Wayward Kitchen Co. reflects on first year
Next week, Wayward Kitchen Co., 1407 S. 1st St., will celebrate its one-year anniversary. This is the first business for owners and spouses Tyler and Megan Mason and the experience has been a learning experience.
Tyler, who serves as the chef, has changed and tweaked the menu throughout the year to reflect the seasons as well as customer responses. For the most part, he makes "new American" food including sandwiches, entrees, desserts and brunch.
The couple has a lot of goals for the second year in business, and OnMilwaukee.com recently stopped by to sample the eats and chat with the Masons about the future.
"My main goal has been – and will continue to be – to make things tasty," Tyler.
OnMilwaukee.com: What has been the most challenging aspect of owning the restaurant this past year?
Tyler Mason: The location. Walker's Point is great but we're a little bit to the south of the neighborhood's dining district and people don't always know about us. I'll say to people we're on 1st and Greenfield, and they look confused.
Megan Mason: We participated in the Polish Moon Bike Ride this summer and the feedback was really good, but people asked us if we were going to be at any other events and we'd point and say, "We have a restaurant right over there."
OMC: What would you have done differently this year if you could have a do-over?
MM: I would have done more marketing and advertising the first six months. We were still waiting on things – licenses, art for the walls – and so we didn't want to over-hype it. But in retrospect, we were careful when we should have hyped it more to get the word out about Wayward.
OMC: What have you learned through this experience?
TM: Everything. I have a lot of experience working in and running a kitchen, but it's a lot different, and a lot easier, when it's someone else's money.
MM: I've learned I can exist on a lot less sleep.
OMC: When are you going to unveil the new menu and what will it entail?
TM: I'm going to have it out next week and it will move toward more roasted items. Wintry, homey foods but with my personal little twists. That's why I own a restaurant: so I can do what I want to do with my food.
Specifically, the new menu will have things like braised beef over jumbo Italian shells and fewer sandwiches. I put a lot of sandwiches on the menu this summer, because I got a lot of feedback that people wanted them, but I was never that into it. I want to do more entrees and appetizers.
OMC: There's been a lot of word-of-mouth regarding your willingness to modify your menu to accommodate people's dietary restrictions. Can you expound on this?
TM: We make everything in house, from scratch, so it's very do-able. We're not back here reading the labels on boxes and jars. I will always do my best to accommodate. I don't have to dust your chicken with flour. I can make it work.
OMC: You recently started an open mic blues night, right?
MM: Yes, every Tuesday night. We just got a public entertainment license this summer. Our alder, Jose Perez, sponsored us.
TM: We had a karaoke night for a while, but I didn't like the vibe. People can do karaoke at a private party, though.
OMC: What are your goals for year two?
MM: We want to collaborate with more breweries and attend more events. Also, we're going to start selling growlers. We want more drinkers. We have a great happy hour with $5 select wines, $3 select pints of craft beer, $2 tall boys. We also have, at the bar only, $2 tacos on Tuesdays and half-priced appetizers.
OMC: Has your brunch business grown over the year? What are your most popular brunch items?
MM: It has. It starts at 11 a.m. and runs late. It's for people like us who don't get up or who serve brunch themselves. We have a three for $15 deal that's pretty popular. For $15 you can get a mix of bloodies, mimosas and screw drivers. We have funky flavors like tamarind and passion fruit and strawberry.
TM: The most popular brunch items are the corned beef cheesy hash and the "sweet chimi," which is a chimichanga with blueberries, house-made vanilla ice cream and house-made granola.
OMC: Overall, did you enjoy this past year?
MM: This isn't something you do for play, it's a lot of work and it's what I want to be doing.
OMC: Do you plan to reintroduce lunch?
TM: Yeah, we started with lunch and then stopped, but it's messing with my chi. I'm here all day anyway. We might as well serve lunch.
OMC: Where did you learn to cook?
TM: I started cooking as a kid. Then I was a dishwasher kid. Then the saute guy didn't show up and so dishwasher kid moved to saute and so on. You know the story.
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