If you’ve been in the area, you might wonder who’s been building a barn – and why – in the outlot at Target on Miller Park Way. In fact, on June 19, local restaurateur Andreas Bouraxis opened Mad Rooster Cafe in the former – and completely rehabbed – Vicki’s Family Restaurant space at 4401 W. Greenfield Ave.
Though the interior layout of the new restaurant is roughly the same, the place was basically torn down to the studs so Bouraxis – who also owns El Beso in the Greenfield Fashion Plaza and El Fuego on Layton Avenue – could construct a sleek country-themed eatery that deserves a place in issue two of Modern Farmer magazine.
Open 7-3 daily, Mad Rooster, which even has a tractor out front, serves breakfast and lunch, with a special focus on the breakfast part.
"The concept is breakfast-lunch, a cafe-style pancake house," Bouraxis told me on a recent visit. "We really specialize in breakfast. Our menu is 80 percent breakfast items and 20 percent lunch. Everything is fresh. The eggs come from a local farm called Yuppie Hill Farms (in Walworth County), they do a really good job with that. The farm produces eggs (that) are antibiotic-free, cage free, hormone-free."
The restaurant also sources other ingredients locally, like bacon from Jones Farm in Fort Atkinson and a special roast from Anodyne Coffee. Mad Rooster makes its own Greek yogurt from organic milk, too.
Bouraxis learned the restaurant business in his father’s Omega family restaurants, which the family sold nearly a decade ago. Bouraxis grew up in the restaurants, and recalls doing his homework in the booths. It’s also where he cut his teeth helping out as needed. As a result, he’s been a bus boy, a dishwasher, a cook, a host ... everything. He knows every part of the business.
"My parents were workaholics, working a lot. That’s the nature of this business."
These restaurants, however, are his.
"(My dad) helps me a little bit here and there with the design and the construction of it," he said, "but the operation of it is all on me."
Unlike the family restaurant concept, Mad Rooster doesn’t try to do it all. The menu here isn’t a hardcover book.
"In order to put out good quality food, it has to be that way," said Bouraxis. "You can’t have a long menu."
On the breakfast side of the menu, are a half-dozen omelets around $8, including the Mad Omelet with avocado, tomato, portabella mushrooms, onions, chicken chorizo and cheddar and jack cheese.
There’s a range of French toast options ($6-$8.50) and a trio of benedicts ($8.50-$9.50), skillets, scramblers, frittatas, waffles, some healthier options like cereal, yogurt and salmon, and a selection of crepes. I couldn’t resist trying my go-to version with bananas and Nutella.
Dusted with powdered sugar and plated with a cup of whipped cream, the crepe was flavorful with a generous helping of sliced bananas and Nutella. A breakfast entree has two crepes, but a dessert version plates up just one, which – insanely rich and delicious – was more than enough for me.
On the opposite side is the lunch menu with salads, spinach pie, salmon and eggs, salads (tuna salad, club, grilled cheese) and burgers (turkey, Angus, bleu cheese bacon and a very popular breakfast burger with a sunny side up egg).
There’s also more breakfast to be found here, including pancakes and breakfast sandwiches, including a delectable Monte Cristo ($9), which I tried.
Ham and bacon and jack and cheddar cheeses are laid inside two thick pieces of crunchy French toast made from bread sourced from Highland Baking Co. in Northbrook, Ill. The sandwich – which boasted a great crunch and came with generously salted seasoned fries – fueled lunch on two days for me.
"That’s probably my favorite sandwich," Bouraxis said of the Monte Cristo.
Bouraxis said that business was good from the first day and that it’s been growing steadily.
"Every day it’s getting better and better. We get a lot of younger clientele. I didn’t we’d get so much (of a younger crowd), but we do," he said. "A lot of people from Bay View, the East Side, business people. It’s been a destination place for sure. We’ve had families that traveled from Mequon, Menomonee Falls, from Muskego.
"People love breakfast here in Milwaukee. And this is breakfast with a twist. It’s more entertaining, it’s got a different feel to it, the atmosphere is good."
So, I asked Bouraxis, is this Mad Rooster a test run for a string of them in town?
"Oh yeah, definitely, the door’s wide open. It is a very fun and unique concept. It’s really a good time. I’m pretty ambitious. I really like this business. I like going from the family restaurant background and come in a more trendy, stylish way. It’s a lot of fun. I like dealing with people. It’s my first nature."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.