Middle East Side, the Middle Eastern concept which debuted as a pop-up last spring, is slated to join the fray at the 3rd Street Market Hall this fall.
The concept, which focuses on dishes inspired by countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, is slated debut as one of the four hawker stall tenants which will share a commissary kitchen with Dairyland Old Fashioned Hamburgers & Frozen Custard and Mid-Way Bakery.
The Middle East Side will complement an ever-growing slate of tenants that includes Strega (fresh pasta and desserts), Brew City Apparel, Anytime Arepas and Supernova Coffee & Doughnuts. The food hall is currently expected to open in October.
A taste of Lebanon & beyond
Behind Middle East Side is Chef John Chandler, a Northern California native whose experience includes work at Mamoon, a Seattle restaurant which focuses on fare from Syria, Persia and Lebanon. More recently, he worked as sous chef under Chef Gregory Leon at Amilinda, 315 E Wisconsin Ave., where he launched the Middle East Side concept as a carry-out only lunch concept.
Chandler, who moved to Milwaukee just over three years ago, says plans for the 3rd Street Market Hall were announced right around the time he arrived in the Cream City, and they piqued his interest. So when Chef Kurt Fogle approached him to ask if he’d be interested in opening a stall in the new food hall, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
“It’s going to be so exciting to be part of this new chapter in Milwaukee,” Chandler says. “Especially after so many rough months during the pandemic. Getting in on the ground floor of a project like this feels really great, and I can’t wait to open up alongside all the other great vendors.”
Chandler says that, in anticipation of the launch, he’s hired fellow chef Eli Santiago, who he met while working as a prep chef at Buckley’s.
“Eli [Santiago] is a really talented chef,” Chandler notes. “He knows his stuff, and he’s a great baker. He’ll be a great partner on this project since we both work well together and we have complementary skill sets.”
On the menu
Guests can expect the inaugural Middle East Side menu to include fan favorites from the inaugural Lebanese pop-up, including housemade man’oushe (Lebanese flatbread) sandwiches stuffed with lahm bi ajeen (ground beef, tomatoes and spiced pomegranate molasses); shish taouk (lemon garlic chicken and tahini sauce); and jibneh (haloumi and mozzeralla cheeses with tomatoes and za'atar oil); and batenjan (eggplant roasted with ras al hanout, za’atar oil and herbed yogurt tahini sauce).
There will also be harra frites (fries topped with harissa, jalapenos and herbs); hummus and muhammara, a dip made with walnuts, red peppers and pomegranate molasses.
Chandler says new items will include beer battered halloumi cheese served with za’atar ranch sauce, as well as hearty soups – including a plant-based Lebanese red lentil soup – for the fall and winter.
Specials are also expected to make appearances (likely on the weekends) including items like lamb merguez sausage served on samoon (an Iraqi style bread) with cabbage slaw, pomegranate, lemon and harra sauce.
“The Levantine region is so amazing,” noted Chandler in an interview last April. “The flavors really resonate with me. It’s food I love to eat and love to cook. And – over time, I’ve gotten to know it well enough that I can really get creative with it.”
Once open, Middle East Side will offer lunch and dinner with carry-out and delivery. Once the 3rd Street Market Hall business is established, Chandler says he expects to launch catering services. If all goes well, he says he plans to launch a Middle East Side food truck as well, potentially as soon as next summer.
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.