The finishing touches are currently being put into place at Oggie's, the new restaurant at Hotel Metro, 411 E. Mason St.
In fact, the new venue, which promises a menu of accessible modern European fare served up with a hefty dose of Midwestern charm, is preparing for its official debut on August 4 at 5 p.m.
And it will do so with a veteran Milwaukee chef at the helm: Thomas Hauck, former owner of c.1880 and more recent culinary director for the Lowlands Restaurant Group.
What to expect
"The whole concept of Oggie’s is meant to be relaxed and unpretentious," says Hauck. "This will definitely be food that you’re not necessarily making at home, but we’re doing it in a way that makes it really approachable, and that really communicates the down-to-earth, welcoming vibe people find in the Midwest."
The look and feel of the 40-seat restaurant, which is currently being remodeled in preparation for its debut, will follow suit. Hauck says guests can expect a space that’s classy but understated with decor reflecting a palette of greys, blues and a sprinkling of gold.
Meanwhile, guests can expect a menu featuring a large assortment of lounge snacks, including selections like deviled eggs with smoked salmon and capers; oysters on the half shell; Bavarian pretzels with obatzda and Dusseldorf mustard; steak tartare; and frites with Oggie’s secret sauce.
There will also be a varied selection of both vegetable dishes and proteins including mussels in vadouvan curry with frites; ricotta gnocchi with summer vegetables; braised Duroc pork chop with polenta, tomatoes, arugula and boquerones anchovies; and scallops with charred broccolini, Meyer lemon yogurt, cashews and garlic scapes.
There will also be a healthy selection of starters (think seasonal soup, vegetable tarts and Kentucky fried quail with sweet potato slaw and maple vinegar) and shareable side dishes such as smoked beets with horseradish sour cream; asparagus with sourdough crumbs, brown butter and hazelnuts; or creamed spinach.
And yes, there will be desserts, including housemade fruit tarts, cheesecake, sorbet and potentially even crowd favorites from c.1880 like the "Whatchamacallit" with its indulgent profile of chocolate, peanuts and browned butter.
"It’s the sort of place where you could feel comfortable coming and making a meal out of snacks," says Hauck. "It will be fun and casual… a place where you can enjoy a plate of beef tartare, fries and a glass of rose on the patio." He pauses.
"We might even have a cheeseburger that will be pretty dynamite," he adds with a mischievous smile.
If warranted, Oggie’s may also offer a variety of large format family-style dinner options for carry-out. Dishes could include items like 48-hour shortribs or Moroccan spiced lamb with accompaniments like sides and dessert.
Hauck, who spent two years assisting the Lowlands Restaurant Group with staff training, menu design and quality control, says the opportunity to head up the new restaurant couldn't have presented itself at a better time.
In fact, it arrived over the course of weeks in the form of a series of casual conversation with his neighbor, Michael Michael Falkenstein, longtime general manager of Hotel Metro.
"I’ve known Michael for years," says Hauck. "I met him when he managed the Iron Horse Hotel and we’re actually neighbors. So as they were working out the concept for the new restaurant, he’d come by and tickle my ear with different ideas."
Ultimately, he says, Falkenstein asked if Hauck would be interested in taking on the project himself.
"I’d been with Lowlands for two years at that point," says Hauck. "And I had a great time working with them; but I also really missed cooking. So, this was a great opportunity to really get back to the grind and be in a kitchen every day."
Hauck says the offer also had particular appeal because it allows him to embrace the freedom that’s inherent to a small, independently owned restaurant while also taking advantage of the support and backing provided by the hotel.
"It’s perfect," he says. "We can be nimble enough to offer specials and change up the menu when we’d like, and we can take advantage of seasonality and really be flexible with our offerings. I can’t wait."
Watch OnMilwaukee for a first look at the restaurant closer to its opening date.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.