The Heights by Underground Food Collective opens its doors
Food truck previews new family-friendly menu items
The Heights, the newest restaurant in the Underground Food Collective family, appears to have created a loyal following before it has even opened its doors to the public. On a recent June evening, people lined up to order food from the Underground food truck, pulling up a seat on the sidewalk to eat out front of the space located on North Allen Street in the University Heights neighborhood. Among those gathered were The Heights’ general manager Evan Gruzis, his business partner and wife Nicole Rogers and their toddler daughter. They waited patiently to dig into some food truck items, including a house-made hot dog. Gruzis and Rogers, who own a home within walking distance from the restaurant, seemed to know everyone there by name.
The menu at this evening’s pop-up event included a salad with shaved asparagus, turnips, hazelnuts, pepper cress and radishes for $7, a pinto bean and rice dish with chili flakes, broccoli raab and crispy onions for $7, a smoked beef po-boy sandwich with pickled green garlic, onions, buffalo sauce and aioli for $9 and the aforementioned Underground Meats hot dog with mustard and pickles for $5. Gruzis says the menu is a glimpse of the kinds of dishes that will be served at The Heights. “We want to make simple food, keep it healthy and boost seasonal vegetables in everything,” Gruzis says. “Think Forequarter [which is Underground Food Collective’s restaurant on East Johnson Street that has been nominated for several James Beard awards], but with lower price points.
Underground Food Collective frontman Jonny Hunter says he enjoys collaborating with Gruzis on The Heights project. “It’s a fun partnership. As someone with a kid and family, Evan is coming at it from an idea of what kind of food he wants to be eating,” Hunter says. “I am in a similar space. I’ve said this line a lot of times — Forequarter is the restaurant I opened after I traveled the world in my 20s, and The Heights is the restaurant we are opening after having kids and families. We don’t want to give up on the deliciousness, but we want to have food that is super healthy, thoughtful and fresh.”
The Heights will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week with brunch (think Underground bagels and smoked fish) on the weekends. Hunter says he is excited about the daytime menu and focusing on dishes “that aren’t super heavy.” The Heights is partnering with local sourdough bread producer Origin Breads, so look forward to some fancy toasts on the menu. Ruby Roasters, a coffee roaster in central Wisconsin, will be The Heights’ main coffee supplier.
Food can be enjoyed at the restaurant — inside the bright space or out on the back patio — or picked-up to take elsewhere. There will also be a retail section with high-quality ingredients including charcuterie, cheese, oil and wine for dining at home.
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