Lindsay Heights' newest restaurant, The Tandem, is scheduled to open to the public at 1848 W. Fond du Lac Ave. on Tuesday, Nov. 22. And it’s an occasion Milwaukeeans have reason to celebrate.
After all, The Tandem marks the culmination of a labor of love that began with an historic building and has evolved into the creation of both a neighborhood gathering place and a bridge between Downtown and Lindsay Heights.
The seeds for the restaurant were planted in autumn 2015, when co-developers Juli Kaufmann and Jeremy Davis signed on to restore the historic Wally Schmidt tavern to its former glory [looking back at the "before" photos is worthwhile]. By this summer, we broke the news that Caitlin Cullen had taken on the role as operator for the restaurant, which would provide a gathering place for both residents and Downtown diners while engaging in a deeper mission to provide substantial employment and culinary training for members of the community.
A visit to the restaurant this week revealed hard-working staff – many of whom are getting their feet wet in the restaurant industry for the very first time – smiling, greeting customers and learning the art of the hustle that’s innate among industry veterans.
It also revealed a rejuvenated space filled with the positive energy that’s created when challenges are met with grace and determination.
"I came up with this idea, and I thought it was cool. But, I never dreamed that all of the things I envisioned would work out this well," notes chef and owner Caitlin Cullen, who adds that she has hired and trained a staff of 20 young workers from the neighborhood. "My staff is working so hard and doing an amazing job. And people in the neighborhood are so excited. They’ve been waiting so long for a place like this, and the reception has been amazing."
In keeping with the name, a bicycle theme runs through the restaurant, which is decorated simply in bright yellows and muted grays.
A tandem bicycle sits proudly above the classic bar, which will feature eight draft beers, wine by both the glass and bottle and a variety of both classic and modern cocktails including Wisconsin old fashioneds, raspberry margaritas, Moscow mules, martinis and seasonal gins and tonic. Cocktails will utilize fresh ingredients including citrus juices and locally grown herbs.
Don’t neglect taking a peek at the lovely courtyard patio behind the restaurant which boasts artfully displayed wheels hanging along a brick wall.
In the morning, from 10 to 11 a.m., The Tandem will provide a homey respite for those looking for a place to relax, take meetings or use the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi to get a bit of work done. Muffins, cookies and other baked goods will be available daily for $2 each, along with coffee and tea (also $2).
Food at The Tandem errs on the side of well executed comfort food fare. But it’s also smattered with delicious twists, healthy options and family-style entrees that will feed a family of four for $24-50.
Appetizers include fried chicken livers ($8), smoked kielbasa ($9), chicken liver mousse ($8) as well as charcuterie and cheese plates ($10/$12).
Housemade burrata is served with grilled bread and seasonal accompaniments like this fresh cranberry compote.
Hush puppies are served with honey butter on the side ($6).
Meanwhile, house pickles comprise a generous plate of brined seasonal vegetables that would make a fine accompaniment for the restaurant’s specialty: fried chicken.
Seasonal soups like carrot and cilantro ($6) and chili ($7) are available for both lunch and dinner, along with salads like a classic wedge and Caesar ($8), power greens ($9) a grain salad ($9) and a greek vegetable and quinoa salad ($9)
A staple, offered at both lunch and dinner, is a whole chicken ($26). Diners can choose from three preparations: Dominican spiced roasted chicken, Memphis fried chicken (brined in hot sauce and dredged in cornstarch batter), or Georgia fried (buttermilk battered). Each preparation begins with a sustainably raised bird from Kettle Range Meats and ends as a comforting affordable main dish that generously feeds four. At dinner, a whole chicken with sides is $36.
Sides (priced $3-6) include potato salad and bitter greens made with mustard greens from Centgraf Farm (pictured) along with options like fried okra, pesto pasta salad, bean salad, coleslaw and French fries.
Dinner entrees run the gamut from steak with chimichurri and citrus rice ($16) to oxtails with red rice ($15) and red or green Thai curry with the option of tofu, chicken, pork or beef ($14/15). Family style options include:
- Daily: fried chicken with sides for $36
- Tuesday: udon noodle soup ($38)
- Wednesday: short rib stew ($48)
- Thursday: lamb tagine ($50)
- Friday: fish fry ($32/38)
- Saturday: sancocho, a Dominican style stew ($38)
- Sunday: ham and rolls ($24)
Sandwiches, including burgers, chicken salad, a Cubano and a beet Reuben form the mainstay replace entrees on the restaurant’s lunch menu. A rotating selection of desserts made by sous chef Joe Sutter will also be available.
Beginning Nov. 22, The Tandem will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. From 10 to 11 a.m., the restaurant will offer up pastries, coffee and tea; lunch will be served 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with dinner following. The Tandem’s bar will serve alcohol on weekdays after 5 p.m. and all day on Saturday and Sunday. A happy hour will take place daily from 5 to 6 p.m. featuring select drink and snack specials.
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.