Jake Replogle is the second generation owner of an iconic steakhouse that bears his and his late father's name. From its early days on West North Avenue in the 1960s (in the space that now houses Juniper 61) to its current location on the edge of Brookfield and Pewaukee, Jake's developed a reputation and following few restaurants attain.
Steer tenderloin filet, a 24-ounce Porterhouse, bubbling crab dip and onion rings that bring tears to customers' eyes are signature items on the traditional steak house's menu.
The younger Replogle has a resume that includes a degree in hospitality administration from Boston University, studying at the French Culinary Institute in New York and serving as a fish cook at internationally-acclaimed Bouley in Manhattan. So why is he about to dispatch a fleet of taco trucks onto the streets of Milwaukee and Waukesha counties?
"I'm half Mexican," explains the restaurateur, who spent the first seven years of his life living in Cuernavaca, Mexico. "For me, it is a natural thing to eat and sell tacos."
To complete the culinary circle, Jake's dad, Jake Replogle, Sr., operated a food truck called The Huddle in Vero Beach, Fla., in the '50s before moving to Milwaukee. It sold hamburgers and hand-cut french fries.
Jake, Jr., bought two food trucks in Arizona during the winter and is looking for a third to be on the streets of southeastern Wisconsin this spring and summer. They are an extension of Haute Taco, the upscale 59-seat taqueria and bar Replogle and his wife Karen operate in the Sendik's Towne Center in Brookfield. Replogle also owns a large 250-seat Mexican restaurant in Vero Beach with his brother.
Opened in the spring of 2008, Haute Taco exudes a hip and casual vibe in both its ambiance and menu. Where else can you sip a Hibiscus Cosmo while browsing a menu that includes Wisconsin duck and goat cheese quesadillas with BBQ sauce and a side of guacamole ($8) or a slow roasted wild mushroom and asparagus taco ($3.50), burrito or bowl (both $8.75)?
All of the Haute Taco fillings can be used in a taco, burrito or bowl of rice, beans, cheese and salsa topped with the house slaw. The menu does not contain large entrees. A supper of three tacos, rice and beans costs $12.95, and a flight of seven tacos is $22.
Diners have a choice of corn, flour or crispy taco shells, or the tacos can be wrapped in lettuce. Beer braised short ribs and tempura style beer-batter fish are especially popular fillings.
Haute Taco also features rotating specials that include scallop tacos, yellowfin tuna tacos and calamari tacos. Rice is made fresh every hour, and the tequila drunken pinto beans contain five pounds of bacon in every 15 pounds of beans. Most of the food is gluten free.
Several menu items are especially authentic. Mexican corn on the cob, available in different portion sizes at $2 and $4, includes jalapeno aioli, chili powder and queso fresco.
Mexican Coca Cola, made south of the border with 100 percent cane sugar, is $2.95, as is Jarritos, a popular brand of Mexican fruit-flavored soft drinks. Topo Chico, Mexican seltzer, is priced at $1.95.
Frozen margaritas ($8) in four flavors are made with real fruit, and a sparkling margarita ($9) adds asti to the traditional cocktail. The Hibiscus Cosmo ($8) uses a hibiscus infused syrup with vodka and fresh lime. "The hibiscus is the Mexican version of cranberry juice," Replogle says.
Ten craft beers vary in price from $4 to $5.50. A happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday features significant bar discounts including $3 house margaritas, wine, cocktails and $2 taps of Spotted Cow and Dos XX Equis amber.
A 99-cent taco deal is offered from 5 to 7 p.m. Mondays.
The Haute Taco trucks will sell four different tacos and burritos -- chicken, short ribs, calamari and mushroom-asparagus -- and Replogle plans to have the vehicles present at summer events and street festivals as well as lunchtime curb locations. Guacamole and a chopped salad will also be on the menu.
Replogle is negotiating to open a second Haute Taco in Bay View. Franchising may also be in the future.
"It will be an interesting summer," he says with a grin.
Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.
During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.
Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.