Marquette Wire

Fifth annual Taste & Toast happy hour begins

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Fifth annual Taste & Toast happy hour begins

Cantina Milwaukee is just one of nearly 25 downtown Milwaukee restaurants participating in Taste & Toast. 
Photo courtesy of Cantina Milwaukee

Cantina Milwaukee is just one of nearly 25 downtown Milwaukee restaurants participating in Taste & Toast. Photo courtesy of Cantina Milwaukee

Cantina Milwaukee is just one of nearly 25 downtown Milwaukee restaurants participating in Taste & Toast. Photo courtesy of Cantina Milwaukee

Cantina Milwaukee is just one of nearly 25 downtown Milwaukee restaurants participating in Taste & Toast. Photo courtesy of Cantina Milwaukee

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Milwaukee’s fifth annual Taste & Toast happy hour event began Monday and will take place through March 1 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. each evening at two dozen downtown Milwaukee restaurants.

“People in Milwaukee really love happy hour,” Erica Chang, the Marketing and Events Coordinator for Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 said, “It’s a fun event and an opportunity for diners to ‘taste and toast’ to Milwaukee, and to all of these fabulous food and beverage offerings that we have downtown.”

Each restaurant created a menu for the event that includes appetizer and small plates, alcoholic beverages and a non-alcoholic beverage, Chang explained. Patrons can check options ahead of time at tastetoastmke.com.

Jake Roman, owner of Cantina Milwaukee Tequila & Taco Bar, said he uses the event as an opportunity to show customers what his restaurant offers.

“When we do events like this, we always want to focus something outside of our tradition — it’s tacos, it’s right in our name, it’s pretty clear that’s what we do — we want to make sure that people know we do other things,” he explained.

The food included on Cantina Milwaukee’s Taste & Toast menu is chicken wings, paired with their homemade sauces, the Cantina curds, which are a twist on the Wisconsin favorite with a southwest ranch and their macho nachos, a loaded nacho dish.

Each item can be purchased for $5. Additionally, the happy hour menu’s three cocktails and one non-alcoholic cocktail beverage are each $6.

One such cocktail on the Taste & Toast Cantina menu is their award-winning bourbon old fashioned. Roman said the restaurant recognizes how odd it is for a place focusing on tacos to win an old fashioned award. However, Cantina puts its own twist on the drink: habanero infused simple syrup.

“We don’t want to be thought of as the ‘Mexican place.’ We want to be thought of as the place that we can bring our whole group or our whole family and everybody is going to find something that they’re familiar with and that they’ll like,” Roman said.

Katie Kramnic, a freshman in the College of Nursing, visited the restaurant recently with her friend Alyssa Barrera, a freshman in the College of Communication.

Kramnic said the friends went to Cantina to take a picture with the sign in the lobby that reads ‘Feed me tacos and tell me I’m pretty’ for Valentine’s Day.

“It’s not really traditional, it’s kind of like street style … it’s not your average meat and cheese (taco),” Kramnic said.

An added benefit for this year’s Taste & Toast is that some of the restaurants are nearby stops of Milwaukee’s newest method of transportation: The Hop streetcar.

The Hop is a “really convenient way to kind of ‘hop’ along the downtown restaurant route,” Chang said.

Another restaurant featured for Taste & Toast this year is Cubanitas, known for its Cuban sandwiches and mojitos.

Cubanitas, Wisconsin’s first Cuban restaurant, has been open since 2003 and serves authentic Cuban and Caribbean food, said owner Marta Bianchini.

The restaurant has participated in Taste & Toast since it started. This year, Cubanita’s Taste & Toast menu will feature miniature versions of plantains and guacamole, empanadas, ham croquette and a pulled pork sandwich with a guava barbecue sauce, said Bianchini.

Its drink menu will consist of Planters Punch, a cocktail made with rum, grenadine, orange and pineapple juice, any flavor of frozen daiquiris, mojito and a virgin pina colada, all for $6 each.

“I would recommend the plantains and guacamole and wash it down with a mojito,” Bianchini said.

The timing of Taste & Toast is convenient not only for happy hour but also for all that downtown Milwaukee has to offer, Chang said. Because the promotion ends at 7 p.m., Chang said it leaves ample time for people to go see a game or admire the Milwaukee skyline. She particularly described Old World Third Street’s new roofline lighting as “picture perfect.”

For those unable to make this year’s Taste & Toast, the annual Downtown Dining Week comes in the summer, where for eight days, various restaurants offer three-course meals for at discounted rates.

Dining Week offers three-course lunches for $12.50 and three-course dinners for either $25 or $35, Chang said.

“We have some really high caliber restaurants for both dining week and Taste & Toast, so you could be having this simply amazing steak dinner for $35 for three courses,” Chang said.

Both events give “a great option to try a new bar or restaurant or return to an old favorite,” Chang said.

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