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On the Bus Brings Tasty Vegan Options to Milwaukee Public Market

Jul. 3, 2017
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Photo credit: Ian Freimuth

Emily Ware, who has owned and operated The Green Kitchen (inside Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St.) since 2008 with her husband, Peter Engel, realized that a city that traditionally embraces sausage, fish frys and cheese is also ready for healthy and vegan options. Ware’s new venture, On the Bus, will open in August on the south end of the Milwaukee Public Market and will serve vegan fare.

The Green Kitchen is known for its immense salad bar, along with artisan sandwiches and juices made with some locally sourced and organic plant-based ingredients that, Ware noticed, were a hit with Milwaukee Public Market patrons. “Over the years, I’ve noticed Milwaukee becoming more and more ready to embrace a vegan restaurant, just by what people are ordering,” Ware said.

Ware has been a vegetarian since she was 10 years old. She transitioned from vegetarian to vegan over the years, and she also raises her kids as vegan. As an entrepreneur, she had long wanted to offer an eatery with a vegan menu, and when she learned that space would be available at the Milwaukee Public Market, Ware presented the idea to market management, and they went for it.

In addition to offering scratch-made vegan food, On the Bus literally lives up to its name; the serving counter is fashioned from Ware’s own 1971 Volkswagen Bus, which was her very first auto. She’s owned it for about 20 years and found her new venture a great way to repurpose the vehicle. “We’ll be making smoothies and ice cream right out on the bus,” she said. “We’re bringing a little bit of the food truck idea inside, with our own little twist.”

On the Bus will feature Ware’s own recipes, and one of the highlights will be fresh almond milk made daily. The almond milk will be used in their smoothies, ice cream, cheese and açaí bowls—the latter of which are becoming popular in trendy big-city juice and smoothie bars. The bowls are made with açaí berries, known for their powerful antioxidant and immune-boosting properties.

Homemade kale chips made on site are another specialty, and a grab-and-go cooler features items such as vegan cheesecake. The sandwich category on the broad menu consists of “veganized” versions of comfort food sandwiches that people are familiar with, such as Reuben and grilled cheese. Whether one wants a savory sandwich for breakfast or an ice cream cone, smoothie or açaí bowl for dinner, all menu items are available all day long.

Ware said she’s heard good feedback prior to opening—a sign that Milwaukeeans are eager to embrace good food, and that the term “vegan” is no longer a scary word.

“Whether people go vegan for health or dietary restrictions or because of animal rights, people are more interested in the idea of eating vegan, even if it’s just one meal a week,” she said. “Words aren’t necessarily the way to somebody’s heart, but a great ice cream cone is. They way to win people over is with food.”

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