Two popular Wauwatosa restaurants are making some changes to give customers a better dining experience.
The 4-year-old French bistro Le Reve and Belgian-inspired Café Hollander, which opened about a year later, have been experiencing the growing pains resulting from success. Both needed larger kitchens to prepare a growing number of customers, and Le Reve wanted to improve the flow of the upstairs dining area.
On the menu for Café Hollander
Café Hollander was closed for about five days, reopening Friday with a larger facility that will allow more cooks in the kitchen, said Kristin Godfrey, marketing manager for restaurant owners the Lowlands Group.
"Our kitchen is pretty big by most standards," Godfrey said. "But this allows us to put more cooks on the line. It will allow us to get the food out faster. Meanwhile, they can better focus on the quality of each individual dish meeting our standards."
Planning for the renovation took into account Hollander's menu - for instance, considering how many recipes go through the sauté line or the grill line. New equipment will allow existing recipes to be prepared more smoothly, and the renovation will also offer opportunities to add menu items, she said.
"We'll be less constricted by the new kitchen," Godfrey said.
The evidence of change will been seen on the spring brunch menu, with new items such as a cinnamon streusel French toast, a new take on eggs benedict and a gluten-free skillet made with quinoa. The restaurant makes many items from scratch, and the renovations will help the culinary process, she said.
Dreams come true at Le Reve
At Le Reve, construction started Feb. 18. General Manager Cat Yee Cramton anticipates it will continue for a few weeks yet, and she's posting updates and construction photos to the restaurant's Facebook page.
Le Reve has also seen increasing foot traffic and the need more room for food preparation.
The kitchen on the main floor is being expanded, a complicated project because the eatery is located inside a 100-year-old former bank building, Yee Cramton said.
"There are three vaults that were positioned one on top of the other," she said. "We are removing the main floor and upstairs vault to give more room."
Construction crews had to saw through three feet of concrete around the vaults, a task that took several days.
The upstairs dining room is being remodeled to improve the tight squeeze between tables, thus improvng server access.
"We aren't adding more seats but will have a better flow and less noise in the upstairs dining room," Yee Cramton said.
No time like the present
Managers with both restaurants acknowledged there is no good time to close a restaurant. There are always people who stop by and leave disappointed because they couldn't get service, but February provides somewhat of a lull between the holidays and the outdoor dining season, they said.
In the past, Café Hollander has put out its patio furniture in early April, but last year's warm March prompted management to open the patio earlier. Seating for 120 will be added this weekend.
"Our restaurant gets a lot bigger a lot faster so we needed to have the kitchen ready," Godfrey said.
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