The Block: West Allis
When you think of West Allis, the West Allis Farmers Market and other long-established businesses like Freese’s Candy, Rupena’s Fine Foods and Kegel’s Inn might come to mind. You might also think of a chain restaurant or 10. But have you visited us lately? Over the past decade, West Allis has transformed into a great place to eat and drink local — at independently owned coffee shops, eateries and specialty food businesses.
When I was first elected Mayor in 2008, we had just three or four of these places. Antigua Latin Inspired Kitchen, which had just opened on 58th and Burnham, was one of them. I had been a huge fan of El Rey Sol, the restaurant that owner Citali Mendieta-Ramos’ father had in Milwaukee. When Citali decided to open her own restaurant in West Allis, I was so excited. With the bright and unique flavors of their kitchen, Citali and her husband, Nicolas, were some of the first to spark our culinary renaissance.
The West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe also brought our food scene forward. Several years ago, I had a conversation with the owner, Mark Lutz. At the time, Mark was offering a full deli menu at his shop near UWM and a limited selection of sandwiches at his location in West Allis. I mentioned to him that we didn’t really have a good, local deli and that we were saturated with chain restaurants. Shortly after, he popped into my office and asked about expanding his menu is West Allis. Mark’s UWM location eventually closed, and today, the West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe is one of our most popular lunch spots.
Mark continued to breathe new life into our dining scene by purchasing and rehabbing the building across the street from his shop, which is now Ka-Bob’s Bistro. The next building he bought houses our first farm-to-table restaurant, The Farmer’s Wife. Mark was also instrumental in bringing our first cheese and spirit festival, Curds & Kegs, to the West Allis Farmer’s Market this Summer.
West Allis is becoming a destination for locals and visitors alike. In 2012, I attended the grand opening for Chef Paz Peruvian Restaurant. I had eaten Peruvian food before, but Chef Marita Paz’s menu instantly hooked me and many others — it’s a destination for those seeking the comfort of traditional Peruvian cuisine. In the past five years alone, we opened our first craft brewery, Westallion Brewing Company, and our first wine bar, Corvina Wine Company, expanded. We welcomed the return of Crawdaddy’s Cajun and say Aggie’s Bakery & Cake Shop move into downtown. We’ll be welcoming the Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli this Fall.
Now, the number of local businesses I love to support has expanded, brick by brick, storefront by storefront, from three or four to dozens, and I wish I could mention them all here. As a city, we continue to grow, and yet our options remain unique. We are not adding the third of fourth location of an existing eatery — we introduce new dining experiences every day. You won’t find options like we offer anywhere but here, and the passion our business owners and residents have for our food is unparalleled. These are truly independent, entrepreneurial businesses founded by owners inspired by a love of good food and drink.
Have you visited the new West Allis? Pull up a chair and join us.