By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Aug 07, 2018 at 11:16 AM

In February, we broke the news that Chef Stephan Gonzales-Rosaria would be opening Sabor Tropical Latin Inspired Kitchen & Lounge with partners Carmen Munoz and Jesse Fonseca at 631 W. National Ave.

And while plans for the Latin-inspired restaurant and sports lounge continue to move forward, they will now do so in a new location: the former home of Riviera Maya at 2258 S. Kinickinnic Ave. (Read more about Riviera Maya’s new location here).

In fact, with renovations already in process, Gonzalez-Rosaria says they expect the restaurant to open as soon as early to mid-September.

Gonzalez-Rosaria says the former location didn’t work out for numerous reasons, including the amount of work that needed to be done on the building itself, which was in grave disrepair.

"We were originally looking for a larger location," he says. "So, in the end, this location works out much better for us. We’ve also felt really welcomed in Bay View. Already a number of business owners have reached out to us, and Ald. Tony Zielinski has really made an effort to work with us."

Creating something new

Gonzales-Rosaria was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where he operated a restaurant called the Light House before moving to Milwaukee 14 years ago. Here, he continued his craft working at numerous restaurants, most recently Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

He says he’s designed a menu that focuses on a wide range of flavors from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Options include dishes like Columbian empanadas, Puerto Rican mofongo, Argentinian churrasco steak and Cuban sandwiches, along with a late night menu that will run through midnight.

He’s also worked with another local Latin pastry chef to design the dessert menu, which he says will showcase both a variety of flavor profiles and expert techniques.

Meanwhile, the bar menu will feature cocktails by Puerto Rican bartender Ivan Silva Ruiz, former Bacardi champion and member of the Caribbean Bartender Association. The expansive list, Gonzales-Rosaria notes, will feature over 20 mojitos, margaritas and sangria, along with a signature pina colada that will be served inside a fresh pineapple with shaved coconut.

"We’re really looking to appeal to a new generation of diners," he says. "There are so many Mexican restaurants in town, and there are food trucks everywhere. So we’re really approaching this in a very different way … offering people something new and exciting."

Gonzalez-Rosario says that the atmosphere in the restaurant and lounge will be intimate and sophisticated, featuring details like chandeliers and comfortable seating.

Meanwhile, the bar will have televisions broadcasting sports, including soccer, boxing, football and basketball. Gonzalez-Rosario says the venue will also offer entertainment, including domino tournaments (thanks to the venue's custom-made domino tables) on Friday nights. 

Once open, Sabor Tropical will offer lunch, dinner and a late-night menu seven days a week with hours from 11 a.m. to midnight. 

You can stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for a preview of the restaurant as it gets closer to opening. In the meantime, give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

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.