Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
Michael Feker, who opened his Il Mito restaurant in Walker’s Point about four years ago, wants to replicate his retail magic by adding to the recent real estate development in the Cathedral Square area in downtown Milwaukee. Feker is planning a mid-November opening for his newest venture, Los Mitos, at 790 N. Jefferson St. The space was formerly occupied by Ed Debevic’s and then Judy’s Family Restaurant.
The location for the new restaurant was particularly attractive, Feker said, because of its close proximity to Cathedral Square, an area with several office complexes and several well-known lunch spots.
Lunches, he said, will be a rich offering at Los Mitos.
"Think of lunch at Il Mito," he said. "Both will be similar in price, but the flavors and cuisine will be different."
The similarities between the two restaurants will stop there, Feker said. While Il Mito focuses on coastal Italian cuisine, Los Mitos will combine Mexican and South American flavors with "a twist of Californian," which Feker said will highlight the flavors of fresh ingredients.
"My wife is Mexican," he said. "I am in love with Mexican, South American and Argentenian cuisine. My palette is interested with these basic flavors, and I will let them speak for themselves."
Feker said the office development just around the corner from his new restaurant made the space on Jefferson Street ideal for his latest eatery.
"I have seen the tremendous growth," he said.
Construction of the office space at Cathedral Place, a 19-story office and condominium building, was completed in late 2003. In addition to about 205,000 square feet of office space, the tower also boasts 28 condo units on seven floors, 1,000 parking stalls and 16,000 square feet of retail space.
The Cathedral Square project was a joint venture between Van Buren Management, Inc., and New Land Enterprises. Van Buren Management also owns the building in which Feker is building Los Mitos.
Feker said the significant growth of the East Towne area was another reason to put his new, $320,000 restaurant in that section of downtown.
"Many people have paved the way, and I feel the area is ready for my kind of food, my approach to dining," he said. "Hopefully I will complement the area, the neighborhood and will have a chance to grow with it."
Steve Looft, director of development with Van Buren Management, said Feker’s restaurant was a perfect addition to the neighborhood.
"Michael is a wonderful chef – his culinary skills are incredible, and he has a great deal of ingenuity," he said. "The balance he and Los Mitos brings … the creative, interesting food will be an interesting development. It fits East Towne."
The two previous restaurants in the location were unable to create lasting success, but Feker believes that the area, and Milwaukee as a whole, is ready for his newest creation.
"Many of my patrons’ palettes have been taken for granted," he said.
While the restaurateur already is busy with the operations at Il Mito, often showing up for work there at 7 a.m., he said the extra effort to create the new eatery is not weighing him down.
"I am in love. I am so happy," he said. "I am hands on, and my contractor (Sinuhe Construction) is hands on with me. Now that everything is coming together, the details are all beautiful."
The new restaurant will be housed in about 4,900 square feet of space, with about 3,000 square feet devoted to seating between 100 and 120 customers. Additional seating will be available on Los Mitos’ patio along Jefferson Street during warm months.
Feker said diners who had been in the previous restaurants in the space that will house Los Mitos will be treated to a new experience because of extensive remodeling.
"What myself and the architects (have designed), they will not recognize it any more," he said.
The restaurant’s interior is a storm of activity, with workers creating its bar and finishing dining room fixtures in recent weeks. Much of the work on the kitchen is complete, large appliances such as the grills and an exhaust system will soon be delivered.
The success he has experienced with Il Mito has made opening his new restaurant possible, Feker said, but has required him to take a step back.
"Il Mito is the foundation for what I will do. It’s my baby," he said. "This will be the second. And after seeing the first able to walk, it doesn’t need me to hold its hand."
The success of Il Mito has also made it possible for Feker to open Los Mitos without a loan. The $320,000 budget he is working with for the new restaurant is his own money, much of which was made through Il Mito, he said.
Some might be cautious about using their own funds for a new restaurant, but Feker said his experience in opening restaurants in Milwaukee, California and elsewhere has given him all the tools he needs.
"I hate working for the banks," he said. "It’s like a carriage. You need all four wheels running really smooth. You need to know all it takes."
While Feker has worked over the past year on his new project, he has been working on the restaurant’s menu for about 12 years, developing its blend of cuisines and flavors into something truly unique.
"I have taken the approach of the Argentenian and South American cuisine with the influences of the Spanish and Italian and my Californian training," he said. "It is different, how you can relate the food, the complex flavors, the sense of the mouth."
The resulting combination, he says, will be an experience that Milwaukee’s diners have never had before.
"Every part of you will say, ‘Wow, what is that? How the hell did he do that?’" Feker said. "That’s what I’m going for. I want to be the one."
Los amigos build Los Mitos
A crew of about five men are working daily to ensure that Los Mitos, a new restaurant under construction along Jefferson Street in downtown Milwaukee, is ready to open for business in November.
While the new restaurant is a result of the vision, ideas and creativity of owner Michael Feker, its construction has been a reflection of a friendship.
Feker hired Sinuhe Cervantes-Razo’s Sinuhe Construction firm to build the interior of the restaurant, and the two men have been working together for months to get ready for the opening.
"We’re great friends, and we also see things eye-to-eye," Feker said. "Now that it’s all coming together, the details are beautiful."
While the job is the first large restaurant for Cervantes-Razo’s fledgling company, he has worked with family members on restaurant development and redevelopments such as La Fuente, La Hacienda and more.
Sinuhe Construction is based in Milwaukee and has four employees other than Cervantes-Razo working on the Los Mitos project.
Feker said that Cervantes-Razo was able to understand his vision for the restaurant from the beginning, making their work together easy even when the job itself was not. Cervantes-Razo said their friendship has made him want to do anything he can to make Los Mitos successful.
"We’re trying to make his ideas true," Cervantes-Razo said. "He’s really understandable. We’re watching all the details, trying to give what he’s looking for."
Cervantes-Razo also said he values the relationship with Feker even more than any positive advertisement he could get from working on the restaurant, which is in turn making him work harder there.
"I’m trying to work to give the best I’ve got because of the close relationship – that’s the most important part to me," Cervantes-Razo said. "He’s kind of an angel in my life. He not only supports me in business, he helped me in my personal life. And I have gratitude to him."
– Eric Decker
October 15, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI