After an extended soft opening, Seven Swans Creperie will officially open on Thursday morning at 808 E. Chambers St. in Riverwest.
The creperie is a homecoming of sorts for owner Kate Brian, a Milwaukee native who recently returned home after opening her first Seven Swans Creperie in Kansas City, Missouri.
Step inside the cozy creperie, which serves up a menu of both sweet and savory crepes, and you might not even think about the fact that the building was the former home of Dino’s, a beloved Riverwest staple for over 50 years.
That’s thanks, in large part, to an aesthetic that owner Kate Bryan laughingly describes as “Ukrainian grandmother chic.”
“I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Russia and the Ukraine,” she says. “And I just love all the folklore, the colors and patterns. For me, a restaurant is about creating a community space where people can gather, so I wanted Seven Swans to feel like an extension of my home.”
Shades of white and aquamarine paint have transformed the bar into a quaint seating area featuring both barside stools and low-top tables along the eastern wall.
Meanwhile, the dining room is drenched in warm homey touches, from mismatched chairs and mini floral arrangements on tables to a wall featuring squares of patterned wallpaper hung to resemble a quilt.
Two of the patterns (featuring swans) were painted by Fred “The Artist” Kames; meanwhile one of the wallpaper prints is also an element in the aesthetic folks will find if they visit the inaugural Seven Swans in Kansas City.
From Kansas City to Milwaukee
Bryan, who describes herself as “the kid who was always on the stool covered in flour,” says she always had a passion for food and cooking. But she says she never thought it would be possible to own her own restaurant until she found herself in Kansas City, Missouri, questioning the direction that her life was headed.
“At one point, I took inventory of the things that I loved and the things that made me feel alive,” she says. “And suddenly, opening a restaurant felt like it was the most obvious choice. The timing was right. It was now or never.”
Initially, she launched the Seven Swans concept as a food truck. But after bouts of heat stroke took the joy out of running a food truck in the Missouri heat, she nearly gave up the plan altogether.
“Coming back to Milwaukee has always been in the back of my head,” Bryan notes. “In fact, for a moment there, I thought I’d just bring the food truck back home. But then the most beautiful, perfect space opened up, and I decided to stay.”
She opened the Kansas City Seven Swans just two months before the pandemic hit. “It was wonderful and amazing,” she says. “But also really stressful. Fortunately, I also built a great team.”
And it was that team, she says, which gave her the confidence that she could leave Kansas City, establish a second creperie, and reconnect with her family.
“I grew up eating the crepes that my father made,” she says, noting that his crepes were slightly thicker and more springy than French-style crepes, making them more closely resemble Eastern European blini (with the exception of their size).
The crepes she serves at Seven Swans are similar, and it’s for that reason that she named one of the dishes (crepes served with butter and maple syrup, $8) in homage to her father.
Bryan says that her brother’s response after trying “Dad’s Skinny Pancakes” at the restaurant for the first time spoke volumes: “This tastes just like mom not wanting to make dinner,” he said.
Other sweet offerings at the creperie include Clean (filled with lavender lemon curd and topped with whipped cream, fresh berries and candied lemon, $9); Paris (filled with Nutella, strawberries and bananas and topped with honey roasted almonds and whipped cream, $10.50); and the Seasonal Fruit Crisp featuring seasonal fruit compote topped with housemade oatmeal crisp, whipped cream and vanilla frozen custard, $12.
Savory crepes include classics like Crepe Benedict (filled with honey ham, roasted asparagus and spinach and topped with hollandaise and a sunny-side-up egg, $16); and the Bruncher (filled with smoked salmon, fresh dill cream cheese and arugula and topped with marinated red onions, greens and everything bagel seasonings, $15), along with offerings like the MKE Classic (caramelized sauerkraut, spiced sausage and beer cheese, $12).
There are even mini versions of crepes like the KC Classic (ham, Swiss and arugula with whole grain mustard and chives) for the kiddos, along with fun swan-themed coloring pages that challenge them to find all the swans hidden in the restaurant to win a prize. Surprise: there are seven.
Guests can also order soup or salad, granola parfaits, oatmeal with berries and cream or any number of beverages including coffee, tea, juices, kombucha, and sparkling waters. Espresso drinks and alcoholic beverages will also be available in the weeks ahead.
Although Seven Swans does not operate a dedicated gluten-free kitchen, gluten-free crepes are available by request for +$2.
Bryan says that she’s thrilled to be back in Milwaukee, operating a business just blocks away from her family.
“It feels wonderful to be back home,” she says. “I really didn’t know what to expect, and I’m surprised by how much I’m really needing to start over again. But it feels right. I’m really really happy.”
Currently, Seven Swans is open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional hours will be added as both demand and staffing allow.
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.