By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Jun 05, 2008 at 5:10 AM

Although much has changed in the local dining scene since The Social arrived in early 2001, some things remain a constant -- and rightfully so.

The Social's famed mac 'n' cheese, prepared with goat cheese, roasted chicken and rosemary, is one such Milwaukee mainstay. And even as classy comfort food becomes a hot dining trend nationwide, this decadent dish triumphantly holds it reign as a favorite forerunner.

"People would murder me if I took it off the menu," says owner Kevin Sloan. But that's not to say he hasn't been open to change in the seven years since he opened in his orginal location, 434 S. 2nd St.

Save for the mac 'n' cheese, the white mushroom and butternut squash risotto, the meat 'n' potatoes and the duck salad, nearly everything else about the restaurant has evolved with the times, trends and tastes of his customers.

"Moving over here was like starting over again," he says of his relocation to 170 S. 1st St. three years ago. The current location is 3,000 sq. ft. -- more than double the size of the first space, which Sloan turned into a school themed bar called Room 434 in 2005, but closed in 2007.

The move allowed him to expand his menu as well as his entertainment scope. The Social serves food until 10 p.m. -- 11 p.m. on weekends -- but it transforms into a destination for drinks and music well after the kitchen has closed for the night.

Erika J. Bock began booking bands and DJs for Sloan when he opened Room 434. For a year and a half she did a Wednesday Brit Pop night and later, organized a Tuesday ladies night at The Social called Bad Girls Night Out. Her event includes massage therapists, tarot card readings, shot boys, bottomless champagne and '80s and '90s jams by Bock, who DJs as Miss Erika Jean.

Although it used to be weekly, Bad Girls is now on the last Friday of each month because, Bock says, it was difficult to get the young professional crowd out on a weeknight when they had to be up early for work the next morning.

"But we have a plan of attack for that," she says of her pre-weekend events. "A lot of people I talked to say they'd come if we started earlier than 9 p.m. I've been seeing this trend in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago where they have DJs start at 6 p.m. and go until 10 p.m. on a weeknight."

Bock is also responsible for booking bands for The Social, though Sloan says he feels no pressure to turn his bar and restaurant into a regular venue.

"I'm not trying to jam anything in every week," he says. "It'll be a super diverse mix of genres."

Last Saturday The Social welcomed the D.C.-based roots band Junior League. Milwaukee's Mark Ballini plays Saturday July 12 and Black Elephant member Element Everest arrives for a show on Friday, Aug. 1. Slone hopes his lineup will offer something new for the neighborhood.

"As it stands, it's just us and MOCT for night time options -- but we play off each other," Sloan says of his Fifth Ward locale. "I think in Milwaukee you really have to have a critical mass of places to really draw a crowd. So as far as that goes, the neighborhood is still identity-free. But I'd like to see it grow into its own, and I know when it does it'll be a lot different from the Third Ward."

For now, summer is on the horizon and The Social crew is prepping its large outdoor patio, which, strung with white lights, creates a comfortable glow along its section of 1st Street. Sloan says he plans to "beef it up" by adding another bar outside and incororporating a Tuesday night music event with DJs.

"We're calling it, 'Cooler by the Lake,'" he says.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”