By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jan 26, 2022 at 11:02 AM

When second generation owner Didier Bibits announced his plans to retire last fall, it marked the end of an era for M&M Restaurant at N64 W23316 Main St. in Sussex, a restaurant which had served the community for 42 years.

But thanks to longtime Sussex residents Gabe Kolesari and his son, also  named Gabe, the restaurant will take on a new life, albeit with a different name and a number of upgrades.

“The” Kitchen, which is slated to open sometime in February, aims to continue the tradition of the former family restaurant with a menu of scratch-made fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Preserving a local staple

Kolesari, who agreed to assist running the restaurant with his father, is a longtime IT professional, who has also dabbled in the food realm. He spent time last year working as a kitchen manager at an area restaurant; and he is also the owner of The Polar Bear Kitchen, a purveyor of all natural products – including barbeque sauces and dry rubs – which are sold through area Piggly Wiggly stores. And it was his family’s connection to the restaurant that motivated him to take on co-ownership of the longtime eatery.

“My son and daughter have both worked there over the years,” Kolesari says. “My dad has been going there for years. So, it’s been a part of our family for a long time. Ultimately, we didn’t want the restaurant to go away. It was a really unique local spot where you could go and get really great food for breakfast and lunch. And it was a huge gathering place for families who would go there after church.”

The KitchenX

Careful planning

Ever since the restaurant closed its doors in December, the Kolesari family has been hard at work, completely remodeling the interior of the restaurant.

“We pulled out a wall,” he says, “To open up the space, and we replaced all the flooring and are adding all new tables and chairs. But we kept a few key things, including the diner counter, complete with its laminate top.”

To create a rustic, homey environment, Kolesari says they are decorating in greens and blues and adding accents like repurposed tin siding and barn boards to give the restaurant a rustic feel.

To assist them in reimagining the family restaurant, Kolesari notes that they hired an experienced restaurant consultant to assist in creating a thoughtful menu filled with affordable options made with fresh ingredients, including locally sourced options.

From breakfast to fish fry

Favorite items like country fried steak and omelets will remain staples on the new menu. But Kolesari says they are also adding items like biscuits with traditional Southern sausage gravy, chicken served with housemade waffles and hand-cut fries, upgraded burgers.

Comforting dinner items like homemade meatloaf, roasted turkey dinners, pork chops and shrimp and grits with cajun sausage (the sausages are custom made by Pritzlaff meats) are also in the works, along with house-smoked barbeque, including pulled pork and pulled chicken, along with freshly baked cinnamon rolls, pies and desserts.

And yes, they will be offering a Friday night fish fry, complete with Kolesari’s recipe for hand-beer-battered cod, housemade potato pancakes, rye bread and housemade coleslaw.

“The beer batter will set us apart,” he says. “It’s uniquely light and crisp, not as heavy as most batters that you find in other restaurants.”

Kolesari says he knows that change can be tough, but he says they’ve put in a great deal of time to consider how to approach the reopening in a way that serves the community well.

“Our goal is to elevate the menu, while still keeping things affordable for families in the area,” he says. “We want there to continue to be a local spot where people can enjoy a home cooked meal. Everyone is busy, so we want this to be a place where people can sit back and relax.”

Kolesari says that “the” Kitchen will also give back to the community by offering discounts to active service people, veterans, first responders, police officers and seniors.

“the” Kitchen is currently hiring for a number of positions including bussers, waitstaff and cooks. Interested parties can reach out to Gabe at gkolesari@thekitchenwi.com. Guests can watch for updates and follow the restaurant’s progress on Facebook or Instagram.

Once open, “the” Kitchen will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.