A longtime Mexican staple is preparing to bid farewell to the community that has supported it for the past 14 years.
Los Paisa, 600 W. Brown Deer Rd., will be closing its doors at the end of the week. But customers who wish to say farewell, enjoy a few tacos, or lift a glass of tequila to the longtime restaurant, can do so through the end of service on Saturday, Sept. 25.
Owner Manolo Torres says the restaurant is closing due to redevelopment in the area. Their building has been sold, he says, and will be torn down to make way for something new.
“The city is taking a new direction,” he says. “I love the community and the city and all of the North Shore area. And I wish them the best as they move forward.”
His sentiment is genuine; but it’s also accompanied by sadness.
“For me personally, it’s sad to see an historic building torn down,” he says. “Back in the 1960s it was a speakeasy. And I’ve heard stories from so many people who came here then and have so many fond memories that they made here.”
14 years of memories
Torres too, has many fond memories, built over the years. But he says some of the most moving have been made in the past two years during the pandemic.
“It’s difficult to express these things,” he says. “But we want to thank our customers from the bottom of our hearts for their loyalty. We learned so many things during the pandemic, and it reminds me that there is hope. Just to see so many faces, who came to get curbside from us – and who learned right along with us – it’s a very good feeling. And we are very grateful.”
Torres, who first came to Milwaukee in 2007 to visit his brother, says he could never have predicted that he’d be in Milwaukee today.
“I was working in IT in California,” he says. “But my brother lived here, and I came to visit in the summer. I came to try the cheese and sausages… and I fell in love with Wisconsin cheese. But I also fell in love with the city. It was small, but so beautiful and alive. While I was here, I went to the Calatrava and the art museum, and it made me want to be a part of it.”
Torres, who had been an investor in his brother’s restaurant, El Paisa, says he moved to Milwaukee during the first wave of the two-year recession.
“I didn’t know the restaurant business,” he says. “But, I was ready to learn. My brother and I built the restaurant with recipes from our grandmother. But when my brother moved out of state in 2008, I bought him out and took over the restaurant.”
Torres changed the name to Los Paisa (the name of a restaurant his grandmother had operated in Guanajuato, Mexico, where he grew up) and he made the restaurant his own. He decorated the walls with photos of family, paintings by Mexican artists and items that tell the history of Mexico.
“I’ve made so many friends over the years,” he says, emotion evident in his voice. “And they are friends for life. They are the reason why I’m still here.”
A silver lining
Bayside might be losing a beloved eatery. But Torres is not leaving fans of Los Paisa without a silver lining.
In fact, he says, there is good news – and a new restaurant – on the horiszon.
“A chef partner and I are working right now on a new restaurant in Milwaukee,” he says. “We’ll be bringing something new to the table. And it will be very exciting. So, this is the end of Los Paisa, but it’s also the beginning of something new.”
Watch OnMilwaukee for details about the new concept as they solidify.
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.