BelAir Cantina, Nomad World Pub move west to Madison

Michael Muckian, Contributing writer

A popular Milwaukee bar and a Mexican-fusion restaurant are moving west and establishing their first business outposts in Madison, thanks in part to a partnership that began at the altar.

Nomad World Pub, which opened at 1401 E. Brady St., Milwaukee, in 1995, has established its first Madison presence in what was formerly the Cardinal Bar at 418 E. Wilson St. The Cardinal was one of the city’s most popular watering holes for both Hispanic and LGBT communities in Madison and also was a popular dance spot for campus and downtown residents.

Owner Mike Eitel pledged to maintain many of the same features and services offered by the Cardinal, which had been operated by Ricardo Gonzalez since 1974. In fact, the Cardinal was Madison’s first disco and still had the disco ball to prove it.

The Madison Nomad had a soft opening before its grand opening March 16 — 22 years to the day the Milwaukee Nomad first opened, Eitel was quoted by sources as saying.

This summer, Eitel’s wife Kristyn, a Madison native, will return to her hometown as one of four owners of the BelAir Cantina restaurant.

Madison’s first BelAir will open at 111 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. on the Capitol Square, replacing the former Francesca’s al Lago, which had occupied the 4,700-square-foot space for the past seven years.

BelAir operates four restaurants in the Milwaukee area, including locations at 1935 N. Water St., 2625 N. Downer Ave., 6817 North Ave. in Wauwatosa, and 410 W. Town Square Way in Oak Creek. A fifth area location at 250 High St. in Brookfield is scheduled to open this spring, according to the BelAir website.

Kristyn Eitel has described her restaurant as featuring Mexican-fusion cuisine mixed with a “California taco truck kind of vibe,” according to reports.

The restaurant will offer standard Tex-Mex fare, including burritos, fajitas and tortas, but with a heavy emphasis on tacos.

Chips and salsa come with every meal and, like the Milwaukee-area restaurants, the Madison BelAir expects to offer $2 tacos on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mike Eitel’s former business partner Leslie Montemurro and two others will own the Madison BelAir with Kristyn Eitel.

Also on the square

BelAir Cantina won’t be the only new Mexican food arrival on Capitol Square.

Madison’s Food Fight restaurant chain is opening Canteen on the Square, a neighborhood taqueria in the former Nostrano Restaurant location at 111 S. Hamilton St., just a block south of BelAir.