Carson's Prime Steaks and Famous BBQ, which was named by Chicago Magazine as one of the "Top 40 Chicago Restaurants Ever," and has received numerous other accolades will open a Milwaukee location in the first floor The Moderne, a 30-story residential tower under construction downtown.
Dean Carson, the owner of Carson's, has signed a 20-year-lease, for the entire 8,000-square-foot first floor retail space in The Moderne.
"It's a major, major coup to have (Dean Carson) come to Milwaukee," said Rick Barrett, owner of Barrett Visionary Development LLC and the lead developer for The Moderne.
The restaurant space is being designed by Matt Rinka owner of Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture, who designed The Moderne. His firm has also designed spaces for several popular Milwaukee restaurants including: Café Benelux, Cafe Hollander, Cafe Centraal, Brick 3 Pizza, Nomad World Pub, Trocadero and Blackthorn Irish Pub.
"People who know about Carson's get so excited when I tell them they are coming to The Moderne," Rinka said.
Carson said Barrett "nicely harassed" him for months until he finally convinced him to open a restaurant in The Moderne.
"Rick is a persistent person in every sense of the word," Carson said.
"I just felt it was the exact right fit for the exact right building," Barrett said.
Carson's is a fine dining steak and barbeque restaurant where it's acceptable for customers to lick their fingers, Carson said. Servers put a bib on each customer.
"We're fine dining without the pretense and without the grandiose prices," Carson said. "We want the food to be great, not the prices. I don't think we're a restaurant for foodies. We're a restaurant for food lovers. There is no filler on the menu. If I didn't think it was as good as it could be it wouldn't make it on the menu. I am just as proud of the chicken Caesar salad as I am of a rib."
About two-thirds of the space in The Moderne location will be used for the restaurant's kitchen. Total seating will be about 125-150.
"I don't like to do a real big restaurant," Carson said.
The restaurant will have some sidewalk seating with an outdoor, gas lit, fire pit.
Carson said he has established a great friendship with Barrett and Rinka and has been impressed with Milwaukee and The Moderne.
"I liked the building, I liked the city, I like (Barrett) and his partner (Tan Lo)," Carson said. "I grew up in Chicago. I'm a Midwestern kid. It just felt this was a natural extension."
Carson has purchased a condo in The Bluff Homes at Park Terrace on Commerce Street from Barrett, so he can carefully oversee the launch of his Milwaukee restaurant.
"This will be my second home," he said. "I'll be the only person whose winter vacation home is in Milwaukee."
The Milwaukee restaurant will be the third Carson's location. The other two are in Chicago's River North neighborhood (just north of The Loop) and in Deerfield, Ill. in suburban Chicago. Carson said he will open two or three more locations at the most.
"I never intend to franchise," he said. "I never intend to have a huge expansion."
The Moderne is expected to be complete in September and Carson's could open in October.
"I'm excited," Carson said. "It's going to be fun. I think we're all chomping at the bit to get started, get under way and get open."