By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jan 22, 2016 at 9:52 AM Photography: Bobby Tanzilo

The wait for Wauwatiki, the tiki-themed bar and restaurant coming to 6502 W. North Ave., looks like it may be coming to a close.

Originally, co-owner Panagiotis (Peter) Panagos, he and his partners (James Findlay and Jason Growel) set their sights on Sunday, March 13 for a public soft opening. However, due to construction delays, the partners have delayed their opening, which is likely to take place in late March or early April.

Panagos says that interior remodeling has progressed steadily over the past few months, and he's excited for the public to be able to see the results. Among other details, Lono, one of four ancient tiki gods and protector of fertility, music and peace, has been chosen as a primary symbol for the concept. His visage appears in the Wauwatiki logo, and other elements within the space.

Tiki drinks 

Panagos says they’ve worked with a number of talented bartenders, including esteemed Indiana bartender Kendall Lockwood, who has served as a consultant in the development of some of Wauwatiki’s signature offerings.

There will be a variety of classic tiki drinks, says Panagos, including the Mai Tai, which (thanks to sponsorships from Mount Gay and Trader Vics Rum) will be made with the classic Trader Vic’s recipe. A rum-based bloody Mary will be made with spiced rum. And there will be a single barrel old fashioned made with Single Barrel Cruzan Rum. There will also be drinks built for sharing, including a punch bowl that serves six to eight guests.

Panogas says they’ll also have over 20 sipping rums, with a goal of "building the rum line based on input from regular customers." There will also be a Cruzan Single Barrel club through which patrons can buy a personal bottle of rum, which will be kept for them at the Wauwatiki bar.

Small plates

The food menu has evolved, says Panagos. Lunch will be primarily sandwich based, with a focus on items like the signature Wauwatiki burger. Dinner service will be comprised primarily of Polynesian and Caribbean inspired small plates including options like barbecue, wings (potentially pork wings) and a pu pu platter, complete with a central flame that functions as a mini hibachi grill.

"The best way to enjoy the relaxed tiki environment is really to sit back, socialize and share food with friends," says Panogas, who notes that the menu will be built to encourage people to linger and socialize.

Despite dashed hopes that Wauwatiki would be open before the end of November, Panagos says he’s beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He credits assistance from Ald. Joel Tilleson, Flux Design and FF&SJ lawyers Brian Randall and Larry Glusman, all of whom he says kept the project moving along despite obstacles.

Once open, Wauwatiki plans to serve customers from 11 a.m. to close daily.

Work at Wauwatiki

Wauwatiki will be issuing an open call for professional servers, cooks and mixologists at events held at the restaurant Feb. 8-10 from 6 to 10 p.m. All interested parties should plan to attend.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

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.