A new owner, new feel for classic Port Hotel

Port restaurateur reopens venerable eatery described by chef as ‘cutting edge, eclectic with casual atmosphere’
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Hotel is up and running with a new menu and new management.

The restaurant opened with a “really, really soft opening” and a limited menu on Aug. 25 and has slowly been working toward its full opening last Saturday, Oct. 1, when the full menu launched, he said.

“We’re hoping people like it,” Tello said.

The restaurant had its first Friday fish fry on Sept. 23 and sold out, Tello said, so he ordered twice as much the following week.

“We had a really good turnout,” he said.

The menu was described by Tello’s head chef Lisa Elbe as “cutting edge, eclectic with a casual atmosphere.

“Great food, great drinks, great friends — that’s what we want to be known for.”

The restaurant has a much more open look but retains the supper club feeling. Gone are the heavy draperies and dark atmosphere, and in its place are open windows and plenty of natural light.

“Look at how beautiful this dining room is,” Tello said. “People like it open. We want to keep it comfortable, a nice atmosphere.”

Dark wooden barn doors separate the main dining room for the side room, allowing it to be closed off for parties and events. Small photos on the wall of the main dining room show the moon in all its phases — a nod to the Moonlight Tavern, the bar on the other end of the building.

Across the hall from the side room is the library room, a small room that was once cordoned off by a pony wall that today is opened up. Wallpaper designed to look like shelves of books and a fireplace give it a cozy feeling.

And a dining room off the bar is the boat room, which has a Northwoods cabin feeling. An antique Richardson boat made in Sheboygan Falls is mounted on the ceiling and has been converted into a lighting fixture.

Tello, who is in charge of the bar and restaurant, said he relied on the help of his partner Jim Read, who is running the Port Hotel’s inn, in decorating the place.

“I have a lot of experience with restaurants,” he said. “He has that talent (for decor).”

While many people questioned whether the Port Hotel would resemble Tello’s other restaurant, Tello’s Grille and Cafe, a quick look at the menu reveals that’s not the case.

“It’s completely different,” Tello said. “A completely different atmosphere. A completely different concept.”

He tapped Elbe, who worked for him about 10 years ago, as his head cook and Andrea Chmielewski, another of his former employees, as the general manager.

“We are very fortunate and blessed with our employees,” Tello said.

The menu includes hearty foods at reasonable prices, he said. While people have asked about the traditional relish tray, Tello said that’s not something that’s appropriate in this pandemic world.

But Read’s wife Ann made the Port Hotel’s liver pate, which is available to order.

“People love it,” Tello said. “We’re lucky to have the recipe in the family.”

Tello said that for now, the restaurant is only open for dinner, although that may change in the future.

  “We’re learning the business here first,” he said. “Do people want lunch here? Do they like our menu, the things we’re doing?”

So far, he said, people seem to like the new Port Hotel.

“For the most part, people are accepting everything we’ve done,” Tello said. “We’ve had good business so far

“I’m enjoying this. We’re very blessed. The community’s been supporting us for 16 years, and with our new baby here we’re feeling the love.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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