Feasting through Mina’s photos on Facebook should come with a disclaimer: Extreme hunger – the kind that needs to be satiated immediately – will result. Here’s ricotta gnocchi, currywurst. There’s perch schnitzel, smothered frites and other small and shareable plates.
Mina, which opened in Crossroads Collective in July 2020, may not be the most well-known denizen of the East Side food hall, but it’s gaining traction thanks to a pop-up at Dubbel Dutch, Downtown’s stylish new boutique hotel. And now, in the spirit of evolution that makes the food hall a dining venue to watch, Mina has adopted a European street food concept, with several previous menu favorites (polenta topped with Calabrian chile pesto, for one) also carrying over.
Owners Ryan Hoffman and Patrice Gentile came to Milwaukee from Illinois in 2019. Hoffman, a graduate of Chicago-based Kendall College’s culinary program, took a sous chef position at Balzac Wine Bar, known for its small-plate format. The couple’s love of European and particularly Italian cuisine helped them craft the concept for Mina (named after the 1960s Italian pop singer Mina Mazzini), though it would be shaped in unexpected ways by the pandemic.
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They’ve let their audience decide the journey the menu would take. That included weekly thematic dinners in Crossroads’ hidden speakeasy, Shanghai, early this year. Those intimate Monday night meals, inspired by films, had two seatings with a maximum of eight people at each. One recent example was a Little Shop of Horrors menu built around plant-based New York-style deli fare. Each multi-course meal ran just $25 per person. “Our goal has always been to take away that notion that good food needs to be expensive or out of reach,” Gentile says. “That’s why we like the European way. It’s not unattainable. It’s how we eat and live.”
The pop-up at Dubbel Dutch allowed them to be inventive and to interact – safely distanced – with folks there for a small, on-site dining experience, differentiating it from Crossroads’ mobile crowd. It featured dishes ranging from salt cod croquettes to Greek lamb ragu. The food hall location’s new European street food focus – including Spanish tortilla and frites topped with bratwurst – increases the restaurant’s approachability and hominess. “One of the cooks who helped us at Dubbel Dutch called our menu ‘elevated grandma food,’” says Ho man. “We’ll take it.”