Three weeks ago, when David Kressin and April Woelfel opened their cozy bar and restaurant called The Noble, 704 S. 2nd St., their goal was simple.
"We were going to quietly open our doors and quietly feed the neighborhood," says Kressin.
Instead, despite the economy they were warned about repeatedly, they have been slammed with customers. The space, which formerly housed Don Quixote, is small, seating only 30-35 people. Plus, there isn't a lot of storage behind the scenes for food and drink.
"I thought we had stocked enough food for one to two weeks, but it only lasted two days. I have been running to Restaurant Depot pretty much every day," says Kressin.
So what is it about The Noble that's bringing diners in droves? Kressin says he thinks it's a combination of very affordable prices – entrees are under $15 – and a homey, comfortable feel.
Kressin and Woelfel, who have been a couple for seven years, didn't have a lot of money to put into The Noble, but they have invested a lot of themselves in the space. They built the bar and the benches from scrap wood, plus, all of the decorative things are from Kressin's and Woelfel's home, including books, a manual typewriter, photos of grandparents (in the restrooms, no less) and currently, vintage holiday decorations.
"We're bringing back the mom-and-pop," says Woelfel. "But we're not a diner, we're more of a hybrid. We want people to feel comfortable ordering a three-course meal while sitting around doing a crossword puzzle."
Two weeks ago, Kressin, who handles most of The Noble's baking duties, baked a very tiny bagel that he planned to use as an engagement ring. It was supposed to be a surprise, but while the bagel was cooling, Woelfel walked into the kitchen and said, "That would make a cute engagement ring."
Surprised and slightly bummed his popping-the-question plan was foiled, Kressin got down on one knee, presented her with the tiny bread ring and asked her to marry to him. (Woelfel said yes, but the couple has not set a date yet.)
"We've been through a lot in the last six months, but we've made it through," he says.
Both Kressin and Woelfel currently work at other establishments. Kressin has been a bartender at The ChopHouse, 633 N. 5th St., for six years, and Woelfel is a bartender at Roots, 1818 N. Hubbard St. Prior to Roots, Woelfel worked at The Duke of Devon in Sheboygan.
"April is our beer girl," says Kressin.
Currently, there are a handful of beers available: mostly Leinenkugel and Coors products and cans of Guinness and $1 Boxer Lager and Genesee Cream Ale. The goal is eventually to have multiple beers on tap with an emphasis on English brews.
"So many places are doing Belgian beers, and there are so many good ones, but we're trying to stay away from what everyone else is doing," says Woelfel.
Kressin is also in the process of putting together a small but well-chosen wine list, with prices ranging from $4-7 a glass. Hand crafted cocktails are also available, including the already-popular Au Pear, a sparkling Martini and a unique brandy old fashioned made with maple brandy for $6.50.
The seasonal menu is divided into appetizers, soups, salads and breads made from many locally-produced items. They also have nightly specials and weekend brunch, including a Monday brunch for service workers from 11:30 to 4 p.m. The most popular brunch item, so far, is the flat-iron steak on house-made bread that's topped with eggs and a spinach wine cream sauce.
"We also have a lot of items for vegetarians. And some vegans came in the other night and didn't like anything on our menu so I whipped up a veggie stir fry," says Kressin. "But we definitely like our cheese and cream sauces, too."
Some of the brunch and dessert items are recipes from Kressin's mom. The menu is still evolving, and a new chef, Frank Harroun, formerly of Pastiche, 3003 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., will start next week.
"I'm going to play the new menu by ear. See where our customers want us to go," says Harroun, who also spent four years traveling around North America as an executive chef for the cast of Cirque du Soleil.
Kressin says he dreamed of having a cafe for 10 years prior to opening The Noble. After years of working at the upscale Chop House, he says he grew an appreciation for fine dining. At the same time, he didn't want to open anything too fancy.
"We have brown paper instead of white linen on our tables," he says. "We hope people get it's part of the charm."
The Noble may expand to the second floor someday and offer more dining space and maybe live music. Currently, they have "dinner and a movie nights" every Wednesday where a movie is shown and the food or drinks tie into the film's theme. Like last week for example, they showed "The Big Lebowski" and served, you guessed it, White Russians. They also occasionally have karaoke and might offer a weekly karaoke night in the future.
The Walker's Point neighborhood has been very supportive of the business so far. Kressin describes the block as "one big happy family."
"I have never experienced so much camaraderie in my life, and I grew up in a small town," says Woelfel.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.