There’s a bit of mischief brewing inside the ground floor restaurant at the Clarke Hotel, 314 W. Main St. in Downtown Waukesha. And it will come in the form of Travieso, a new upscale concept which aims to combine the classic appeal of Wisconsin supper club fare with the inventive flavors of Latin cuisine.
Behind the concept are Chefs Martin Magaña and Arnie Gonzales and Dillon Knight, the folks behind the Trouble Makers Cocina, the pop-up turned food truck which expanded last year to include a brick and mortar presence at the Central Waters taproom, 1037 W. Juneau Ave.
Travieso, a word which means "mischievous" in Spanish, is slated to debut as soon as April, transforming the space which formerly housed the Five Points Irish Pub. The pub closed at the end of February following the sale of the Clarke Hotel to Alan Huelsman, a prominent property owner and investor in Berg Management, which manages numerous Waukesha properties including BrewCade Pub and Chef Pam’s Kitchen. The Clarke Hotel, which will see some upgrades, will remain open during the refresh.
Having said that, it's no coincidence that Trouble Makers hosted a number of popular pop-ups at Chef Pam’s Kitchen. In fact, it's a factor which not only assisted them in developing a following among Waukesha area residents, but which prompted Huelsman to approach them with the idea of developing a concept for the hotel restaurant.
What to expect
Knight notes that the restaurant will undergo primarily cosmetic changes to the interior, many of which are intended to brighten up the venue’s former pub-like atmosphere.
“We’re trying to hit on a modern, sexy, chic look that incorporates a bit of Latin flair,” he says, noting that the interior will feature a combination of warm wood accents, plants and artwork. “There are a lot of windows with natural sunlight and we want people who walk past to be able to see all the people enjoying themselves inside.”
Gonzales nods. “We want them to say: ‘I want what he’s having’...,” he adds with a smile, noting that the goal for the Travieso menu will be to offer a well balanced selection of dishes that range from upscale bar fare to more composed offerings.
“People will be able to stop by and eat casual fare at the bar or celebrate a special occasion in the dining room,” he says. “The goal is to make our $10 plates look just as good as our $30 plates.”
Magaña says that they are currently paring down a long list of potential ideas for the menu, which will feature supper club staples like steak, along with creative dishes that showcase Latin flavors and ingredients.
“We are serious and passionate about food,” he says, “And we are bringing our fine dining experience to the table here, along with an emphasis on ingredients that will be sourced from local farms.”
Guests will find unique small plates like platanos asados con queso featuring fried plantains served with smoked tasso ham, fresh mozzarella and cilantro chimichurri; ceviche nopal showcasing tender cactus paddles marinated in leche tigre sauce with pineapple, watermelon, pickled jalapenos and nori chips.
Salads will include selections like bruselas bravas, featuring brussels sprouts, chorizo, pickled red onions and cilantro lime dressing. Meanwhile, fresh seafood selections are likely to include red snapper served with heirloom tomato escabeche, lime, candied pineapple, cilantro, charred green onion and chili oil.
Guests can also look forward to hearty steaks including a 24-ounce bone-in dry-aged ribeye served with seasonal vegetables, charred green onion, salsa verde and avocado; and a porterhouse served with fries, sherry cilantro aioli, tomatillo salsa, charred lemon, grilled onions, and seasonal peppers.
And yes, in classic supper club fashion, Travieso will also be serving up a fish fry on Fridays.
The partners plan to make good use of the restaurant’s banquet room and private dining room, both of which will be used to host private parties and gatherings. The private dining room offers a view of the restaurant’s wine cellar, where the chefs intend to store both wines and a collection of cellared craft brews.
“All of the relationships that we have built with local brewers over the years will allow us to bring in some exclusive, rare beers,” notes Magaña, who says the cellar will also be used to showcase a collection of wines, including a fairly robust selection from Latin America. Travieso will also feature a selection of craft cocktails at the bar.
Knight says the concept is likely to start off with dinner service only, but as time moves forward, they would like to add weekend brunch as well.
Overall, Gonzales says, they hope to showcase the talents they’ve honed throughout their careers and bring something unique to the Waukesha dining scene.
“We started the Trouble Makers Cocina concept with a healthy dose of curiosity,” he says. “And we want to keep that going. So our hope is to keep an air of playfulness, fun, curiosity and mischief around the concept.”
Magaña agrees. “We’re super excited to be in the Downtown Waukesha area,” he says. “And we’re excited to finally have the opportunity to deliver the full amazing experience that we previewed for them during our inaugural pop-up dinners.”
For those wondering if they will still be able to enjoy their Trouble Makers Cocina favorites, including loaded fries, tacos and Friday night fish fry, the answer is yes. Trouble Makers will continue serving at the Central Waters taproom in Milwaukee. In addition, the food truck will make its usual appearances at a variety of events this summer, as well as provide catering for private gatherings.
Got talent? A sober kitchen awaits.
Interested in joining the Trouble Makers Cocina and Trevieso teams? Gonzales says that the partners are currently hiring for a wide variety of positions, including cooks for the food truck, along with front and back of house staff.
“We pride ourselves in being a second chance kitchen,” he says. “We believe that people can change, and we are committed to supporting them if they are willing to put in the work.”
Gonzales says they’ve also committed to being a sober kitchen. He himself has been sober for over a year.
“Coming out of the pandemic, as we started our restaurant concept, we knew we wanted to focus on highlighting and posing solutions to support mental health in the restaurant industry,” he says. “Part of that was eliminating the unhealthy behaviors that we often succumb to in the kitchen, whether it’s shots with the staff or a drink after work.”
Gonzales says that, as he thought about returning to the stressful industry environment – which had only become more challenging during the pandemic – he knew that change was needed.
“I was really hesitant to come back to someone else’s kitchen,” he says. “So we decided to create our own kitchen where we could create a safe place where we don’t have those pressures or levels of stress. We created a space where we work hard, but where we are all supportive of one another.”
To request more information about available positions or to apply, visit the Trouble Makers website at troublemakersmke.com/contact.
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.