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Vault is open (along with quick eats) at the River Center

Vault (left) opened at the River Center this week, joining (from top) Knockbox Coffee, On Rye and Toro
River Center Market
Vault (left) opened at the River Center this week, joining (from top) Knockbox Coffee, On Rye and Toro.

Each week on This Bites, dining critic Ann Christenson from Milwaukee Magazine and Radio Milwaukee’s resident foodie Tarik Moody dig into the city’s culinary and restaurant culture to help you find new spots, old favorites and the best ingestibles around Milwaukee.

Podcast episodes are officially back on the menu — as of next Friday. So, one last time, we’ll serve up this audio-free version of your weekly roundup, which starts with a major update on a project Tarik and Ann first talked about almost a year ago.

Back in September 2022, the River Center at 111 E. Kilbourn Ave. announced a series of improvements, including a new riverfront bar and a string of fast-casual restaurants. All of them are now available to the public, with the foodies in the crowd most likely gravitating toward Vault, the bar located on the building’s second floor.

The crown jewel of the complex was the last to open, and it seems to have been worth the wait. A modern, rectangular bar sits in the center, with skylights running the full length overhead, large windows and a patio overlooking the river. It’s a well-designed hangout spot with a menu to match.

Running down the list of offerings, it’s hard to imagine enjoying them in any context besides a group of friends or colleagues. The raw bar includes ceviche and oysters, snacks range from kettle chips to cheese and charcuterie, and the cocktail list starts classic and gets increasingly creative. I’m a sucker for a straightforward old fashioned (non-Wisconsin variety, please), but Vault’s “Signature Cocktail” lineup features eye-catching entries like “Corpse Reviver #2” and “Lost in Translation."

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other River Center residents, which make up what’s called the River Center Market. There, you’ll find counter-service options KnockBox Coffee & Market (starring Stone Creek Coffee), sandwich spot On Rye, and Toro Tacos & Bowls. All three are open until 2 p.m., with the java joint opening at 7:30 a.m. and the other two at 11 a.m. You can full menus and more info at the River Center Market website, as well as in Ann's article for Milwaukee Magazine.

If you’re wondering what else Ann’s been doing with her time away from recording, the latest from Milwaukee Magazine seems to indicate it involves setting her alarm nice and early. This week, she posted three stories geared toward the breakfast crowd, applying her discerning tastes to identify the best breakfast sandwiches, brunch spots and Bloody Marys around the area. Use any of those links to see what she picked, or just bookmark the magazine’s “Breakfast Guide 2023” for easy access all year round.

Rounding out this week’s trip around the Milwaukee food scene are two bittersweet items that both start with someone saying “goodbye” followed by an immediate “hello.”

The first is over on North Avenue, where McBob’s Pub & Grill will end a family legacy when owner Christine McRoberts steps aside. Fortunately, she didn’t need to go far to find a replacement. In fact, they were sitting just on the other side of the bar. Lori Fredrich has the whole story atOnMilwaukee.

The other farewell — happening on Farwell Avenue — is much more temporary. Twisted Cafe has shut down service with an eye on bigger things to come: a new location. The eatery has teamed up with Tropic (518 N. Water St.) to hold brunch pop-ups every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. while it readies its new spot. Get all the info in Sophie Bolich’s report atUrban Milwaukee.

That does it for this week. I have assurances Tarik and Ann will share their dulcet tones with you once again next Friday, so make sure you’re subscribed to This Bites wherever you listen so you catch every episode of Milwaukee’s longest-running culinary podcast.