In Dining

Charles E. Fromage will specialize in cheese and charcuterie plates.

Charles E. Fromage to feature cheese, wine and more on Vliet Street

There's something delightful coming to the old LA Family Barbers space at 5809 W. Vliet St.

And the venue's name and tagline are as clever as can be. Charles E. Fromage, "a place where adults can be adults," is both a play on words (think: French Chuck E. Cheese) and an apt description of what guests will find when they visit.

The tiny building (with its interior measuring 23 x 13) will provide both indoor and outdoor seating with a menu that includes wine, beer and soda along with appetizer-style fare including cheese plates, charcuterie and antipasti.

The concept, notes Honore Schiro, who will open Charles E. Fromage with her husband Tony, is fashioned from the idea behind 17th century French salons, which were organized to provide a place for men and women to congregate and engage in intellectual discourse.

"It's a place where adults can meet, have a drink and a bit of food and engage in great conversation," she says. "It will function a bit like a little French bistro. Casual, fun ... we want it to be upscale, but not snobby."

It's a passion project for the two former Milwaukee Public Schools teachers who met "years ago" while working at Lincoln Center of the Arts. They'd always toyed with the idea of opening a small restaurant and, in recent years, began looking for an appropriate space. So when Honore's sister, Marye Beth Dugan, owner of Vliet Street's Rainbow Booksellers, told them the building across the street from the shop was for sale, the Schiro's were excited to check it out.

"I've wanted to do something like this for a long long time," says Tony, an avid home cook who has always enjoyed entertaining others. "I've always enjoyed it, and people say I'm good at it. We also really love the Vliet Street neighborhood. So, it was really fortuitous that things worked out this way. I can't think of a better way to spend my retirement."

According to the Schiros, the menu at Charles E. Fromage will be simple, featuring a few housemade items along with artisan cheeses and meats. Both the beer and cheese lists will maintain a focus on Wisconsin-made products.

The Schiros plan to be open a few evenings during the week: Mondays to accommodate the service industry, as well as Thursday and Friday evenings. On weekends, they may open earlier.

"We'd love to serve some creative brunch drinks, like beermosas and beertinis," says Tony. "And we're thinking about serving little hot ham and cheese sandwiches … in keeping with the Milwaukee tradition of hot ham and rolls."

Some items will be prepared onsite in a small lower-level prep kitchen. Other items will be prepared at MKE Kitchen, a commercial kitchen space the Schiro's are renting in the Riverwest neighborhood.

And the operation will take cues from guests, says Honore, who says the goal is to be a place that's comfortable, casual and welcoming.

"As teachers, you always hear the term 'lifelong learning.'" she says. "And that's really what this is. We'll be learning along the way, and we're hoping to give people the opportunity to really learn right along with us."

Tony says they'd love to be open by mid-to late September, just before the launch of the Milwaukee Film Festival. Charles E. Fromage is likely to be open Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m. with extended hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Watch OnMilwaukee for additional information as it develops.



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