Downtown Waukesha will soon have a third restaurant that can call itself an Irish pub, with its own unique twist, and its owner wouldn't have it any other way.
Bruce Russell said he plans to open The Crest Pub & Grill by May 1. The site previously housed the former Montecito Ristorante Lounge, an Italian restaurant that closed in 2014. Before that, it was home to El Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant.
For more than two years, Russell looked far and wide — including in Brookfield, Cedarburg and Lake Geneva — for a place to expand his Menomonee Falls-based restaurant business. But every time, Russell kept coming back to Waukesha, specifically the downtown.
"I've looked at a lot of locations and I feel good about where we're at," Russell said as he was driving to his new restaurant at 257 W. Broadway. "I've spent a lot of time here, and this is just a great community."
Russell said The Crest's Irish roots will include menu items from both of his other restaurants.
"The Crest won't be as authentic of an Irish pub as A.J. O'Brady's is, but it will still have different Irish food, Irish whiskey and Irish beers," Russell said.
Russell said his intention was to open The Crest in early April but renovations have proved to be a bigger project than first anticipated.
Renovations include gutting the interior to install new flooring, remodeling the kitchen and giving the entire space a new paint job.
"With the amount of work that is taking place, it's going a little slower than expected, but it's coming together," Russell said.
He added pushing back the opening date isn't a major problem since Main Street in downtown is undergoing road construction this spring and the first part of the summer.
The size of the restaurant — 6,600-square-feet with the ability to fit 170 seats and 41 tables — was appealing to Russell.
"This building has been sitting there and sitting there (since Montecito moved out)," Russell said. "So we just want to get in there and open it up."
Coming in threes
The addition of Russell's restaurant marks downtown's third Irish pub and grill, though each is different from the others in what they offer.
The Clarke Hotel's Irish Pub, which includes a bar and restaurant, opened in 2014 after Harp & Eagle Ltd. bought the downtown Waukesha hotel at 314 W. Main St. The owner modeled the restaurant after the County Clare in downtown Milwaukee.
The House of Guinness is another Irish pub in downtown Waukesha.
But with its sports bar section, some American-style cuisine and its daily specials — including its popular $2 half-pound certified Angus beef burgers on Tuesdays — Russell says The Crest will stand out in downtown Waukesha.
"We really want to cater to so many different types of people," Russell said. "We have a pub feel with TVs showing sports, but also a quieter dining experience. We have something for everyone."
Russell adds being in downtown Waukesha is enhanced by the weekly summer music series Friday Night Live.
"Friday Night Live is probably the biggest reason we are coming out here," Russell said. "If there wasn't Friday Night Live, we probably wouldn't be coming. We're getting involved already with the Waukesha Downtown Business Association and we're seeing how passionate everyone is, so we know we've made the right choice."