It’s been a wild ride for Von Trier owner John Sidoff, but today he will reopen his iconic German-themed bar and restaurant, and says he couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
Last August, Sidoff announced he was going to change the concept and return to a mid-century lounge in honor of when it was Reider’s prior to becoming the German Von Trier. Although Sidoff made this decision in hope of improving business, the public outcry was great and he agreed to keep Von Trier German-themed.
In October, Sidoff teamed up with Wes Shaver and Mike Sorge, who own Black Sheep in Walker's Point, to help renovate the space and menu, but they parted ways last month and Sidoff and his wife Cindy will remain the sole operators.
"About 90 percent of the remodeling is done and we’re thrilled," says Sidoff. "I’m really pleased with the outcome. I think it looks beautiful."
During the past month, they have remodeled the lighting, sound system and some of the worn woodwork. The new lighting showcases aspects of the decor that were "lost" in the past, due to ceiling fan obstruction and low-hanging lights, such as a ceiling mural depicting the German city of Trier and numerous wood sculptures.
For now, the massive chandelier is still in the space, although Sidoff is not sure what he will do with it in the future.
"I’ve thought about bringing it somewhere like the Pabst Mansion where it belongs," says Sidoff. "Somewhere that it would be more visible than it is here. But it’s not going anywhere at the moment."
The new menu is about 80 percent classic German fare but will also offer burgers (with a German twist), pork shank, ribs and a special beer brat from Ney’s Big Sky Ranch in Slinger. A limited version of the menu will be available for a week or so, with the entire menu rolling out soon.
A new 8-draft wine system was installed to offer more variety for wine drinkers. A Wednesday wine promo night is also in the works.
"Not everyone wants to drink a liter of beer," says Sidoff.
At the end of last year, while removing the German mural behind the bar, a surprise mid-century mural was discovered underneath it, and later, five bullets were found lodged in it. Sidoff left the discovered mural up for the holiday season and it served as an attractive backdrop for the tavern’s locally famous German Christmas village. The German mural was recently re-placed over the mid-century mural, but Sidoff says he will remove it annually to expose the mid-century mural during the holiday season because it added a great aesthetic to the Christmas village.
Von Trier will have a formal grand opening party on Thursday, Feb. 15, with a special ceremony including keg tapping of Hofbrau products, food sampling and more.
"I put a lot of money back into this place and I think it could easily go on for another 50 years as is," says Sidoff. "When I finally decide to retire, I’m proud to leave this as an asset to the East Side and to Milwaukee."
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.