For Trisha Martinez and Kathy Lange, co-owners of Wisconsin Dells’ new restaurant The Martinez, adherence to tradition is as important as it gets.
Open since May 8 in the longtime home of Otto’s, the mother-daughter duo brings a modern interpretation of the supper club to the Dells area. According to Lange, their aim was to create a more laid-back environment where people can expect quality food and cocktails.
“We wanted it to be more casual dining, we put our own little twist,” Lange said.
One of Lange’s many nods to tradition is her work in the kitchen; she makes her own dinner rolls daily, and also prepares a homemade citrus butter that is served with the dinner rolls as well as the steaks.
Lange has decades of restaurant experience, as does her daughter. She recounts Martinez’s first job with a laugh: waitressing at a restaurant Lange was managing at the time, after her mother “forced her.”
But Lange isn’t forcing Martinez into anything these days. The mother and daughter work as equal partners at The Martinez, which is not, in fact, named after Trisha. According to Lange, they actually chose the name in reference to a drink, the Martinez, a precursor to the modern martini.
“The actual first martini was called the Martinez, we found that from the 1800s,” Lange said. “And we found all the original ingredients, to be able to make the original Martinez.”
The Martinez has the same gin and vermouth combination, but has a strange addition: maraschino liqueur. Not maraschino syrup, Lange insists, but liqueur.
According to Martinez, classic cocktails are one of the main driving forces behind their business model. They still make Old Fashioneds the traditional way, muddling fruit and adding a sugar cube.
“People say they don’t do that around here anymore,” Martinez said. “They say ‘Oh, I haven’t been anywhere that muddled fruit for years.’ I thought that’s how you made an Old Fashioned.”
Their nods to tradition don’t stop with the drinks. Several framed pictures of the building’s time as Otto’s adorn the walls, and Lange speaks with pride about one more touch she and Martinez will add in the coming weeks.
“The old original bar is in the basement, so we’re bringing that up,” Lange said. “We’re having our grand opening June 8, so we’re hoping to get it up and it’s going to be displayed out there.”