A classic touch of Paris has come to Tosa Village, with a chic new look that has proletarian roots.
Zinc bars, or “zincs” as they simply are called, have long been known in Paris as places where working class locals gather for a drink and casual food.
Inspired by these working class zincs, as well as classical French bistros, , 7610 Harwood Ave. in Wauwatosa has expanded its seating downstairs with a new zinc bar.
The restaurant opened in 2008, but has been so busy that the owners decided to renovate and add seating around a bar.
“We were getting so crowded, and people were requesting it,” said Cat Yee Cranton, the manager of Le Rêve. “People like eating at a bar, so we decided to expand.”
The bar adds seating for 12 and gives the restaurant versatility in serving customers who are waiting for tables.
Le Rêve has always served wine and beer, but the new full bar features cocktails and expanded menu items. Although the staff is still working on the drink list, Yee Cranton is excited about the new offerings.
“Besides the traditional Milwaukee drinks, like Old Fashioneds, we’ll have lots of different martinis,” she said. If you ask, she’ll make you a French gimlet popular in Paris, composed of vodka, lime juice and St. Genevieve liquor.
New menu items that will complement drinks at the bar include traditional French appetizers like tartines and croquettes.
Although the bars in today’s Parisian zincs can be of wood or other materials, Le Rêve’s bar is made of traditional zinc.
“When we decided to expand, the owner wanted it to be as classic bistro as possible,” said Yee Cranton.
A New York company, one of the few in the United States that manufactures zinc bars, made the bar on site, using a patented process. The finished bar top weighs about 300 pounds and took several days to craft and install. The soft, gray surface develops a patina with use, giving the bar’s surface an ever-changing look.
“When we saw the cost, I said ‘Oh my god, let’s just make it out of wood,’” Yee Cranton said. “But people like it a lot, and it’s very durable.”
Count Le Rêve regulars Geoff and Kathy Mykleby among those who like it. Geoff is a Wauwatosa dentist. Kathy is a WISN-TV anchorwoman.
“I was here the day they turned me away,” Kathy Mykleby said. “They said, ‘We’re not open because we’re building a new bar.’”
“It has an antique look to it – worn and not regular,” Geoff said. “I have not seen this before.”
“He did not notice it before,” Kathy said. “He knows pretty things, but he may not have known what a zinc was.”
The couple has traveled in France and, according to Kathy, visited a number of zincs in Paris.
“I’m the one who reads Architectural Digest and knows what a zinc is," she said. "I have a friend who’s remodeling, and I’m trying to convince her to put in a zinc countertop.
“Everybody’s done granite. This is different, and I think it’s so beautiful.”
The restaurant is planning a grand opening for the bar on April 19, including a special dinner and appetizers.