It’s officially time for a bite to eat at Turning Tables Tavern & Eatery, the innovative new restaurant inside Turner Hall, 1034 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.
The concept, which launched with a fundraising grand opening last weekend, is led by Emerald Mills, founder of Diverse Dining, who has partnered with a diverse team of professionals who will collaborate to harness both the restaurant and its unique. -an in-kind teaching kitchen, which was developed to provide mentorship and hands-on training to local food entrepreneurs.
Their goal? Literally and figuratively turning the tables on inequality in food entrepreneurship in Milwaukee.
The interior of Turning Tables will look familiar to those who have visited the local restaurant in recent years.
The friendly bar is stocked and ready to welcome guests for a beer or cocktail, and the kitchen offers a casual menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and smoked meats that will appease a variety of diners.
Guests can sit at the bar or in the restaurant’s spacious dining room, which displays the historic murals for which Turner Hall has become famous.
These murals will be completed with upgrades including fresh paint in the coming months. Additional artwork will also be added, including a new mural depicting Vel R. Philips and a chef wall behind the bar that commemorates the chefs and food entrepreneurs who shape the restaurant’s ever-changing menu.
In addition to the dining room, Turning Tables also has a spacious event space, which will be used to host events including diverse catering gatherings. It can also be hired for private parties and gatherings.
While the teaching kitchen won’t officially launch its program until this fall, the restaurant and bar are fully operational, offering a full bar with beer, wine and cocktails as well as a menu created by Chef Jervel Williams from Mister Bar-B-Que, a popular food truck that has operated in Milwaukee since 2013. Going forward, Williams will also play a key role in the education and programming of the Turning Tables instructional kitchen.
The inaugural menu includes offerings like jerk egg rolls filled with smoked chicken, cabbage, carrots and scallions served with a sweet and sour sauce ($10.99).
Ultra crispy chips for the base of bbq nachos topped with a choice of smoked chicken, pork or black beans with cheese sauce, pico de gallo, green onions, bbq sauce and sour cream ($12.99).
Meanwhile, the fish tacos include Parmesan-crusted cod, homemade coleslaw and pico de gallo served on flour tortillas (three for $13.99).
Customers can also order the Smoked Vegetable Boat with smoked iceberg lettuce topped with shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, red onions, cherry tomatoes and a choice of dressings ($8.99); classic caesar salad ($10.99) or southwestern salad with bell peppers, red onions, corn, black beans and cilantro served with creamy avocado ranch ($10.99).
Additional items include the Midwest BBQ Rice Bowl with pulled pork or chicken, cheese sauce, pico and scallions over cilantro rice ($12.99); homemade macaroni and cheese ($6.99) or a macaroni and cheese bowl of homemade mac and cheese topped with pulled pork or pulled chicken ($11.99).
Sandwiches include the Turner Burger with a grilled Angus burger seared in brisket suet and topped with smoked or fresh brisket, lettuce, tomatoes and onions and a side of fries ($14.99; add bacon for +$2); the barbecue fudge with a 1/3 pound burger topped with brisket, a choice of cheese and barbecue sauce on Texas Toast (served with fries for $15.99); a classic BBQ sandwich with pulled chicken or pork and coleslaw on brioche bun (with fries for $13.99).
There’s also the Mister BBQ platter, which offers a choice of three meats (ribs, sausage, pulled pork, spikes or chicken; brisket is also available for +$4) as well as coleslaw, pickles and baked beans ($35.99; feeds two to three).
Starting Wednesday, August 17, the restaurant will also launch its first of many Wednesday Wing Nights featuring a rotating cast of chefs who will be part of the venue’s entrepreneurship program. First, guests can order the stellar wings from chef Fatéma Dunomés of The Shack MKE, who has made a name for herself with her tender, lightly breaded wings and signature sauces, including her signature sweet and spicy sauce.
In fact, Wing Night is kind of a preview of what’s to come as programming for food entrepreneurs kicks off this fall.
The Teaching Kitchen program will provide mentorship and hands-on training to 12-24 food entrepreneurs, while showcasing their signature dishes as part of the Turning Tables menu.
The current group of entrepreneurs, who debuted at Turning Tables’ Who Wants to Be a Restauranteur event in July, include Fatéma Dunomés of The Shack MKE, Deleric Johnson of Dee’s Upscale Dining, Lyncoya Llon of Cooking with Coya , Andre Epps of Blue Walters, Tequnda Rogers, Fanisha Richmond, Fredrick Coleman of Table 69 Catering and Seidah Reed of The Cupcake Queen.
A second round of entrepreneurs will be invited to apply to the program in the coming weeks, with another round of “Who wants to be a restaurant owner” launching the program in November.
The restaurant will also launch a fundraising campaign later this month, with $10,000 in funding matched by the Jrue & Lauren Impact Fund. Supporters can donate at different levels, from $25 to $100,000. Each level will provide sponsorship benefits, as well as the satisfaction of supporting a program that will enhance Milwaukee’s community, culture and food scene.
The funding will help the restaurant make various improvements to the restaurant space, as well as support the mission and programming offered by Turning Tables. Watch OnMilwaukee for more details on the initiative as they are released.
In the meantime, the best way to support the restaurant is to make it a point to support its work by having lunch or dinner.
You can also follow Turning Tables on Facebook and Instagram for restaurant and educational kitchen updates, upcoming events, and ways to support their work to change the face of dining in Milwaukee.
Turning Tables hours of operation are Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, restaurant hours will be extended to meet demand.