Stonefly, Ginger owners embrace transformation
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In the world of Milwaukee hospitality, Julia LaLoggia is a master of re-invention. LaLoggia, with partner Rose Billingsley, currently owns Stonefly Brewery, 735 E. Center St., and Ginger, 235 S. 2nd St.
Ginger is the third incarnation of the 2nd Street space and quite possibly the most charmed. LaLoggia began leasing the historic building almost 15 years ago when she opened the popular nightclub, Dish, in 1999.
She later transformed the space, with Deanne Wecker, into the organic food and wine bar, Barossa, and finally, into the casual tapas bar Ginger in 2008 with Billingsley.
The evolution of LaLoggia's businesses reflect the evolution of her life.
"Dish was a reflection of my personality at the time. I was younger, into the rave scene and had no problem going out five or six times a week," says LaLoggia. "And the wine bar / organic restaurant was my partner's dream. It was great food but not really my style."
LaLoggia and Billingsley own the Fink's building, formerly Redroom, 1875 N. Humboldt Ave., and lease the space to MojoFuco Restaurants group. LaLoggia is also the former owner of Bay View's Lee's Luxury Lounge – which is named after her grandmother.
Now with just two establishments, LaLoggia and Billingsley are able to really focus on them and make multiple changes and improvements.
Recently, they expanded Ginger's hours – it's now open on Tuesdays and offers service an hour earlier every day. The business will also stay open later than 9 p.m., if there's a demand for service.
Ginger offers a happy hour Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. that features $3 select wines, beer and tapas. (Tuesdays offer happy hour prices all night.)
LaLoggia and Billingsley – along with Ginger's head chef, Pedro Tejada – will soon unveil a new menu at Stonefly. The food offerings will include new entrees, small plate items, non-deep fried appetizers and more late-night dining options.
"We are going to keep the things people love, but add to them. We plan to go more in the direction of the food that Pedro and I are passionate about," says LaLoggia. "People come to Stonefly, mostly, for burgers and fries, beer and cheese. That's great, but people are asking for different things now, too."
LaLoggia, who does about half of the cooking and menu item creation at Ginger, says she and Tejada – a native of Ecuador whose father owned a restaurant – are passionate about Central and South American food and small plate dining.
This is already evident on Ginger's menu – which changes about every two weeks – with stellar offerings like fried plantains, fish tacos, tortilla soup, black bean sliders, bacon-wrapped scallops and jerk shrimp.
"Our specials really shine. They are never made from whatever we needed to get rid of that week," says LaLoggia.
According to Billingsley, small plate dining has revolutionized the way some people go out to eat and drink. Groups and couples often go from one tapas place to the next rather than sitting down to one big meal and a bottle of wine.
"I see an excitement in people over eating and drinking this way. They are having fun and really getting into it," says Billingsley.
There is some customer overlap between Stonefly and Ginger. Ginger customers often brunch at Stonefly, where brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Although Riverwest's Stonefly and Walker's Point's Ginger are very different in some ways – most notably Stonefly is also a brewery – they have a similarly casual and versatile vibe.
When Billingsley and LaLoggia were in the planning stages of Ginger, they were very careful to create an environment that truly reflected the people they had become.
"We wanted to create a space that works for a fun, romantic date or one you can pop in for a beer. Those are the kind of places we love, and we wanted to do that here," says LaLoggia. "This is us. This is what we like to do."
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