By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jan 29, 2020 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

Two distinctive venues are on the way to one vacant retail space on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View. But they’ll work in tandem to satisfy your cravings for family friendly comfort food, late night eats and clandestine cocktails.

In fact, both Makk ‘n’ Cheese (a fast casual restaurant specializing in macaroni & cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches) and Blind Tiger (a speakeasy-style bar) are expected to open in early to mid-March at 2242 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., a space which most recently housed Pizza di Famiglia.

Behind the concepts are industry veterans Gregory Kieckbusch and Frank Sandino, co-owners of Mangos Cafe East and Juana Taco Co. at Crossroads Collective; and Marcos Ramos-Garcia, owner of Points View Boîte and Werk Latin Dance Company and co-producer of various Latin Dance Festivals including Salsa & Bachata (Chicago and Tampa), Bachatu in the Dominican Republic and Fiesta Dominicana Milwaukee.

The partners will bring the project to fruition with the assistance of Creative Director Terrell Morgan, owner of MorganDezine and Tyme Out Events, a branding professional whose work has included creative direction for projects like Milwaukee Hip-Hop Week.

"We’ve been wanting to bring these concepts to the area for a while now," saus Ramos-Garcia. "We all appreciate one anothers’ work ethics and we each bring valuable expertise to the table."

Cheese, cheese & more cheese

Makk ‘n’ Cheese, a play on words which takes its spelling from the venue’s location on Kinnickinnic Avenue, will be a family friendly fast casual spot that serves up a menu of comforting cheese-forward dishes for lunch, dinner and late night enjoyment.

Kieckbusch says the menu will feature creative takes on traditional macaroni and cheese, including variations incorporating add-ins like carnitas, elote and jalapeno poppers. There will also be at least eight variations on grilled cheese, as well as a variety of sandwiches, all served up on Texas toast. Both vegetarian and vegan options will also be available.

"Our goal was to bring something new to the Bay View area," says Ramos-Garcia. "And what’s more comforting and welcoming than macaroni and cheese and pasta?"

Sandino says that diners can expect the restaurant to sport an "organic industrial look that features a combination of wood and metal accents along with pops of yellow, orange, blue and grey. The newly renovated space is expected to seat 25 to 30 diners at a combination of low-top tables and bar-style window seating.

Both takeout and delivery options are also on the docket, and the owners expect to offer late night eats for the after-bar crowd on both Friday and Saturday nights.

A new school speakeasy with an old soul

But there’s more.

The same building which houses Makk ‘n’ Cheese will also be home to Blind Tiger, a speakeasy with both a modern sensibility and 1920s flair.

Its name takes inspiration from the Prohibition era when drinking establishments were forced underground. During the period, the term blind (which also means "secret") was used in combination with numerous terms (including pig, bull and tiger) to describe the clandestine businesses.

Despite its old school name, the 1920s theme will incorporate plenty of 2020 stylin’s as well. In fact, if you can envision a space that captures the spirit of PostModern Jukebox -- the collective known for reworking modern songs using vintage-inspired swing and jazz arrangements -- then you can begin to imagine what you’ll find at Blind Tiger.

The atmosphere will incorporate classic speakeasy elements including dim lighting and a mysterious password protected secret entryway.

Meanwhile, Kieckbusch says the menu will include a variety of classic cocktails, along with a curated list of house sangrias and smoked cocktails. There will also be snackable items including cheese and charcuterie plates and flights, including a macaroni & cheese flight from Makk ‘n’ Cheese.

Expect Blind Tiger to open its doors sometime in March with hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. In the meantime, you can follow Makk 'n' Cheese on Facebook.

Watch OnMilwaukee for more details closer to the opening.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.