Ever since Swig closed this summer, owners Joe and Angie Sorge have receivied e-mails from bummed-out diners saying how much they miss it.
But if all goes as planned, Swig, formerly located on Water Street, will reopen in the early spring in a new location at 217 N. Broadway in the Third Ward, replacing Sauce, which will close after eight years.
"We did a 30-month experiment with Swig in a location it didn't belong," Joe Sorge says. Swig's clientele was primarily professional adults, he says, with 40th birthday, 30th birthday and retirement parties being the most popular events held at the restaurant. "But Water Street is a college-age district. Swig wasn't as well-served in that location as it could be."
Swig closed on Father's Day this year, and a few weeks later the Sorges opened a more "Water Street appropriate" bar called Sullivan's in its place. It didn't take long to realize Sullivan's was a good business move, Sorge says.
"But I didn't realize how many people would miss Swig," he says. "Our chef, Frank Ortlieb, did a great job of creating a menu that's very craveable."
Notes from customers dreaming of wonton-wrapped chicken curry or tempura snap peas or chocolate fondue have flooded Sorge's inbox.
But while customers clearly couldn't get enough of Swig's menu, that wasn't the restaurant's only draw. Swig brought the concept of small-plate dining to Milwaukee, an idea that encourages guests to order several items off the menu to share with each other, allowing them to sample a handful of dishes in one sitting. This tapas-style service turned the Swig experience into more than just dining -- it turned it into entertainment.
"We knew we had enough interest that people would come; we just needed to be in an appropriate location," Sorge says. "And it just fit together really nicely that we were ready to move Swig and we could acquire the lease at Sauce."
So as 2007 comes to a close, so will Sauce. And when spring rolls around and Milwaukeeans begin to look forward to warm weather, so too will be some be hopeful for the return of Swig.
Lovers of the restaurant can look forward to outdoor dining, a cozy fireplace inside, Sauce's signature garage door windows, an expanded menu and longer hours -- including lunch.
"It'll be an interesting challenge to make the nighttime-based entertainment available to the lunchtime crowd," Sorge says.
But there will be some old mixed in with the new. The Sorges have hired the same designer, Joe Hosni, now working with Flux, to decorate the new Swig interior. "There will be distinct reminders of the Water Street Swig," he vows.