Alumnus rolls out Japanese cuisine


Photo by Photo by Yue Yin

Maki Yaki Japanese Grill caters to students’ appetites through low prices and prime on campus location.

With foods like the Fire Cracker Roll, Chicken Udon Soup and the Chicken Gyoza Plate, Maki Yaki Japanese Grill, the newest on-campus restaurant, offers students healthier fast food options and a place to take a break from studies.

Owned by married couple Ernie and Robyn Lee, the Japanese-American fusion eatery is located on Wisconsin Avenue. The duo decided to open doors in Milwaukee because Ernie is a Marquette alumnus, holding a Master of Business Administration.

“Maki” means roll in Japanese and “Yaki” comes from teriyaki, hence the name Maki Yaki. The restaurant opened on campus Aug. 13.

As a former student, Ernie understood the lack in variety of places to eat around campus.

“(I) realized there were not so many (food) options (on campus), besides fast food like Burger King and Subway and it was probably necessary to provide some healthy food choices,” Ernie said.

Ernie was a former owner of a Subway at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He noticed how they used frozen ingredients, so he wanted to establish a restaurant on campus that used local vegetables and meat and made food from scratch.

“There was opportunity for us and I could also be of service to the students here,” Ernie said.

Robyn makes all of her sauces with fresh ingredients, reinforcing the couple’s commitment to serving healthy food.

“I make the teriyaki sauce, the ginger dressing for the salads, the unagi sauce,” Robyn said. “I make it all once a week.”

One of the popular student choices on the menu is the Bento Box. The Bento Box Special comes with maki rolls, meat, tempura, vegetables and soup. The Superman Sushi Burrito is another highlight on the menu because sushi burritos are the newest trend and haven’t been sold in Milwaukee until now.

“Many people think a sushi burrito is expensive when compared to a burrito from Qdoba, but ours is very different and we load it up with fish,” Robyn said.

Along with providing healthy food for students, Ernie and Robyn aimed to create a comfortable environment influenced by Asian culture for students.

The walls are bare, but in the upcoming weeks colorful photographs of Marquette University and downtown Milwaukee will fill the restaurant. Posters of some of the Marquette sports teams may also be added to the decoration inside to promote a campus atmosphere.

As an on-campus restaurant, price and convenience play primary roles in making this campus addition student friendly. The menu has a wide price range to accommodate all customers.

“This restaurant has reasonable prices and you don’t need to pay a tip,” Robyn said.

Olivia Jensen, a junior in the College of Business Administration, dined at Maki Yaki recently.

Jensen said the food needed more flavor and uniqueness, but she would come back in the future.

“It was relatively fast service, and I really liked the design of the interior,” Jensen said.

The owners of Maki Yaki are working to assimilate into the Marquette culture and community. The campus police even get discounts and the owners have talked to the Marquette soccer team about putting up posters.

“We are trying to be a part of the Marquette campus community,” Ernie said. “We are pretty new now.”