A couple years ago Jojo's Martini Lounge took on the west 'Tosa bar scene and has since been successful in a market that was clearly ready for something more than the corner tavern.
Similarly, Larry Le Mieux, Tom Galante and Samantha JD Thomas see Franklin as relatively uncharted territory for upscale bars and plan to make a go of it with the opening of Ka Lounge at the intersection of South 76th Street and Rawson Avenue.
Sure, the area isn't exactly the hub of hipsterville, but you have to give the Ka team credit for avoiding Downtown or the East Side -- where the market for martini bars has been just about maxed out.
Set to open the first week in June, Ka is primarily a posh martini lounge that also offers appetizers and desserts.
"Ka means 'life force' and the Egyptians felt that ka was sustained through food and drink," explains general manager (a.k.a "Grand Dame") Thomas.
With the addition of edibles to the menu, Thomas and owner Le Mieux and consultant Galante thought the name to be quite fitting for their venture. They've created a slew of small plate dining options (cheese and fruit platter, gourmet stuffed olives, mini pizzas) as well as hired a pastry chef to dish decadent desserts (various cheesecakes, chocolate tart, a sinful looking "chocolatini").
Nosh appetizers aside, Ka's lure, says Thomas, lies in libations.
Dubbed the "martini scientist," Thomas -- who has been in the bar industry for many years in three different states -- has collected ideas and flavors from all of over the country to create a unique and somewhat experimental list of 'tinis.
"We've got over 50 varieties, but we don't want to overwhelm people with options," she says. "We'll probably switch up the menu from time to time."
And for the customer not especially in the mood for martinis, Ka also offers a selection of wine, imported beers ("There will be no Miller products," Thomas promises) and even French-pressed coffee to complement the chocolaty concoctions.
As the purveyor of much of the 2,100-sq. ft. bar's interior design and layout, Thomas says she's pulled ideas from places like Chicago, New York and L.A. and to make her lounge comfortable as well as fit for the VIPs.
Private booths enclosed by sheer curtains line one wall and face a raised platform with more seating under a dropped ceiling section. Smooth, rounded edges give the space a natural flow of warmth and sleekness and the 22-ft. ceilings create an open, airy atmosphere that still allows for intimacy.
"We're going for a cushy and contemporary look with hints of the classic," she says of Ka's décor. "It's going to have big city flavor."
Ka is located at 7358 W. Rawson Ave. and is open Monday through Saturday, from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Web site is kalounge.com.
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.”