Plant-based Restaurant Celesta to Open Tuesday, June 12

Lots of vegan eats, craft cocktails, ‘secret’ rosewater lemonade and a soon-to-open vegan ‘butcher’ counter.

You’ll notice Celesta’s gorgeous blue walls in its Facebook posts. Celesta is the restaurant that evolved out of the Beatrix Foods vegan pop-ups run by Melanie Manuel. Occupying the old Jownai Fouquet (or Abu’s Jerusalem of the Gold, if you have a good memory) at 1978 N. Farwell Ave., Celesta is part of our city’s growing plant-based dining movement (which includes Strange Town, a few blocks away). “Otherworldy vegan eats” is Celesta’s tagline.  

The menu includes items you’ll see on the chalkboard – a rotating taco plate (currently, tacos diablos with lettuce and cashew cream, $12) and the community bowl (usually grain based, with toppings like roasted tofu, pickled banh mi veggies and peanut sauce, $8). Manuel also wants to offer a seasonal special.

The menu is divided into sections such as Shareables, Vegetable Small Plates and Mains. Shareables include arancini (crispy lemon risotto with Neapolitan tomato sauce) and sweet potato shawarma dip ($7-$9). Small plates are Asian mushroom tartare, beet carpaccio and roasted cauliflower with lemon tahini glaze, and others ($8-$10). Under mains, Manuel has a ramen bowl with sunflower seed broth, tomato bomb and house-made five-spice tofu; a lasagna with vegan bechamel and rosemary sage sausage; and a turkey club sandwich with house-made seitan turkey and smokey tempeh ($8-$15). 

The cocktail menu has six drinks in toto, including the EastSide old fashioned (with Omija Berry Blush Rishi tea-infused brandy) and the Screwy Rabbit, a mezcal cocktail with smoked paprika, fresh carrot juice, orange juice and organic raw agave ($8-$12). There’s a small craft beer list and several red, white and bubbly wines.

Tacos diablos photo courtesy of Celesta

On offer, too, are a lineup of baked goods either made at Celesta or by the Third Ward’s Batches Bakery (such as vegan brownies and cookies). The desserts – a salted chocolate torte, olive oil cake and key lime pie – are made in-house. The restaurant doesn’t close between lunch and dinner, so Manuel hopes Celesta is a destination for a snack, homemade chai, Abu’s “secret” rosewater lemonade, coffee (Anodyne) or tea (Rishi). Free Wifi as well.

Manuel expects to open the butcher counter in about two weeks.

The intimate space offers seating on banquettes, at tables and at a walnut bar handmade by Manuel’s father from wood taken from their Kansas farm. There’s sidewalk seating too.

Look for Celesta’s selection of packaged salads and soups about a week after its opening. Manuel expects to have the vegan “butcher” counter (offering seitan by the pound) officially cutting and slicing in about two weeks.

Hours: Tues-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Reservations are encouraged: 414-231-3030.



Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.