Buraka Unveils Plans for Façade, Patio

MNA P&D to consider Buraka and Gib’s Bar request for outdoor seating

Plan for the exterior to the new Buraka, which will occupy 1210 Williamson.

Plan for the exterior to the new Buraka, which will occupy 1210 Williamson.

The Marquette Neighborhood Association Preservation & Development Committee meets Tuesday (June 9) to consider and vote on two requests for outdoor seating and one alcohol license. Maron Ragassa, owner of the much-hailed Buraka (1210 Williamson), has revealed drawings for the upgraded front of the building and rear deck and is seeking neighborhood support.

The concrete block building, which was constructed in 1966, has housed such venerated businesses as the Willy Bear and the just departed Jolly Bob’s, but is mostly architecturally unremarkable. This should win easy clearance from the Landmarks Commission; their staff report says Ragassa will have to modify the planned exterior insulation and siding as well as provide more detail about how the rear deck will relate to the building.

Plans submitted to Landmarks shows a layout very similar to Jolly Bob’s with seating for 40 and additional 17 at bar stools. Another eight could be seated outside. Inside capacity is shown at 74 with District Six Alder Marsha Rummel reporting a total capacity of 119. Buraka will be applying to the Alcohol Licensing Review Committee for a Class B combo liquor license with 30 percent alcohol to 65 percent food ratio.  Continue reading

Grampa’s Hopes Eager Pizza Patrons Will Fund Elegant Waiting Room Next Door

$50K kickstarter sought to fund rehabilitation and conversion of 1380 Williamson

1380 Williamson Street is slowly evolving into Gib's, a swanky waiting area for the space-challenged Grampa's Pizzeria next door.

1380 Williamson Street is slowly evolving into Gib’s, a swanky waiting area for the space-challenged Grampa’s Pizzeria next door.

Not even a year after Grampa’s Pizzeria opened they had a problem, a very good problem. Most nights, especially the weekends, there was nary a table to be had. The approximately 45 seat restaurant serves a staple of four to five well thought-out pizza offerings along with inventive sides that change with the seasons or the creative whims of Co-Owner and Executive Chef Gilbert Altschul.

The small location also has its cozy charm but very little space for patrons who are waiting to be seated. Earlier this year Altschul partnered with notable cocktail creator Hastings Cameron and Grampa’s bar manager Josh Swentzel to open Imaginary Bar next door at 1380 Williamson Street to provide a loungey “waiting room” experience for diners.

As the project moved forward the restoration work became quite extensive and pricey causing Altschul to buyout Swentzel and Cameron. The two-story bar has been renamed Gib’s Bar but will retain much of the original intent, however Altschul is energized by the new project including culinary inspiration from such things as salmon in a cone.

Continue reading

Garden Fresh Dining

‘Locally grown ingredients’ for some Willy eateries mean the backyard

The extensive garden in the backyard of Grampa's Pizzeria which supplies fresh ingredients for their menu.

The extensive garden in the backyard of Grampa’s Pizzeria which supplies fresh ingredients for their menu.

“Garden Fresh”, the bastardized phrase that appears on just about every menu from fast food joints to high-end restaurants. In recent years there has been a push by local groups such as Dane Buy Local and REAP Food Group and restaurants to use locally grown or produced ingredients like fruits, vegetables and meats.

Some Willy Street restauranteurs are even cutting out that step too by growing their ingredients in their own backyards. Many of the commercial buildings on the street don’t have the space to support gardens, but some places do make it work.

On a small parcel of walkway between the Third Lake Ridge shopping center building and it’s credit union drive-thru is a side door to Bahn Thai where several large pots with green vegetables are growing including a rather precocious basil plant.

Continue reading

Your Imaginary Papa Wants a Nice Dry Vermouth

Sunday Aperitivo event will debut future Imaginary Bar offerings

The cocktail lounge slated to open at 1380 Williamson now has a name, Imaginary Bar. One of its missions is to cater to dinner patrons waiting for tables next door at Grampa's Pizzeria (background).

The cocktail lounge slated to open at 1380 Williamson now has a name, Imaginary Bar. One of its missions is to cater to dinner patrons waiting for tables next door at Grampa’s Pizzeria (background).

A unique event Sunday (May 18) at Osteria Papvero will celebrate the Italian ritual tradition of Aperitivo or pre-dinner, while debuting possible food and drink offerings planned for Imaginary Bar which will open later this year at 1380 Williamson Street.

Aperitivo emanates from the latin word meaning “to open” and for Italians means consuming light culinary fare such as nuts, olives, cheeses, and meats along with a dry vermouth, campari or other light liquor. This combination is meant to get your stomach rumbling and ready for a larger meal later on.

In a sense, Your Imaginary Papa: An Aperitivo Social plans to open the curtain a bit on the customer experience one might expect at Imaginary Bar, which is intended to be an apertivo-like experience for people waiting to dine next door at Grampa’s Pizzeria.

Continue reading

Commercial Development on Willy May Dominate MNA Board Meeting

Developments at each end of street highlight contrasting neighborhood priorities

1380 Williamson Street is currently vacant, but 16 Bar Spoons wants to turn the residence into a craft cocktail lounge

1380 Williamson Street is currently vacant, but 16 Bar Spoons wants to turn the residence into a craft cocktail lounge

While every Marquette Neighborhood Association Board meeting is important, tonight’s (March 20) meeting may further illuminate the difference in preferences for development on Williamson Street. With the neighborhood already at loggerheads over too much residential development at 722 and now 706 Williamson; a proposal to convert an existing residence into a craft cocktail lounge did not earn MNA’s  Preservation & Development Committee recommendation at Wednesday’s meeting.

Josh Swentzel (Star Liquor, Grampa’s Pizzeria, Tip Top Tavern), Hastings Cameron (Forequarter, Underground Food Collective) and Gilbert Altschul (Grampa’s Pizzeria, Mickey’s Tavern) have formed 16 Bar Spoons, LLC. to lease the property at 1380 Williamson which is currently owed by Ben Altschul (Gilbert’s brother) and which Swentzel says is currently vacant. The yet to be named lounge divided the committee since the location would turn a two-unit residence into a commercial establishment.

Continue reading

Grampa’s Pizzeria Extends Fig Leaf to Moms and Kids

New Willy Street business gives free pizza to atone for breastfeeding flap


The intimate table setting in Grampa’s main dining area was too close for one patron who complained about a breastfeeding diner.

Last week at Grampa’s Pizzeria, Managing Partner Marissa Johnson offered a breastfeeding patron a more private area to nurse after another patron had complained. According to an account published on Madison.com the patron did not accept the offer and left soon after.

A small social media firestorm soon appeared on Facebook as some area mothers threatened to boycott the establishment. According to a state law passed in 2009 breastfeeding in public is a protected act and while Ms. Johnson may not have technically run afoul of the law in offering the woman an alternate location; the incident has inflamed passions on the Near East Side.  Continue reading

Opening Set for Grampa’s

Paint and then patrons only left for new late-night pizza establishment

With the opening of Grampa’s Pizzeria only weeks away Owner and Chef Gilbert Altschul is focusing on the final details. The building, which was formerly Grandpa’s Gun Shop, has undergone quite the transformation in the past few months. Fresh drywall adorns every flat surface, newly stained cedar siding gives the building fresh pop, and an arty sculpture-like metal sign hangs above the front window which features a large flower box overflowing with fresh greenery.

The day I visited for an update, the din of construction was emanating from the restaurant, and I found Gilbert and Bar Manager Josh Swentzel in the backyard conducting an interview with a potential waitress.  Continue reading

MCBW: Potato Maibock and The Mickey Brat

Event pairs Mickey’s secret brats and new O’so brew on the cusp of national fame

Source: Osobrewing.com

Source: Osobrewing.com

Madison Craft Beer Week is in full swing and while there are dozens of events around the city, the O’so Tasting and Brat cook out with Catfish Stephenson event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m at Mickey’s Tavern Wednesday night (May 8) is a worthy mid-week stop.

I wrote last year about the event after encountering Underground Meat’s sample table featuring Goat Salami; an animal I had never tried before but ended up buying a package of the charcuterie that is made right here in the neighborhood.

While the beer was quite good, what truly left an impression last year was the most savory brats I have ever tasted. They were so good I spent the next year trying to find out who made them. Each subsequent visit to Mickey’s included an interrogation of a server or bartender about the mysterious cook and the magical recipe that produced brats that I’m sure Walter White would describe as “pharmaceutical grade”.  Continue reading

Grampa’s Pizzeria is Open Late

Grandson to add panache, build brand around bar-born family recipe

Gilbert Altschul is opening Grampa’s Pizzeria in the former space of Larry Gleasman’s Grampa’s Gun Shop.

One of Willy Street’s longtime artisans has quietly retired as Larry Gleasman recently closed his gunsmithing business, Grampa’s Gun Shop at 1374 Williamson Street, after 30 years. Gilbert Altschul, who grew up just a few blocks away, plans to re-invigorate the location and open Grampa’s Pizzeria honoring his own grandfather, using the elder’s pizza recipe that delighted his family for years.

Gilbert’s late grandfather, William VandeHey, first created his hand-rolled pizzas while serving in the Air Force in the 1950s and ‘60s. During that time, he opened a bar and eventually sold the pies out of his establishment for a few dollars apiece. The recipe would live on at family events, and Gilbert learned how to prepare the pizza from his dad, Dan Altschul, who had learned it from William.  Continue reading