By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jan 19, 2024 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

It's new. It's crave worthy. And yes, its name might just have you humming along to a once-popular 90s jam.

Todd I Believe I Can Fry, a new carry-out restaurant specializing in Asian fried chicken and other fried fare, will host its soft opening beginning at 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 22 at 2159 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Todd is the first of three food and beverage concepts to open at Ground 59, the new multi-unit development designed by Dan Beyer Architects for JJ Lert, Tammy Lert, and Tony Kora, who also own and operate Rice N Roll Bistro, 1952 N. Farwell Ave., and Kin by Rice N Roll at 7484 W. State St. in Wauwatosa. [Read more about plans for Ground 59 here].

Behind the concept is May Liotrakun, an eight-year veteran of Rice N Roll Bistro, along with partners and Rice N Roll chefs Leo Chiguil and Tom Pronpromtada. 

May LiotrakunX

“We didn’t see many places in Milwaukee serving Asian style fried chicken,” Liotrakun says, “So we thought we would build a concept around the idea of fried street food style options. It’s such fun food, and it can be eaten as a snack or as a full meal.”

The trio decided that a carry-out concept would be the best idea, since it wasn’t so dependent upon staffing, which has been such a challenge for the industry since the pandemic. And when they chose the name, they began with the word Todd, a Thai word which means “fry”. 

Since Todd is also a common name, they agreed that using the word alone would likely confuse guests. So they brainstormed to find a phrase that would incorporate the word fry. In the end, they chose a play on words using the 90s song, “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly.

And that, folks, is how a new Asian restaurant with a fun menu and a quirky earworm of a name was born.

Exterior of ToddX

A peek inside

You can glimpse the restaurant from Kinnickinnic Avenue; it’s tucked back behind the other two buildings along Kinnickinnic Avenue and accessible by a pedestrian path that connects KK to Robinson Avenue. In fact, at night, the Todd sign, interior light and red exterior cast a warm glow along the path that functions as a beacon leading customers to the deliciousness that awaits.

The path to ToddX

The restaurant itself is small, with most of its footprint composed of its kitchen. Step inside and you’ll find a bright, modern space decorated with white tile, blonde wood and pops or red. Immediately inside, there’s an ordering kiosk and a service counter where guests can place their orders for carry-out.

Broad shot of interior at ToddX

Meanwhile, to the left, guests will find a self-service soft drink station and a bar-style counter which seats five at wooden stools. The counter overlooks an operational garage-door-style window which can be opened to allow fresh air into the restaurant during temperate months.

Seating at ToddX

Just beyond the seating area is a whimsical mural created by Meng, a Thai artist from New York, which depicts a variety of cartoon-style fried foods along with greetings and food terms written in Japanese, Chinese, Lao and Thai languages. English phrases like “I love chicken” and “fresh beer” are intermingled between the lighthearted drawings.

Mural by Meng at ToddX

During the summer, benches and patio seating will be available just outside of Todd on Ground 59’s pedestrian plaza.

On the menu

Liotrakun says the Todd menu is expected to evolve, with new items added as the business becomes established. But even the inaugural menu is filled with delicious must-try options, including various vegan and vegetarian options, which are prepared in a dedicated fryer that’s separate from that used for chicken and seafood.

The showcase, of course, is Todd Chicken, which is available in the form of fried wings, Karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and chicken tenders.

Wings come with fried tteokbokki (Korean rice cakes)

Wings are available in various quantities (six pieces for $10; nine pieces for $14; 12 pieces for $18; and 20 pieces for $27). Karaage is available in a set portion for $9; and tenders are available as three-piece ($7) or five-piece ($10).  

All can be ordered plain (fried); seasoned with cheese powder or Asian seasonings (cheesy cheddar, white cheddar, Thai Larb, Tom Yum or Szechuan Spice); or sauced (soy garlic, Thai sweet chili, spicy mayo, garlic lime mayo, Seoul BBQ, zesty Buffalo, K-spice or Mango habanero). Extra sauces to enjoy on the side are available for $2 each (yes, you should aspire to try them all).


Chicken-worthy sides include sticky rice ($3), sweet pickled radishes ($2.50), kimchi ($3) and kimchislaw ($3.50).

Chicken wings and sides
Garlic soy chicken wings with kimchislaw and pickled radishes.

Guests can also order Todd Fries with a choice of original ($6) or sweet potato ($7). Fries can be seasoned with cheesy cheddar, white cheddar, Thai Larb, Tom Yum or Szechuan Spice for a $2 upcharge.

Next up are Todd Kicks, a selection of fried snacks that include fried fish ($12); takoyaki (fried Japanese street dumplings filled with octopus, $10); cheese curds ($10); ika geso (fried squid tentacles, $10); beef or veggie gyoza ($9); veggie yasai (tempura, $8); potato korokke (Japanese potato croquettes, $7); fried tofu ($7); and onion rings ($6).

Ika geso with garlic lime mayo
Ika geso with garlic lime mayo

Of course, there are also a variety of fun Todd Specialties. Among them are Snow Onion Wings (fried wings topped with sweet onions and a sweet and sour creamy mayo-based sauce, $15) and Green Onion Wings (fried wings topped with green onions and sweet and savory soy garlic sauce, $15).

There are also truffle parmesan fries ($12); and cheesy beef bulgogi gyoza (topped with melted mozzarella cheese, bonito flakes and sweet, savory, tangy katsu sauce, $12).

Cheesy Beef Bulgogi Gyoza
Cheesy Beef Bulgogi Gyoza

Beverages include a variety of soft drinks, Fiji water and Pokka canned tea (green, peach oolong or Jasmine green).  Todd also offers sake (junmai or nigori) and soju (original or strawberry) and a selection of canned Asian beers (Sapporo, Terra, Hitachino White, Beer Lao, Tsing Lao and Asahi). 

They will also feature three beers on draft including Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban and a rotating beer (currently Lakefront IPA).  Tap beer is available by the glass or as a 1.5 liter beer tower for $15 (perfect for patio season).

During Todd’s soft opening, they plan to be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can follow them on Instagram or Facebook for updates.

Extended hours are expected to take effect during the summer months. Parking with access to Todd (via a pedestrian pass-through) is available on both Kinnickinnic and Robinson Avenues.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.