Milwaukee’s oldest restaurant: how does Mader’s do it? By Bobby Tanzilo..
Mader’s: old world charm, new world vigor.
Wander the “The Streets of Old Milwaukee” at the Milwaukee Public Museum and you’ll recognize the names of landmark businesses in Milwaukee history; places that are icons of the city.
Just along the street on the left, before the bend, is The Comfort, a restaurant opened on West Water Street — now Plankinton Avenue — in 1902 by German immigrant Charles Mader.
While The Comfort isn’t a household name anymore, once Mader moved his restaurant up and over to 3rd and Highland and renamed it Mader’s, it really began to work its way into the Milwaukee psyche.
Now, it’s Milwaukee’s oldest restaurant and even The New York Times has touted its “Old World elegance.” Culinary writer Shirley Fong-Torres wrote that, “Today Mader’s “Knight’s Bar” is the holy shrine of the German-American brew heart. Few places anywhere give a traveler the sense of having found the soul of a city.”
Before it closed a few years ago, John Ernst Cafe, which opened in 1878, was the city’s oldest restaurant. Following Mader’s is another famed German eatery, Karl Ratzsch’s, which opened in 1904. It also underwent an early name change after debuting as Hermann’s Cafe.
Red Circle Inn in Nashotah and Brass Ball Inn in Paddock Lake vie for the title of the state’s oldest restaurant. Both opened in 1848.
“I covered the food beat for more than 25 years, and I never run out of things to write about because so many restaurants fail,” says dining critic Willard Romantini. “Anybody that’s been around for that long obviously gets my respect. You can’t knock it, they’re obviously doing something right if they’ve been around for 100 years.”
So, what’s the secret at Mader’s? How has it survived for more than a century in an industry known for trends and relatively short-lived businesses?
General Manager Dan Hazard, who has worked at Mader’s for two decades, believes the family aspect is a major factor..read complete story at source
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