Fish fry revamp is gamble for Klisch

For years, Lakefront Brewery Inc. has been the site of one of Milwaukee’s most popular Friday night fish fries.

That’s why many in Milwaukee were stunned by Lakefront owner Russ Klisch’s recent announcement that it will revamp its Friday night fish fry, which in the past had been outsourced to Vecchio Entertainment Group.

Instead, Lakefront will take over operation of its own fish fry. The change begets the obvious questions: “Why are you taking it in house? And isn’t that a huge gamble?”

Klisch responded, “With the growth of the tours we needed to have more control of our space. With the current set up we would get huge crowds here and then have to kick them out. Our brewery has really become a Milwaukee attraction and currently ranked #3 for places to go in Milwaukee on Trip Advisor, and we have plans on improving the attraction. We couldn’t do this when you only control the building for the first part of the day. I’ve always been a gambler with my business, so this comes natural to me.”

Lakefront’s new food counter will be open on weekdays during brewery tours and will have a limited menu, including Wisconsin-made artisan cheeses and meats. Local food providers will include Growing Power, Miller Bakery, Rocket Baby Bakery, Great Lakes Distillery and Bittercube.

Lakefront’s fish fry will continue to be served on Friday only on Commerce Street and will continue to feature the Brew House Polka Kings band. However, Lakefront’s kitchen operations will now be overseen by a new hospitality general manager, Jessica Koehler; new head chef, Kristin Walker; and sous chef, Matthew Venzke.

The operational name will change from Lakefront Palm Garden to Lakefront Beer Hall. Marvin Waters will serve as the beer hall manager.

“We are very excited to offer visitors more tour opportunities and more local foods overall,” Klisch said. “This is a natural evolution of our commitment to customers and to local and sustainable foods.”

Lakefront’s Friday fish fry will be temporarily on hiatus during the transition period. Klisch plans on reopening the fish fry as soon as possible.

Friday night fish fry aficionados will most assuredly be curious to sample the new recipe. “We have a fantastic fish fry batter recipe. We have passed around samples on tours and everyone gave it a big thumbs up. The fish fry will still be a traditional fish but some small things will change. We are not imitators but must be ourselves in the kitchen to provide the highest quality culinary experience,” Klisch said. “I will use the same quality principles in the operation of the restaurant which will also produce as high of a quality fish fry as our beer.”

Meanwhile, the company is continuing on its plans to open a new brewery on 9.3 acres of land in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley at 841 Canal St.

Lakefront Brewery, Inc. was started in 1987 and is celebrating its 26th anniversary this year. The brewery distributes its products to 35 states, Israel and Canada.

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