As of Jan. 1, Milwaukee restaurateur Russ Davis has taken over the lease at Hubbard Park Lodge, the 80-year-old venue sitting atop a hill along the banks of the Milwaukee River in Shorewood's Hubbard Park.
Davis, who also runs the Lakefront Palm Garden, The Red Accordion (formerly Cafe Vecchio Bar & Grille) and Rio West Cantina, signed a 10-year lease with the Village of Shorewood to run the lodge and the nearby Shorewood River Club.
Previously, Margaret Cibulka, owner of the Culinary Artists catering service, had been operating the historic venue since 1986.
For years Hubbard Park has been known for three things in Milwaukee: beautiful and natural ambience perfect for weddings, decadent Sunday brunches and the kind of price tag that went along with both.
Davis says he plans to change that last part.
"The first time I went for brunch it was $28 per person, then they changed it to a three-course meal for $22," he says. "We're changing to a family-friendly, lumberjack-style breakfast -- items like pancakes and an omelet bar (for) $10.95."
He says he'll do a special buffet brunch on Mother's Day, Father's Day and Easter, but for the most part, the goal is to attract families to come in on a more regular basis, rather than once a year for a special occasion.
His famous Friday night fish fries should help with that. Taking cues from his now-legendary Lakefront Palm Garden Friday night affairs, Davis hopes to recreate the quality, fun and affordability of his popular Captain Rusty's (Davis' affectionate nickname) fish fry at Hubbard Park Lodge. He's even pulled Lakefront's Friday night house band, The Brewhaus Polka Kings, to perform at Hubbard Park.
Die hard fans, never fear; there will be a new polka band at Lakefront, although Davis says the two bands will alternate between locations.
On the surface, the Hubbard Park Lodge will remain the beautiful landmark it has been for decades and will not alter too much from its traditional format of being open to the public on weekends and closed for private events during the week. But behind the scenes, the changes are big. Davis has replaced the entire staff, including a new banquet manager and head chef.
Davis says he's excited for the opportunity to work with such a special place in Milwaukee.
"We're so busy at Lakefront -- we're pretty much sold out for weddings this year and part of 2011. So we were looking for another spot to take brides. It's such a great complement to what we do at the brewery. It's not as big as the brewery, but it's similar, with the Friday night fish fries and the Saturday weddings."
Hubbard Park Lodge will offer Saturday afternoon and evening weddings. The special event pricing will be similar to Lakefront's. After he and his crew finish the kitchen remodel, Davis hopes to have the restaurant open and ready for customers for the lodge's first Captain Rusty's fish fry on Friday, Jan. 22.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”