By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jun 04, 2020 at 11:08 AM

There’s a new carry-out lunch spot opening today at 770 N Jefferson St, the garden level food court which also houses popular lunch options like Shah Jee’s.

Smax is the name of the new restaurant, which was launched by Maddie Irle and J.D. Vanstockhausen. And it's a concept that brings creative boxed lunch options – including sandwiches, salads and bowls – to the Downtown area.

The two partners are no strangers to the hospitality industry. Both have worked at numerous area restaurants and bars. Vanstockhausen, who is behind the creative sandwich combinations offered at Smax, has also made a name for himself with the release of his Gunpowder Seasoning, an all-purpose blend which appears on the menus at various East Side restaurants, including the new Pete’s Pub at 1234 E. Brady St.

The business, which was originally conceived as a food truck concept, evolved as the partners were seeking out a commissary kitchen. When they looked into the kitchen in the Jefferson building and realized that the food court offered the opportunity for a year-round lunch business, they pivoted their model, opting to launch a brick and mortar first, with their food truck on stand-by for catering and events.

Inside your Smax Box

All boxed lunches are available for $10 and include chips and bottled water. Half portions are also available for $7.

Offerings begin with guest’s choice of base, including a variety of breads for more traditional sandwiches (garlic herb wrap, Canfora gunpowder bread, rye bread, gunpowder roll or honey wheat bread), salads (kale crunch or heirloom lettuce), or brown rice with red, black or pinto beans.

From there, it’s about adding the good stuff, including options like

  • The Royal B.L.T. (candied English bacon, roasted red pepper, garlic and rosemary aioli, heritage lettuce and heirloom cherry tomatoes);
  • The Gobbler (deep fried turkey breast, English Bacon, cheddar cheese, heritage blend lettuce, cherry tomatoes, avocado spread and brandy old fashioned mayo);
  • The Bahn Mi (seared Ahi tuna, crunchy kale slaw,house pickled veggies and Smax Asian BBQ sauce);
  • The veggie of the day: currently, it's a mix of broccoli and artichokes.

You can also "Smaximize" your sandwich, salad or bowl with a variety of dressings (brandy old fashioned balsamic, Greek god, bloody mary French, gunpowder ranch); dry rubs (gun powder, Greek god dressing, Rico Suave, steakonia), sauces (pepper jelly, underground bbq, gun powder buffalo, Asian bbq, garlic parmesan); or vinegar and oil (Greek God or Rico Suave).

If you choose, you can upgrade your side for $3. Choices include the soup of the day, vegetables of the day or Smax Basement Corn, a twist on elote featuring fire roasted corn, chimichurri mayo and parmesan cheese.

And – if you have a dog – be sure to ask Smax Scraps housemade dog treats, which are also available for carry-out.

Irle says he expects the menu to expand in the coming weeks. Seasonal menu changes are also part of the plan.

"We’re not reinventing the wheel," says Irle. "But we’re really hoping to offer people creative options that really taste great."

You can view the full menu at You can also give Smax a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Smax is currently open on Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. But hours will expand as demand for Downtown lunches increases. Catering is also available.

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.