By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Sep 27, 2016 at 10:10 AM

In June, we reported that a new sports bar and restaurant called Rivalry would be opening at 223 N. Water St. in the former home of Rustico. And it sounds like the venue is on track to open Oct. 20, just in time for the Packers to play the Bears on Thursday Night Football.

The dual-level, sports bar will be operated by Refuge Cafe owner Joshua Janis and will feature a Wisconsin theme on the ground floor and an Illinois theme on the lower, riverfront level.

The venue's tagline, "Love thy neighbor, loathe their team," sets up the venue's theme, which is meant to incite just enough friendly adversity to keep things interesting.

"Every sports bar that you enter, there’s someone rooting for the other team," he says. "Our hope is to develop a friendly rivalry that just makes things even more fun."


The bar and restaurant will feature a state-of-the-art sound system, which will allow customers to engage in conversation while still hearing and seeing the game with a high level of clarity.

Decor on the main floor will feature images of iconic Wisconsinites like Les Paul and Liberace in the front portion of the bar, evolving into a more solidly Wisconsin-inspired sports theme as you move toward the back. Meanwhile, the rear of the restaurant, which Janis says will have a more "high-end" look, will be visually partitioned off to function as both dining-room overflow and a private event space. The lower level will mimic the upstairs, featuring a mixture of both sports-themed items and iconic figures from Illinois.

Food and drink

When it comes to food and beverage, Janis says Rivalry will focus on a limited number of menu items done very well.

"I don’t want anyone to come into Rivalry and walk away disappointed in their experience," notes Janis. "At minimum, I want them to say, ‘I respect what they did there’ ... and even better, ‘That’s the best I ever had.’"

The menu – which was created by Chef Brad Clark, most recently of Saloon on Calhoun – is being tweaked, but Janis says appetizers will include items like wings and hand-breaded cheese curds. Main dishes will include casual fare like pizza and burgers – with a twist. In fact, it seems the food items will be in a bit of a rivalry of their own.

There will be two styles of pizza: Chicago deep dish and hand-tossed. An Italian beef sandwich will sit juxtaposed against a pot roast sandwich. And a Wisconsin bratwurst will vie for attention alongside a Chicago-style hot dog.

"We’ll also do a burger inspired by Chicago’s Au Cheval, which will feature thick cut bacon and will be available as a ‘double’ with three 4-ounce patties," says Janis. "And our Rivalry Wisconsin burger will feature eight ounces of beef."

As for beverages, Janis says they’ll shoot high there, as well.

"We’ll be less of a beer place than a cocktail place," notes Janis, who says there will be about six tap beers. "The menu will be simple, but it will feature a nice selection of high quality cocktails and a focus on the old fashioned."

Janis says Rivalry will also serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays beginning Oct. 29.

The brunch menu will focus on five to seven items which will rotate out on a monthly basis. Brunch beverages will focus on fresh squeezed juices for mimosas, house-made sangria and mojitos.

Beginning Oct. 20, Rivalry will be open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday from noon to bar time and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to bar time.

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.