If renovations continue as planned, the new restaurant going into the Stamm House in Middleton will reflect the past and the future of west side dining.
Chef Nick Johnson, formerly of Restaurant Magnus (for 10 years), 43 North and the short-lived Giornata on Park Street, is crafting a menu for 1847 at the Stamm House, a new venture with Brian and Alicia Hamilton of the Weary Traveler and building owner Troy Rost.
Johnson currently works at Gotham Bagels. He’s looking to reconnect to his roots, but at the same time, “reinvent myself in a way.”
“I’ve used a lot of this time to rethink my whole idea and go back to what I knew made me successful,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of bold flavors. It’s going to have a garden... I want people to remember this as Stamm House, not as Nick from Magnus.”
The Stamm House has a rich history. Legend has it (though some historians have said they can’t confirm it) the house was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.
As the Pheasant Creek Hotel, it was a stagecoach stop between Chicago and Minneapolis. It had a life as a speakeasy (complete with secret tunnels) and was a traditional supper club since the 1940s under several owners.
“Thinking of all the souls who’ve passed through the 1847 stone building, on what was once the marshy site of a Native American village, is another part of the appeal,” wrote Wisconsin State Journal restaurant writer Chris Martell in 2005.
At the time, the Stamm House was “the home of one of the area’s most popular Friday night fish fries,” she wrote. The restaurant “won praise in Gourmet magazine for its chicken and dumplings, which are served on Wednesdays and Fridays.”
Now, Rost and his team are painstakingly reconstructing the building’s interior, uncovering the attic, revealing hand-laid brick and original stone and, according to Johnson, moving some of the brilliant red wooden beams from the outside to the inside.
“We want to do it right,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to maintain the history of it, so it’s very cautious.”
Johnson is excited about one aspect of the restaurant in particular: a 10-top “chef’s table” located underground, just off the kitchen.
Placed in a closed-off, arching tunnel, the room will be like “a really cool wine cave” with heat and light and close access to the chef for birthdays and other special occasions.
“It’s fairly hidden,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be unique. Everybody’s really excited for dinners down there.”
The menu will include twists on classics like chicken and dumplings, a porterhouse steak, a charcuterie board, a fish board and a vegetable board.
“You’ll see a lot of classic cooking styles, a lot of innovative flavor components,” Johnson said.
He plans to focus on Wisconsin and Midwestern ingredients, like whitefish, trout, locally raised meat and vegetables. There will also be oysters and “a fair amount of vegetarian and vegan items.”
Johnson wants a “well-rounded menu ... a lot of bold flavors,” he said. “I want to try implementing whole roast items we can carve tableside.
“It’s like if you took a Wisconsin supper club and (crossed it with) a gastropub from the United Kingdom, London,” Johnson said. “It’s these bold flavors, right by the sea, all their stuff right outside the door.”
1847 at the Stamm House is set to have a patio for when the weather is hospitable, and weekend brunch service.
Brian Hamilton, a bartender and manager at the Weary Traveler, and his wife, Alicia, had originally planned to open a restaurant on Williamson Street. They’ll be in charge of the front of the house, including the bar menu.
“We’re going to have a huge cocktail list,” Johnson said. “Brian’s working extensively on cocktails and the bar element.”
Johnson wouldn’t commit to a hard timeline, but said the restaurant will open “soon,” perhaps in the next few months. ￼