; as well as bringing on Hospitality Democracy alum Jim Anderson as director of operations. Meanwhile, Chef Ashley Turner, a native Texan and accomplished third generation restaurateur, has taken on the role of executive chef.
Turner, who most recently worked as chef and culinary director for East Troy Brewery Co. has also lent her creativity to work with the Miller Lite Sports Bar & Grill at the Wisconsin State Fair where she created Sporkies finalists like the Sconnie Slugger (2022) and the Glazy Boy (2021; Golden Spork Winner). But it’s her experience growing up in a restaurant family in Western Texas where BBQ is king, which gives her a leg up in her contribution to Hacienda’s menu.
“We’ve worked really hard to zero in on what we want our guests to experience,” notes Anderson. “And we’ve worked to ensure that every element of that experience reflects the concept that this was intended to be: a hacienda, a gathering place inspired by the Southwest.”
Bar bites & snacks
“As we created the menu, we wanted the quality of the beer to be reflected in the food,” she says. “But we also wanted to draw from things that are true to the Southwestern concept and truly add something to the scene in Milwaukee.”
The result? Something Turner calls “Texacana,” which seamlessly incorporates elements of classic southern fare along with Tex-Mex and Texas BBQ in a menu that caters as avidly to plant-based diners as it does carnivores.
“It’s spicy, smokey and accessible,” she says. “And it goes perfectly with beer.”
Belly up to the bar and you’ll find a robust selection of inventive Hacienda Brew Co. brews, including the hazy IPAs for which they’ve developed a following, along with selections from Door County Brewing Co. But you’ll also find a collection of cocktails unlike any others in the city.
These unique drinks are made with a base of flavorless hard seltzer made by 3 Sheeps Brewing in Sheboygan (which also produces Door Co. Brewing’s beers), which is blended together with fruit juices and purees to create colorful, refreshing quaffs including a passionfruit basil smash, a pomegranate mojito, a pineapple paloma and a classic Hacienda margarita.
They’re the perfect pairing for any number of items on Turner’s menu, including queso fundito filled with chorizo, peppers, onions and a combination of Oaxacan melting cheese and gooey Wisconsin colby ($10). It’s served with locally made tortilla chips from Tortilleria El Sol.
In a twist on deviled eggs, Turner has also created Huevos Diablos, a fried deviled egg filled with jalapeno mousse and roasted chipotle aioli. The addictive snacks are served with a bed of mixed greens dressed with Southern peach vinaigrette and chicken chicharrones ($9).
You’ll also find BBQ nacho bites featuring house fried Tortilleria El Sol tortilla chips topped with Turner’s Texas brisket chili, cheddar, red onions, radishes, cilantro crema and cilantro ($8). The chili itself is also available topped with whipped beer cheese and green onions ($12).
Snacks & sides
The shareable menu also has plenty in the way of snacks and vegetable-based dishes from brussels sprouts with roasted cauliflower, sweet chile bbq sauce and pecan chile crunch ($11); kale salad with pomegranate seeds, pepitas, rye crumble and cotija dressing ($12); and Turner’s poblano cheddar grits featuring stone-ground grits with charred corn, roasted tomatoes, smoked cabbage, green onions and garlic cilantro oil ($8).
Guests can also indulge in the chef’s seasonal tamale in mole, an offering which is likely to change out on a weekly basis. The current tamale is filled with barbacoa and topped with salsa verde.
Speaking of sharing, how about a table filled with warmed tortillas and plenty of options for filling them up? You can do just that with Hacienda’s freestyle taco plates, each of which is served with a choice of corn or flour tortillas (priced $14-$18).
Smoked pork belly with herb salad, onion, radishes, amarillo salsa, cotija cheese and cilantro; or slow-smoked brisket with sweet chile bbq, radishes, pickled vegetable slaw and cilantro.
There’s also brined and smoked airline chicken breast with sweet chile bbq, pickled vegetable slaw and cilantro.
Cherrywood smoked salmon comes with cotija cheese, cilantro, pickled vegetable slaw and smoked red cabbage.
You can also go veg with mixed mushrooms stewed in HBC beer are presented with bell peppers, onions, smoked red cabbage and cilantro.
If tacos aren’t your jam, you can opt for a smoked chicken salad and pork belly burnt end torta topped with napa cabbage and house bbq sauce ($17); or the oh-so-Texas-inspired green chile burger featuring a tender 1/3 pound Niman Ranch beef patty topped with poblano bacon relish, bacon aioli, jalapeno jack cheese and napa cabbage ($16).
If you'd prefer, you'll also find a chicken fried steak sandwich served with crispy fried onions and jalapeno cream gravy ($16).
Brunch at Hacienda is an all-out affair featuring plenty to eat and drink, including your choice of brews, a passionfruit basil smash or maybe even bottomless beermosas and mimosas for $25 with the purchase of any brunch menu item.
Try their Texas-inspired stuffed avocado featuring a chicken and cheddar stuffed avocado, deep fried and topped with verde sauce and crema served alongside scrambled eggs and hacienda potatoes ($15).
Or head right for their housemade chilaquiles verde featuring smothered tortilla chips topped with pico de gallo, cilantro, crema, avocado, cotija cheese and sunny side up eggs ($14). There's also huevos rancheros, a Tex-Mex inspired breakfast skillet or a brisket breakfast sandwich.
Craving something sweet? Delve into seasonal ancho pepper and pumpkin flavored French toast featuring pumpkin custard soaked brioche topped with pork belly burnt ends, ancho syrup, candied pecans and cinnamon whipped cream ($16).
It Shoulda Been a Trifle
As for dessert, there’s just one you need to know about: the “It Shoulda Been a Trifle,” a parfait comprised of layers of banana cream, raspberry and pear compote, wafer crisps and a topping of pecan cookie chicken skin crumble and sweet fry bread.
Hacienda Taproom & Kitchen is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Friday from noon to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Brunch is served on both Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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.