There’s definitely a chill in the air, but West Vliet Street can prepare for a warm, welcoming Peruvian breeze.
That’s because, beginning Wednesday, Dec. 4, Triciclo Perú owners Amy Narr and Mario Diaz Herrera will officially swing open the doors at their brand new brick and mortar restaurant at 3801 W. Vliet St.
The opening marks a dream-come-to-fruition for the couple, who introduced Milwaukee to their distinctive Peruvian-style empanadas via a mobile food cart in 2017. And it marks a step forward for the Martin Drive neighborhood and the Near West Side, a burgeoning area that has flourished thanks to the efforts of numerous groups including the Near West Side Partners.
Take a peek
Step inside the beautifully restored building and you’ll find a combination of modern flourishes and historical remnants, including Cream City brick walls and a tin ceiling which is original to the property built in 1913.
Those details are seamlessly knit together with colorful Peruvian tapestry-inspired hand painted tables and modern-industrial elements including a rustic metal and concrete bar, hardwood flooring and black metal seating.
The newly renovated building is one of a number of area properties which have been purchased and painstakingly restored by Tom Straub of CMS Contracting LLC, and his wife Suzanne, including the adjacent building which houses Pete’s Pops. The building in which Triciclo Peru resides is called The Rissa, named for Straub's daughter.
"We really got lucky in terms of working with someone who really knew what he was doing in terms of preserving a historical building," says Narr. "So the space has this really amazing Milwaukee feel, while simultaneously providing the perfect neutral backdrop for colorful Peruvian elements."
"That’s who we are – Milwaukee and Peru," adds Diaz Herrera, noting that the space is as much an expression of their personal story as the business they run. "We wanted to create a taste of Peru in Milwaukee."
The Peruvian vibe will be augmented by soccer games played on the restaurant’s flat screen television, as well as a soundtrack of Peruvian music in the background.
Peruvian empanadas ($5 each) will be the star of the menu, available in ten flavors from the Lima (steak, raisin, black olive, boiled egg) and ancash (corn, cheese and cilantro) to ayacucho (fried pork, caramelized sweet potato, red onion and sarza criolla).
Gluten-free empanadas will include the chiclayo (shredded chicken, red pepper, green olive, raisin and boiled egg); the cusco (sweet potatoes, collard greens, gouda and parmesan), and the vegan loreto with soy chorizo, potatoes and red peppers.
There will also be one cooked salad featuring carrots, green beans, beets, Peruvian corn and creamy vinaigrette; and one cold salad featuring lettuce, tomato, cucumbers and carrots with a lime vinaigrette (both $8).
On the sweeter side, there will be alfajor, Peruvian sandwich cookies with dulce de leche filling ($1 each).
Milwaukee’s first pisco bar
While pisco sours (a cocktail made with pisco, Peruvian brandy, lime, egg white and simple syrup) can be found at a variety of venues throughout Milwaukee, none will have the selection showcased at Triciclo Perú. The bar will showcase numerous higher end piscos, as well as a collection of house-infused varieties in flavors like peppermint mandarin, lemon, purple corn, and herbal emoliente. The infusions will be displayed, along with a variety of Peruvian carvings and keepsakes, on the back bar.
The bar menu will also include ten signature pisco-based cocktails ($9 each) including a classic pisco sour; Chilcanos with pisco, lime, grenadine, ginger ale and bitters; Mi Algarrobina with pisco, black carob, egg white and cinnamon; Treasure of Lima featuring pisco, pineapple and passionfruit juices; and a pisco mojito with peppermint mandarin pisco, lime and seltzer.
Non-alcoholic options will include Inca Cola (a fruity soda with a hint of lemon verbena); Chicha Morada, a traditional drink featuring peruvian purple corn, pineapple, lime, cinnamon and cloves; Machu punch, a refreshingly fruity drink made with chamomile, lemongrass, ginger, juices of lime, orange, lemon and pineapple, and honey; and emoliente, an herbal hot tea (including barley, flax, boldo, horsetail, lemongrass, quince, lemon, pineapple and honey) prized for its abilities to aid digestion.
There will also be Anodyne Coffee (single origin Peruvian, when available), Rishi Tea, and both domestic and Peruvian beers ($4).
Guests can also enjoy $3 Peruvian brews and $7 chilcanos during Triciclo Perú's happy hour, available Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. (Hungry guests can pair their drinks with a selection of snacks from the evening Peruvian street food menu, detailed below).
Peruvian Street foods
A special menu of Peruvian street foods, priced $6-8, will also be served from 4 p.m. to close. Options will include yucas fritas (fried cassava root with huancaína, a creamy chili-infused cheese sauce); anticuchos (beef heart skewers); tequenos (fried cheese sticks with guacamole); brochetas (grilled chicken skewers); papas rellenas (fried petite potatoes, ground beef hash and zarza criolla); salchipapas (French fries topped with hot dogs, yellow peppers, black olives, cilantro and spicy rocoto sauces). A platter featuring all of the above will be available for $26.
For those seeking a brunch outside of the norm, Triciclo Perú will deliver with a small, but compelling menu served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Items will include traditional banana-leaf wrapped Peruvian tamales filled with chicken or pork and served alongside red onion zarza criolla (pickled onion salad) and French bread ($5); picarones (fried sweet potato, pumpkin and cassava doughnuts served with a sweet chancaca syrup ($5) and a weekly sweet empanada made with seasonal ingredients ($5).
On the brunch drink side, there will also be Machu punch served with a shot of pisco, a drink billed as "like a mimosa, but better!" Additional options will include coffee, tea and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Beginning Dec. 4, Triciclo Perú will be open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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.