Tales From the Dining Room

Designers Patrick and Libby Castro created the interiors of c.1880 restaurant and Stone Creek Coffee’s Radio Milwaukee location. Their latest project is the newly reopened Karl Ratzsch.

LP/w Design Studios’ Patrick and Libby Castro pictured at Stone Creek's Radio Milwaukee cafe. Photo by Max Thomsen.
LP/w Design Studios’ Patrick and Libby Castro pictured at Stone Creek’s Radio Milwaukee cafe. Photo by Max Thomsen.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was rumored to appreciate the delicacies at Karl Ratzsch, which is also where West Allis native pianist Liberace performed in his early career.

When new owner Thomas Hauck began Ratzsch resuscitation efforts, designers Patrick and Libby Castro didn’t have to look for a story to tell. Ratzsch’s story is a novel. Their challenge was to edit it. In addition to exquisite artwork and beer steins, there was a flea market’s worth of bric-a-brac. With firm, tasteful culling, the Castros have allowed the physical assets at this venerable Teutonic retreat to shine.

As the brains and creative brawn behind LP/w Design Studios, the couple tackled their first Milwaukee restaurant interior in 2012 with c.1880. The restaurateur had a name, cuisine and location but no clear sense of what the interior of this building (1100 S. First St.) should look like.

Among the questions the couple posed, “Why do you want to open a restaurant?” set them digging for historic details to bring the concept’s story to life. The building’s 100-plus age combined with historic events (the Industrial Age) and chef Hauck’s science experiment-like creations led to c.1880’s modern-inventor’s-workshop mystique.

Their sleuthing approach turned a later project – the Stone Creek at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee – into the embodiment of the cafe’s java-geek, quality-coffee branding. Next up is another Stone Creek cafe in Wauwatosa. Putting together the pieces to “solve those design puzzles” is fun, says Patrick.

‘Tales from the Dining Room’ is part of in the July 2016 cover story.
Find the July issue on newsstands beginning June 27, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.
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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.