In late summer 2016, the tragic shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith prompted an uprising in the Sherman Park Neighborhood. Years of frustration bubbled to the surface and the protests took a turn to violence, leading to the destruction of numerous buildings including the BMO Harris bank at 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
The onslaught of media that followed the protests painted a bleak picture of the Sherman Park Neighborhood as a dangerous, divided place.
But the true spirit of the neighborhood could not be suppressed, and a spot once marred by violence was graced by empowerment and a renewed sense of community. Just over two years later – thanks to the work of entrepreneurs including Juli Kaufmann and Manaan and JoAnne Sabir and funding from numerous investors – a new development sprang up from the ashes.
Today, that development is aptly known as Sherman Phoenix, and it contains a variety of entrepreneurial businesses, from retail, wellness and art spaces to a barber shop and apothecary. It’s also the home of a new food hall where guests can gather for fellowship and nourishment.
In fact, you need to do little more than walk inside the bright, industrial chic complex, to find hope, happiness and a renewed sense of community.
The savory side
Tables throughout Sherman Phoenix welcome families and friends. Some are taking meetings. Others are enjoying a meal together. And still others are playing games like Monopoly and Connect4.
They’re surrounded by an expanse of vendors, slinging tasty treats like spring rolls, salads and health-giving juices along with comforting snacks like flavored popcorn and delicious confections and desserts.
There’s a warm welcoming vibe at Shindig!, a coffee shop and juice bar owned and operated by the Sabirs with support from Colectivo owner Paul Smith. Shindig! offers a menu of fresh juices, smoothies, coffee and tea along with wraps and salads, along with a comfortable seating area that’s bright and welcoming. Order a cancer-fighting green juice for vitality (or maybe to cancel out that pizza or ice cream you're about to eat). If you’re looking for comfort food – indulge in a bowl of Shindig’s warming (and surprisingly vegan) "chicken" and dumplings. It’s delicious.
Shindig! is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Of course, pizza always seems to hit the spot. And you’ll find 12-inch thin crust pizzas around the corner at family-owned Sauce & Spice. Begin by choosing your base sauce (Buffalo, pesto, ranch or barbecue) and then load on up to five toppings, from pepperoni, sausage, bacon or chicken to spinach, red peppers, mushrooms, black olives, banana peppers, green peppers, fresh basil, garlic, jalapenos or onions.
Sauce & Spice is open Sunday and Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
There’s also plenty of comfort in Truman McGee’s Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, which come in flavors like Buffalo chicken and kale; chicken club; chicken, broccoli and mushroom or sweet potato black bean. Purchase them individually or as a combo with sweet potato fries or vegetable laden quinoa.
Funky Fresh Spring Rolls is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you’re seeking out vegan fare, you’ll find it at Next Level Vegans, a family-owned business operated by Anna Leasure which offers a menu of comfort food fare including sandwiches (tofu filet, vegan burger, gyro), soups and salads and dishes like macaroni and cheese, lasagna and comforting fried bites of tofu, cauliflower, carrots and zucchini (combination basket with fries is $13).
It also offers a daily menu of sweets including a cake of the day, carrot cake, sweet potato pie and a variety of cookies.
Next Level Vegan is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You can definitely take a healthful bent at Phoenix. But there’s also room for indulgence, thanks to numerous vendors slinging everything from vegan cakes to indulgent cookies, flavored popcorn and ice cream.
Among the vendors in the main hall is Confectionately Yours, a virtual palace of desserts owned and operated by Adija Greer-Smith. Some days, you’ll find Southern treats like peach cobbler. Other days, you’ll find a wide selection of treats including cakes, cookies, bars and their own special take on turtles (available in pecan, caramel and chocolate or white chocolate, caramel, cashew).
Confectionately Yours is open Monday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There’s also the infinitely snackable Lush Popcorn, featuring Marcia Taylor’s creations in flavors including white chocolate, cookies and cream, and maple bourbon pecan. If you love a sweet and salty combination, don’t sleep on the addictive combination of maple bourbon and cheddar.
Lush is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
And yes, there’s also ice cream. From scoops of campfire (a take on s’mores) to sundaes, banana splits and build-your-own ice cream sandwiches for just $4, you’ll find exactly what your ice cream lovin’ heart desires. Better yet, they sell pints you can take home for later.
Purple Door Ice Cream is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On the Way
Beginning sometime in February, the Phoenix will also host Taj Pearsall’s Buffalo Boss restaurant, a Brooklyn-born black-owned quick-service restaurant serving up a menu that includes fresh, hormone-free buffalo wings and a variety of other dishes. Once open, Buffalo Boss anticipates keeping hours from 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week (they’ll have their own entrance on the back of the building).
As a whole Sherman Phoenix is open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.