A buzzing crowd formed around Rock & Brews when Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons walked through the doors on Tuesday. The onlookers, gathered around the roped-off area, snapped photos of the two KISS rock stars as they launched the opening of their new restaurant in Potawatomi Casino Hotel.
“Look at this place, it’s gorgeous,” Simmons said. “This is our 23rd Rock & Brews, and we’re proud to say it’s right here in the Brew City, as it should be. You see the correlation.”
Stanley and Simmons started Rock & Brews in 2012 and have since expanded to locations around the country with six more slated to open this year. The rock-themed restaurant is a major part of Potawatomi Casino Hotel’s $190 million dollar renovation.
“Rock & Brews is a worldwide brand, with great dining and music,” said Dominic Ortiz, the Potawatomi Casino Hotel CEO. “This is the best Rock & Brews ever built. This was the dream, to take the brand to a new level and bring excitement. You wanted the best; we brought you the best.”
The new location is on the second floor of Potawatomi Casino Hotel, just off the skywalk, and is overflowing with rock ‘n’ roll decoration. A wall of screens plays music videos, and powerful speakers bumping rock hits. A striking mural pays tribute to musical icons, and the walls are all hung with memorabilia, such as buffalo skulls painted KISS colors. Plus, the spot includes a stage for live entertainment. “You’re going to have the time of your life here. You’re surrounded by the soundtrack of our lives, all the classic rock you’ve grown up with,” Simmons said.
After the grand opening ribbon-cutting by Forest County Potawatomi Chairman James Crawford, Stanley and Simmons posed for photos with attendees. PRISS, a KISS cover band chosen by Stanley and Simmons, took to the stage to perform KISS hits.
“We’ve got [a] long, long history with Milwaukee,” Simmons says. “You know, cities are not cool because of the buildings; cities are cool because of the people. When you come to Milwaukee, you’ll understand what I mean. … People treat you well, and go out of their way to say, ‘Hey, dude, nice to see you.’ … That’s what it’s like here. Look at all the smiles on everyone’s faces.”
The restaurant also includes custom-designed Milwaukee decor, paying tribute to the city’s musical legacy.
“The great thing about Rock & Brews is that each one is individual,” Stanley says. “Unlike some of these cookie cutter operations, we really try to make sure each one is personalized to the area. You’ll see tips of the hat to local talent. Most important, you have great service, great people waiting on you. It’s a friendly, family atmosphere. And the food is fantastic. If the food wasn’t good, I wouldn’t be a part of it.”
The menu is classic American, with burgers, tacos, pizza and more. Executive Chef Ben Jones predicted that the Rock ‘n’ Hot Chick Wings, Alice Cooper Poison Burger and Demon Chicken Sandwich will be diner favorites. It also has 48 tap beers available, from big-name favorites to local crafts, not to mention a menu of “rocktails.”
The Demon Chicken, a sandwich made in tribute to Simmons, is also the rocker’s favorite menu item. “If you’ve got a spicy tongue like mine … I love the demon burger,” Simmons said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s got sliced fresh jalapenos. It’s as hot as a good punch in the mouth.”
Ortiz is a fan of the tacos, while Stanley can’t decide between his favorite burger, pizza and salad options. “It’s like picking a favorite child,” he says.
The restaurant officially opened for business at 3 p.m. the afternoon of the grand opening, and a long line of eager diners snaked down the skywalk in wait.
When we sampled the fare, we went for less spicy-tongued options than Simmons – the gastropub burger, hamburger rolls and a metal mule. The mule was tart and sour, while the hamburger rolls and gastropub burger (with bacon and an over-easy egg on top) were savory and filling. All were delicious. We left satisfied (and there was still a long line waiting to get in on our way out).
Potawatomi Casino Hotel’s $190 million renovation is scheduled to finish later this year. It includes the new Cream City Coffee Co. across from Rock & Brews, as well as four new gaming areas on the second floor. The casino also opened its new sportsbook this year – the first in Milwaukee – and recently reopened its much-loved Dream Dance Steakhouse.
“We spared no expense,” Ortiz said. “We really want to give our gamers a place to enjoy, and what we’ve designed and built here is first-class.”