Crossroads Collective brings a new dining concept to the city. With its half-dozen vendors, the micro food hall makes dining with a group – or your pickiest-eater friends – a breeze. Learn how to navigate it.

I’m not even in the door and the enveloping aroma hits me – the hickory smoker. It’s the best advertisement for the city’s very first food hall, Crossroads Collective. Which is not to be confused with a food court. They’re similar in that they both offer a number of different dining (only) choices within a contained area. But while courts contain a coterie of fast food, halls feature homegrown, often niche restaurants.

That definitely describes Crossroads, whose 7,000 square feet include six completely local businesses, and it’s the first location for three of them. (The two final vendors – Egg and Flour Pasta Bar, and Raw Bar – were announced after we went to press for March issue.)  The vibe is urban, spirited but relaxed. And that smoker, responsible for the BBQ specialties of first-time-restaurant Heaven’s Table, also helps make this hall special.

Crossroads’ bones do, as well. From the 1930s to mid-’90s, it was the storied Oriental Pharmacy/lunch counter (look for the cubby with the pharmacy’s cash register). 

The space is laid out in an L shape, with vendors on the east and south ends and a liquor bar in the middle – across from the seating area (tables can accommodate up to 94 people). The main entrance is on the corner of Ivanhoe and Farwell, but you can also use another entrance further east on Ivanhoe, which opens to the wonderful ice cream place Scratch. You’ll also be face-to-face with the Falafel Guys stall, with its own counter seating.

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The hall isn’t hard to navigate, although the signage at some of the vendors could be more prominent. There is space for two more vendors on the side occupied by Laughing Taco and vegan-focused Beerline Cafe, although that may change by the time you read this. The bar – beer, wine and espresso drinks – will soon double as an oyster bar. And entered through nearby Black Cat Alley is a speakeasy, 1920s-inspired Shanghai MKE.

Check out our guide, below, to help you order like a pro.


Crossroads Collective

2238 N. Farwell Ave.

HOURS: Food hall Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (8 p.m. on Sunday) with some vendors operating slightly different hours 
SERVICE: Counter service for each vendor. Compostable containers are used for carryout options, and reusable metal platters for eating on-site.


Order Like a Crossroads Expert

Tofu bowl from Beerline Cafe

Heaven’s Table

The tender, beautifully smoked beef brisket should be your first go-to, but not your only choice. Owner Jason Alston, who started watching his granddad and uncle cook when he was a boy, excels with his smoker (he uses hickory, and “low and slow” is his mantra), which lives in the large prep kitchen all the vendors use. Alston’s ribs are crusty, tender and made for eating with your fingers. Pair your meats with creamy grits or fried corn.

$14 and up for meat platters and by-the-pound options.

Scratch Scoop Shop

The satiny, rich texture of these flavors – made in small batches by owners Ryan Povlik and Dustin Garley – is Scratch’s calling card. Order your choice (I’m wild about blueberry cheesecake) in a dish, waffle cone, cookie/brownie sandwich or on a Press Liège-style waffle.

Scoops $4-$6; cones $2.50-$5.55.

Falafel salad from Falafel Guys

Frida

Chef Martin Magana makes an interesting, creamy, butternut squash bisque with a hint of cinnamon. Try that or the nicely done pork pozole. Pair it with a pork tenderloin banh mi or chicken tinga torta. And try the Mexican whoopie pies for dessert if they have them.

Soups $4.50-$7; sandwiches $9-$10.

Beerline Cafe

The vegan restaurant with its main location on Commerce Street specializes here in crepes, savory and sweet. My favorite is the spartichoke (spinach artichoke) and mushroom Florentine with “feta,” but diners can build their own crepes, too.

$7.45-$8.95.

Laughing Taco

The little stand’s trompo (marinated rotisserie pork) folded into two small corn tortillas is juicy and wonderful. I also like the hearty campechano: steak, pork, avocado and cheese inside a flour tortilla.

Tacos: $2.50-$5 each or $10-$12 for five.


“Hall of Sleekness” appears in the March 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning Feb. 25, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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