Earlier this summer, OnMilwaukee's Lori Fredrich shared the news that Tauro Cocina was moving into the iconic Water Street building that once housed DiModa Hot Spot & Pizzeria and Trocadero, 1758 N. Water St.
But there's more to the story. The Valdapeña family opened the Mexican-Italian restaurant in June and then quietly opened a lounge and special events space on the second floor of the building called Leo Lounge.
The cocktail lounge has a feminine, romantic vibe which is exactly what Ahide Valdapeña, the matriarch of the family, was going for.
"My husband is a Taurus and why we named our restaurant Tauro Cocino. He has 30 years of restaurant experience. I'm a Leo and this is my space," says Valdapeña.
Leo Lounge is soft and sophisticated with a retro feel. The brick walls are painted light pink and local artist Maria Del Carmen painted white flowers atop the black bar top. Prints and paintings of lions aptly adorn the walls, including a made-for-the-space painting by Yesi Luevano.
"It's kind of a modern speakeasy," says Valdapeña.
The glassware is rose-colored, as are the velvet bar stools, and even the tequilas – all high-end spirits that were aged in wine barrels – are pink in hue.
Leo Lounge offers beer, wine and a variety of cocktails. The most popular drinks on the menu are the Rosa Paloma and the Mexicali 76. Drink names like the Womanhattan, Gucci Bee's Knees, Reina Margarita and Lavendar Fizz further the female-forward theme.
"We have a lot of pink bubbles here," says Valdapeña.
Thus, Leo Lounge is ideal for a "Girls Night Out" or a date night. It is also available to rent for bachelorette parties, birthday parties and other events. Appetizers are available from Tauro Cocino.
Leo Lounge is open most weekend nights at 10 p.m. Call ahead (414) 488-2941 to make sure it isn't closed for a private party and / or follow on Instagram.
Here are eight more photos of the lady-licious Leo Lounge:
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.