By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 07, 2023 at 10:02 AM

As we speak, Hot Dish Pantry is preparing to swing open its doors to the public at 4125 S. Howell Ave. In fact, the South Side’s newest restaurant is slated to make its debut starting at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 13.

Owners Laura Maigatter and Chef Nathan Heck initially launched the Hot Dish Pantry concept as a pop-up and delivery concept during the pandemic. In fall of 2021, they joined the slate of vendors 3rd Street Market Hall Downtown, growing their audience with a menu of gussied up pierogi and their infamous “hot dish.”

And now, the couple will take their business one step further by providing a counter service restaurant experience for guests in the building which most recently housed Iron Grate BBQ Co.

Nathan Heck and Laura Maigatter

[Listen to Nathan Heck and Laura Magaittor talk about the origins of their restaurant concept on the FoodCrush Podcast]

What to expect

Opening a restaurant is no small feat, even under the best circumstances. But, despite best laid plans – and an initially clear opening plan – Magaitter and Heck’s journey has been filled with a series of unexpected hurdles. As they wrapped up their contract with 3rd Street Market Hall and made their way toward their opening, they were faced with unexpected news which – among other things – disrupted their ability to secure funds through an SBA loan.

The news not only delayed their opening date, but forced them to rethink their opening plans. As a result, the restaurant will be opening on a smaller scale than expected. That means a smaller overall menu and a delay in some of the planned remodeling (including exterior improvements and permanent signage).

Hot Dish Pantry buildingX

Due to pinched funds, they’ll also be delaying the launch of the marketplace element they’d planned for Hot Dish Pantry, which was meant to feature fully stocked grab and go cases and freezers from which guests can purchase both Hot Dish offerings (think frozen pierogi, calzones and prepared meals) and products from other local food makers.

While those elements will likely evolve into fruition over time, fans of the concept can also lend a helping hand by considering a donation, large or small, to the couples’ modest $5K GoFundMe campaign.

On the menu

As usual, guests who visit Hot Dish Pantry during the first few weeks after their opening should exercise patience. New restaurants always need time to perfect their systems and develop a flow in their kitchens. So consider this your reminder to be kind as you venture out to sample some of the great food that’s in store.

From day one, Hot Dish Pantry will operate as a counter service restaurant. Guests can place an order at the counter and take a seat in the small, but nicely decorated, dining area. When their food is ready, they will be notified by text and can return to the counter to pick everything up.

The menu, which was designed to allow guests to mix and match from an assortment of items will feature a larger range of items than previously offered at the 3rd Street Market Hall.

“We’ve really taken what we were doing at the food hall and expanded on it,” says Maigatter. “And while we’ll still offer a selection of pierogi, it won’t be the main focus of our menu.”

Guests will still find popular offerings like loaded baked potato pierogi (topped with cheddar, bacon, sour cream and chives); aloo chaat (topped with mint cilantro yogurt, red onion,  tamarind arugula salad and crispy lentils); and pepperoni pizza roll, modeled after the popular frozen snack food with a topping of hot honey, seasoned parmesan cheese and olive arugula salad. Pierogi will be available three per order for $8.50.

Standards will also include their signature namesake Hot Dish, a comfort food staple featuring ground beef, grilled corn, roasted carrots and peas in mushroom cream sauce topped with cheese and crispy tater tots ($14).

Pork tenderloin sandwich
Pork tenderloin sandwich

However, the menu will also include a cadre of sandwiches, including a take on the famous Hoosier-inspired fried pork tenderloin featuring crispy cracker-crusted pork loin topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo and yellow mustard ($10).

There will also be “Lucy Goosey” burgers, named for their downstairs neighbor’s dog, Lucy (affectionately called “Lucy Goosey”) and modeled after the famous Minnesota phenomenon the Ju[i]cy Lucy.

Offerings will range from a classic Lucy Goosey stuffed with cheddar cheese to a brat and curd Lucy Goosey featuring a beef and pork patty filled with cheese curds and topped with spicy brown mustard, beer grilled kraut, caramelized onions and fried cheese curds ($12 with a side of sport peppers for good measure).

On the side, guests can choose from offerings like cocktail meatballs made with a mix of lamb and beef seasoned with curry blend and served with a sauce made with S.A. Braai chutney, a mint chutney arugula salad and Hot Dish’s signature crispy lentils ($10).

Beef and lamb meatballs

Hot Dish will also feature a selection of shareable dippable options from tater tots (taco or BBQ seasoned, $3.50); fried pickles ($5); and beer battered cheese curds ($6). All will be served with a choice of ranch, blue cheese or hot honey mustard dipping sauces.

For now, guests must order in person for carry-out. But within the next few weeks, Maigatter says Hot Dish will launch an online ordering service, allowing for pick-up at either the restaurant’s indoor counter or outdoor pick-up window.

Beginning April 13, Hot Dish Pantry will be open Thursday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Be sure to follow Hot Dish Pantry for news and updates on Instagram and Facebook.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.