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Highlands Cafe looks to expand building, menu

June 14, 2011

The owner of a Washington Highlands restaurant is looking to grow the eatery's space and menu.

Business owners Sandy Murphy and Brett Swider plan to expand Highlands Café into the adjoining vacant storefront at 60th and Vliet streets, which would increase space for eight to seating for 52 indoors, plus outdoor seating for 20 in front of the restaurant.

A couple of neighbors worried about the lack of parking, which Community Development Director Nancy Welch said falls below city standards. However, many of the customers walk from the Highlands, so some concessions can be made, she said.

Plan Commission members agreed Monday. The request next goes to the Community Development Committee for consideration on June 28.

Commissioner Jody Lowe lives near the café and said additional street parking can be found if people are willing to walk a bit farther. She pointed to Highlands Café, as well as Cold Spoons Gelato and Meritage restaurants, as getting this area on the city's eastern border some attention for its dining options, and said the benefits to the community outweigh the growing pains.

"It's a great way to see Tosa and Milwaukee come together," Lowe said.

The restaurant will increase its number of parking spots by taking over more of the building and café owners are in early talks to work with a neighboring gas station to rent parking, similar to the deal La Fuente has worked out at 92nd Street and Bluemound Road, Murphy said.

The business opened more than four years ago, serving Alterra coffee and homemade sandwiches, soups and salad. With the expanded restaurant would come a revamped menu including a full breakfast offering and Friday fish fry.

"The alfresco (dining) is taking the city by storm," said Alderwoman Linda Nikcevich, who represents the district. "This will be a nice addition to serve the dense neighborhood area."

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