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The people behind Maxie’s and Blue’s Egg are planting roots with their new Story Hill BKC.

As Dan Sidner tells it, some residents of Story Hill – an old community seated on a bluff north of Miller Park – approached him and business partner/chef Joe Muench about opening a coffee shop. Sidner and Muench were intrigued but had grander ideas. The Maxie’s/Blue’s Egg owners dove into their biggest challenge – a business in three parts: coffee shop, restaurant and wine store.

The partners took a cue from the rulebook of restaurant-owning and didn’t steal any thunder from their other West Side joints. Story Hill BKC is a major departure and positively charming.

BKC (“Bottle Kitchen Cup”) opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays for espresso drinks; rich, buttery pastries; and European-style breakfast items like a salami-cheese “meatbread”; back bacon and baked eggs; mixed-grain porridge; and a Tunisian baked egg and tomato dish called shakshouka ($7-$12). That menu carries through lunchtime, when more is added to it, things like beer cheese soup and a house-smoked pork sandwich with potato pancake, pickles and gravy. In the evening, the waitstaff brings out small and larger sharing plates from the dinner menu, everything from a “taste”-size portion of prime grass-fed beef ($12) and chicken meatballs ($3 each) to the “share” and “pass” plates, like roast baby potatoes topped with meat drippings ($6) and ham-crusted whitefish ($18).

On the west side of the main dining room is the retail wine shop, where BKC stocks 286-plus selections that double as the restaurant’s bottled wine list. The half- and full-glass pours number 27 varieties (including four tap wines). The beer menu has 22 tap options also available in growlers.

Muench’s interests in Latin cuisine and homey, rural farmland fare are front-and-center on the dinner menu, which is a gas to explore. The butter-flake dinner rolls are obligatory (with lots of butter, $3). The elote – Mexican corn – re-creates the experience of roast corn (minus the cob) slathered in mayo and Cotija cheese. Lime juice and loin bacon intensify the flavor ($9).

Like the corn, Muench amplifies the flavor in Connie’s salad ($11) – shredded chicken, pickled carrot, dried mango, cilantro, zucchini all mingled in a creamy jalapeno dressing. The menu is set up for whatever mix-and-match way of ordering makes sense to you. If you want to follow the salad with a small order of sweetbreads with oyster mushrooms in chicken jus ($9), go for it. For a distinct beef-eating experience, the Story Hill steak ($20) is cut into layers sewn up with string. You pull off the string and the layers separate, and the juices and compound butter ooze over the plate. It’s a wonderful piece of beef.

As Sidner looks into adding historic photos to reinforce the theme of a gathering place, the space itself does a fine job of conveying that message. Cedarburg designer Lucky Star Workshop pulled off a homey, hodgepodgy vision of reclaimed barnwood, warm color tones and earthy lighting. If the Story Hill neighborhood hasn’t gotten its due, as Sidner argues, it should now.

‘Never-Ending Story’ appears in the October, 2014 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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