Altitude Restaurant & Lounge: Uniquely Crafted, Artistically Presented

Altitude Restaurant & Lounge, located in the heart of the Gateway’s hospitality district on S 13th Street, has been making a name for itself as one of the premier dining spots in the area. Though it is located within the Crowne Plaza Milwaukee Airport hotel, the restaurant has recently grown to become its own, separate entity. The restaurant features a uniquely crafted, artistically presented, and diverse menu. Stacy sat down with Food & Beverage Director, Elvis Mejia and Executive Chef, Mike Sefton to hear more about the story behind Altitude Restaurant & Lounge and how it has grown and developed in the last few years.

Mike Sefton started out as a dishwasher at Johnny’s Supper Club in Brown Deer, more than 30 years ago. One Friday night, Mike was pulled off the dishwashing line to fill in for a fry cook that hadn’t shown up. The next day, the restaurant managers promoted him to be a permanent cook. After that, Mike fell in love with the profession, gave up his career plans to become an electrical engineer, and has never looked back. “I just had a knack for cooking and I stuck with it” says Mike.

Elvis Mejia also fell into his profession after working as a banquet houseman, setting up weddings and other banquets when he was 18. Since then, he has worked just about every position in Food & Beverage in the hospitality industry, working his way up at various hotels from Restaurant Manager to Banquet Manager to his current role as Food & Beverage Director.

When asked what their biggest successes at Altitude, thus far, have been, it was no surprise that both Mike and Elvis’ answers aligned with one another. Mike’s greatest accomplishment as Executive Chef has been reworking the menu and “honing in on what we really are and what we want to be, capturing our guests and making it more accessible to the people that stay here, as well as those that live around here.”

Elvis agrees that the restaurant is no longer just bringing in guests who are staying at the hotel. Patrons are coming in from off the streets as well. They have been working hard to brand Altitude as a stand-alone restaurant versus a restaurant that just happens to be located inside of a hotel. “We’re different, we’re unique. And I think that we’ve marketed ourselves very successfully in the last year and a half or so. People are coming to know us as Altitude Restaurant & Lounge, and not just as something that’s affiliated with the hotel” says Elvis.

Many people come from outside of the hotel to enjoy Altitude’s 3 mainstay dinner specials; Tuesday nights are steak by the ounce, Friday night is their fish fry, and Saturday nights are a prime rib special. Just to give you an idea of the diversity and richness of Altitude’s menu, here is a list of their other daily specials from this past week: a wild mushroom & capicola canneloni, German-inspired beef stroganoff, sweet & blue chipotle pork medallions, and breaded mac-n-cheese fritters.

Even with all of the success that Altitude has experienced over the last few years, the restaurant has faced a number of challenges along the way. One of the biggest challenges that they face is recruiting and finding good, quality people to hire. “I don’t just hire to fill a spot. I hire someone that’s going to be a part of the team, part of the family, and that I expect to be here awhile…We want the continuity of service to be uninterrupted, so we hire people that fit into our philosophy” says Mike.

Part of that philosophy is emphasizing the restaurant’s quality customer service in an industry that is constantly evolving. “In the restaurant industry, you find out that what was popular 6 months ago, isn’t popular anymore, and that goes with service too. You don’t see that touch on service in stand-alone restaurants anymore. Everything is generated to be fast and on the go” says Elvis, something that sets Altitude apart.

Mike and Elvis also both agree that the restaurant’s plate appearance and presentation is unique to Altitude Restaurant & Lounge. “Mike & his culinary team do an amazing job. Our fish fry for instance is not like any presentation you’ll see in the city, it’s very different. There’s a lot of artistic value to it; it’s not just food on a plate. There is thought that’s put into how it should look and how it should be presented. We eat with our eyes so it’s only natural” states Elvis.

Their unique, artistic food presentation was a hit at our Inaugural Taste of the Gateway event on July 20. Altitude brought tenderloin with boursin cheese on a garlic crostini, as well as a crab & mango lettuce wrap with a siracha lime vinaigrette. Altitude tries to take part in as many community events as they can, so that they can promote their business and share their food with new customers!

Altitude Restaurant & Lounge is located at 6401 S 13th St, Milwaukee, WI 53221.

Hours of Operation:
Breakfast: 6:00 AM-11:00 AM
Lunch: 11:00 AM-2:00 PM
Dinner: 4:00 PM-12:00 AM
Bar: 4:00 PM-12:00 AM

Check Altitude out on Facebook!