Pierogi-maker Hot Dish Pantry to open at the former Iron Grate site on the south side – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Hot Dish Pantry — a maker of modern Midwestern comfort foods that’s operating in 3rd Street Market Hall — plans to move to the former Iron Grate BBQ Co. building on the south side.
Laura Maigatter and Nathan Heck, the owners, hope to open Hot Dish Pantry at 4125 S. Howell Ave. as early as February. It would start with lunch and dinner Thursday to Sunday, and it would add some favorite Midwestern blended cocktails, like brandy slush, and other alcoholic beverages in the following months, they said.
Hot Dish’s last day at the downtown food hall, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave., will be Dec. 31, closing at 10 p.m., unless it sells out of food earlier.
Like Iron Grate, Hot Dish Pantry would have counter service. That’s dictated by the design of the building, a onetime Boy Blue ice cream stand.
The popular Iron Grate closed Nov. 20, after chef-owner Aaron Patin decided to step away from daily restaurant operations.
Although Hot Dish Pantry looks to the Midwest’s traditional foods, it often takes untraditional approaches. For instance, besides pierogi filled with mushrooms and sauerkraut, Hot Dish Pantry also makes aloo chaat and crab rangoon pierogi.
Having their own location and more kitchen space will allow them to expand the menu, adding items like meatloaf sandwiches and meatballs in grape-jelly sauce, the kind served at Packers parties and other gatherings for decades, they noted.
They’ll continue to offer hot dish, a casserole portioned for one or two. And they plan to eventually start offering family meals, dinner items not available on the regular menu that work in more international flavors — international flavors they love that aren’t necessarily Midwest comfort food, they said.
The meals would be ordered in advance to pick up hot, either from the walk-up window next to the parking lot or inside the restaurant. Customers would be notified by text when the meal is ready. The limited number of family meals would be offered first to customers who’ve signed up for the email newsletter through Hot Dish Pantry’s website or through the restaurant’s Instagram account and then offered to the general public.
“We like the idea of the neighborhood all sitting down to the same meal together,” Maigatter said.
Because the building doesn’t have room for a bar, drinks would include canned cocktails, beer and wine, and also blended drinks, like brandy slush and the daiquiris served at Maigatter’s family gatherings. Bloody Marys with Hot Dish Pantry’s own mix will be served, too, and the mix sold to take home, as well.
The dining room will have a marketplace along the north wall, a cooler, freezer and shelves stocked with frozen Hot Dish Pantry items for home, like pot roast and mashed potatoes, plus grab-and-go items such as ham or macaroni salads and taco dip.
It also would have items from makers and chefs around town, such as dried pasta.
“I think we’ll have a nice little niche for the neighborhood to come and pick up some cool, well-made items,” Heck said.
They hope to open the building on Wednesday nights for pop-up dinners and collaborative meals with visiting chefs, and expect to host events in the 10-stall parking lot in warmer weather, such as visiting food trucks and farm stands.
Maigatter and Heck started Hot Dish Pantry in the pandemic as a pop-up, serving pierogi, hot dishes and snacks. They sold frozen pierogi and hot dish from a rented kitchen in Oak Creek before opening at the downtown food hall in October 2021.
The couple previously operated a catering company, and Heck had worked part time at Iron Grate. Previously, he was chef for Phoenix Cocktail Club and Eagle Park Brewing and worked at Braise restaurant
Taking over the Iron Grate location, they said by phone, is bittersweet. Like Iron Grate’s customers, they were upset about the closing. Before working for Patin, Heck had met the Iron Grate owner years earlier, when they traded fermented pickles and other items at Iron Grate’s food truck when it was parked outside Lincoln Warehouse on the south side.
But, Maigatter said, “We’re very grateful to be in this spot. It feels like kismet that the timing worked out in this way,” after the couple had been looking for months for a location to call their own.
“This is our fourth move in a couple of years,” Maigatter said, so “we’re very excited.”
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