By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Aug 28, 2023 at 7:04 PM

For over three decades Christine McRoberts has steered the ship at McBob’s Pub & Grill, 4919 W. North Ave., an Irish pub long known for its succulent corned beef and welcoming environment, which attracts both folks from the surrounding neighborhoods and well beyond.

But, after putting her all into the business and navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic, McRoberts says she’s ready to step back and relinquish her role to someone younger, who can lead the iconic bar for another 30-or-more years.

“I’m getting older,” she says. “The ideas aren’t flowing like they used to, and it’s time for some fresh blood. My name is on the bar, so with no one else in the family to take over, we’ve been looking for someone who’d be a good fit.”

Christine McRoberts
Christine McRoberts

As it turns out, it took little more than a serendipitous conversation at the McBob’s bar to find the perfect candidate: Giovanni Kais.

“It was Sunday morning. Giovanni was sitting at the bar, and we started talking,” says McRoberts partner Steve Schmich. “He was telling me about his business and his family and how he wanted to own a restaurant someday.”

One thing led to another and, after multiple conversations with Schmich and McRoberts, they knew they’d found the right person for the job.

“He’s young, he’s experienced in business and he’s part of the community,” notes Schmich. “It was a perfect fit.’

A vision for the future

Kais, who grew up in the neighborhood, says he’s been coming to McBob’s with his father, a longtime MPS history teacher and coach, since he was a kid.

“This was always our place,” he says, noting that his father – who is getting ready to move into retirement – is likely to lend his support to the business.  “He’s chatty and social, and he’s always been my biggest supporter,” he says.

Currently, Kais is in the process of sunsetting the construction business he’s operated for the past ten years. But he says he’s excited to continue learning and challenging himself.

“I was among the first in my family to own a business,” he says, “And I learned everything from the ground up. I’ve definitely made my share of mistakes. But I’ve also been pretty lucky in terms of the people around me. I’ve gotten a lot of support from unexpected places.”

Kais says his grandparents operated bars in Hustisford and he says he remembers watching as his grandmother continued to support her large family by operating one of the bars on her own, even after his grandfather passed away.

“I always wanted to open a little bar,” Kais says. “But I had no idea it would happen like this. This opportunity came up at just the right time. I was ready to downsize my construction business and move on to something else, and they were looking for someone to work with them to keep this place going. They needed me and I needed them.”

McRoberts nods. “We’ve been lucky. Kais has been working with us now for a few months already and we’re really excited to have him here.”

McRoberts says she plans to remain on hand in a consulting role for at least the next year to offer mentorship and support for Kais as he gets to know all the intimate details of the business. “My hope is that we’ll have a really seamless transition,” she says.

Kais says he’s grateful for the opportunity to take over a business that has made such a positive impact on the neighborhood. Among his goals, he says, is to continue to bolster McBob’s reputation and ensure that it’s acknowledged for what it is.

“This place has been around for almost four decades,” he says. “And I want it to be on the map with the other iconic spots in the city.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.