By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Mar 22, 2018 at 7:01 PM

Public Table is the name of a new bar and restaurant in the works in a former storefront 5835 W. National Ave., adjacent to Kegel’s Inn.

The venue, which has been in the works for the larger portion of a year, is a partnership between industry veterans building owner Christopher Kuranz, operating partner John Clark, and investing partner Randy Brashier. Together, they decided to pursue a shared vision for a community-centric restaurant with the comfort of a neighborhood bar and a casual, affordable menu featuring local and organic products.

Although the restaurant is closing in on its opening  which is likely to take place sometime in May  the story of the concept dates back to as many as 12 years ago when Kuranz made the decision to purchase the building.

"It was the last day I had to make a decision about buying the building," he says. "And I happened to see Kegel’s Inn featured on the cover of Saveur magazine. It struck me as a sort of omen. Ever since, I’ve wanted to open a restaurant in the space. But in the past year, the timing and details all began coming together."

In additional to personal investments, Kuranz says funding for the business has also been gleaned from grant dollars and a National Avenue Commercial Corridor forgivable loan from the City of West Allis.

"We’re both foodies, and we both come from the restaurant industry," notes Clark. "And for me, it’s exciting to be getting in on the ground floor again."

Among considerations for the operation of the business, he says they are working on establishing a model through which employees are paid a living wage. "We want this to be a place where folks can make a living and where they want to work," he says.

And that sentiment bleeds through a variety of aspects of the business, which is built to nuture a sense of community and family.

"There’s also a philanthropic aspect to what we’re creating," Clark adds. "Every meal sold at Public Table will result in a donation to Hunger Task Force."

In that spirit, the focal point of the space will be an extensive communal table that stretches across the expanse of the venue, providing a place for neighbors to gather, converse and enjoy a great meal together. The table, along with others in the restaurant, will be constructed from repurposed wood  from a 100-year-old mash tun, which is speculated to have been acquired from Point Brewing Co.

"Taverns have always historically been meeting places for the neighborhood, and our goal is really to bring that aspect back to the area," notes Clark. "The space will be comfortable and super approachable, but the menu will go beyond the typical burgers, fries and wings that you’d normally find in a bar."

In fact, there won’t be any French fries (or fryers) at this eatery. In an effort to impact the overall carbon footprint of the business, the kitchen will be uniquely outfitted with a hoodless kitchen that relies on induction burners, a combi oven and a Turbo Chef, but no deep fryer.

Clark notes that they are currently working with a local chef who brings a great deal of expertise to the table in terms of assisting the restaurant in sourcing local products, including traceable proteins from Kettle Range Meats.

Although details of the menu is still being finalized, he says they are focused on featuring accessible seasonal fare including a rotating selection of deviled eggs, tacos, sliders and flatbreads. There will also be a selection  of "lagniappe," little extra snacks that can be enjoyed by singles or couples upon arrival.

"We’re playing around with the idea of jarred salads,"he says, "And we’re working with Kettle Range Meats to create extra large three-to-one sausages, which we’ll feature as a rotating item with various toppings."

Desserts are likely to include items like fruit cobblers, bread pudding and panna cotta, along with fun offerings like hard soda floats with Purple Door Ice Cream.

"It’s a combination of things that we like to eat, as well as things we thought would be a good fit for the neighborhood," he says, noting that there will be an emphasis on affordability, as well as options to accommodate diners of all stripes, including vegans, vegetarians and those adhering to a gluten-free diet.

Meanwhile, a full bar will serve up craft cocktails, local and regional beer and other beverages including Colectivo coffee and locally brewed kombucha on tap.

Once open, Public Table will serve both lunch and dinner as well as brunch on Sundays.

Watch OnMilwaukee for additional details as they become available.

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.