Riverwest Filling Station: Milwaukee's first growler bar
Sometimes, the law just doesn't work for you.
Such was the case for Bryan Atinsky and his business partners, Allen and Kari Church. The trio wanted to open a restaurant and bar that offered growlers – 64-ounce sealed containers of tap beer to go – but, strangely, Brew City's laws did not permit the third party selling of growlers except in brew pubs.
So, with the help of Ald. Nik Kovac, the trio had the law changed. And voila! Milwaukee will soon have its very own growler bar and eatery called the Riverwest Filling Station, 701 E. Keefe. It opens Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 5 p.m.
Atinsky bought the building, which was in foreclosure at the time, last year. It formerly housed Albanese's Italian restaurant for many decades, but had been empty for three years. During that time, it wasn't winterized or cared for, so when Atinsky took ownership the property, it was in rough shape.
With the help of multiple architects and designers – including Milwaukee's Flux Design – the building was gutted, rebuilt and restored when possible.
"We took it down to the rafters," says Atinsky.
The findings were incredible. Behind the dropped ceiling, they discovered an ornate tin ceiling. Under a layer of carpeting and seven – yes, seven – layers of tile they unearthed maple floors in perfect condition.
Through the remodel process, workers also found out that the building originally had large windows that were bricked in during the '60s, allegedly because of Civil Rights era-related fears. Recently, the windows were reinstalled in a funky, modern fashion – Atinsky describes them as "broken geometric" – and contribute greatly to the completely new look and feel of the space.
The theme of the Riverwest Filling Station is no theme – and the eclectic decor and menu reflect this.
Much of the original architecture has been restored and yet mid-Century and modern, industrial aesthetics appear as well.
"Our goal was to have different styles but stay within the same color palate. Red, beige, brown, white as well as metal," he says.
Food offerings will include Middle Eastern, North African, Indonesian and Southern United States cuisine including a blackened catfish sandwich and fried chicken over buttered grits. A New York strip steak and scallops will also be available.
All of the entrees will range in price from $7 to $18.
Some of the food will be cooked in a smoker – including the bacon. Atinsky hopes to have a daily "smoker's special."
The 22-foot bar will have 30 regularly-changing beers on tap, ranging from local to international. They will be available by the glass or by the growler. Growlers will be sold until 9 p.m. every night and must be sealed when transporting them home.
"This is a way to take very fresh draft beer back to your house or to a dinner party," says Atinsky.
Two house wines from a small California winery will be on tap as well, along with a large selection of whiskey and rum.
Atinsky grew up in Milwaukee, then lived in Madison where he attended the University of Wisconsin. He then moved to Israel where he received a master's degree and worked as a journalist in Jerusalem. Along the way, he held numerous jobs as a cook, sous chef and chef.
Tragically, Atinsky's wife, 5-year-old daughter, 9-month-old son and his mother-in-law were killed in a car accident in Israel. Atinsky moved back to Milwaukee in 2010 and decided he wanted to open a growler bar after visiting some in other parts of the country including Athens, Ga.
"I had to rebuild my life," says Atinsky.
Atinsky had been friends with the Churches since the mid '90s. They had been living in Boston, obtaining a few college degrees and were interested in opening a business.
"It was good timing for all of us," Atinsky says.
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guso | Feb. 6, 2013 at 9:56 a.m. (report)
Wasting your time is relevant to someone, maybe not to you, but someone.
I don't work for the government so it is irrelevant if I waste my time posting comments.
guso | Feb. 4, 2013 at 3:25 p.m. (report)
ChateautDweller , Do you or anyone you know go on the internet during work hours? Or perhaps a smartphone during break??? Get real.
joeyt is right. The growler fills are way overpriced. Also, the heat wasn't working the day we were there (second day it was open). The food was mediocre. I hope they work out these kinks, because it was a cool place and I would like to go back.
I've never really heard of or understood what a growler was I guess.....a 64 ounce mug of beer to go? I'm having a hard time understanding the concept....why do I need a 6 pack of beer in one glass to go? Do people take these home to drink them? They changed a law to make this legal? Gotta love Wisconsin. Good luck with your business.
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