By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Nov 13, 2023 at 2:02 PM

Balzac, the iconic wine bar and restaurant at 1716 N. Arlington Pl., has announced that it will be closing its doors after service on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Sadly, the closing is yet another among many, which was precipitated by the immensely difficult and ever-changing market conditions that restaurants have faced since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

“What can I say, closing a restaurant is never easy...but this one is extremely difficult,” notes co-owner Leslie Montemurro. “The truth is –  and I know you’ve heard it before – but since the pandemic, everything has changed. The perpetual obstacles of labor shortages, increasing costs, slower than expected sales numbers, and supply chain issues are just too much of a hindrance to business. It’s time to pause and re-evaluate.”

Since 2005, the restaurant’s dim, cozy quarters have served as a respite from the buzz on nearby Brady Street, offering a spot to enjoy intimate conversation along with well-curated wine and memorable small plates like confited duck nachos, cheese plates and smokey bone marrow butter. During the summer months, its sequestered back patio was like a secret garden, tucked away beyond the bustle of Brady Street.

A longtime favorite spot for first dates, girls’ nights and casual gatherings, the restaurant was among the first of its kind in the city during the mid- 2000s, surviving myriad changes to the Brady Street scene while paving the way for others in its wake. Over the years, the intimate restaurant hosted a wide variety of chefs, many of whom cut their teeth at Balzac before moving on to establish themselves in the Milwaukee scene. 

"We know that so many people have cherished Balzac and we sincerely appreciate all the people that have made Balzac such a treasure over the years," notes Montemurro, inviting friends, family and supporters to pay a final visit to the long-beloved venue between now and Nov. 22.

“We’d like to invite our friends to join us to sit back, relax and raise a glass with us,” she says. “Sharing fond memories and relishing in Balzac’s impact on Milwaukee’s food and beverage scene seems like the perfect send off.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.