It’s located on a quieter street in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, but any sleepiness fades away the second you walk into Batches, where a burst of colors dots the wall across from the entrance.
It’s bright, but calming.
Funky, but traditional.
And for Jaceleen Latin-Kasper, the owner of Batches, it’s practical, but still a leap.
Latin-Kasper says Dan Van Rite and Dan Jacobs, the chefs and namesakes of American-Chinese restaurant DanDan, were approached by the Mandel Group about opening something in the corner space of DoMUS, a new apartment building. That’s when “the Dans” pitched the idea of a bakery to Latin-Kasper, their pastry chef.
The space was available. The price was right. But she wasn’t sold.
“At first, I was like, ‘no, I do not want to do a bakery, just leave me alone,'” Latin-Kasper recalls, with a bit of a laugh.
But ultimately, she came around to the idea.
“I don’t take big risks financially, even if it’s not my own money and is a large sum of money for someone else,” she explains of her hesitancy. “I had to think a lot, like ‘let’s look at the location. What’s over here? What’s our competition? Is this going to work? What will we make? What’s going to make us different?'”
As we sit just feet away from a tantalizing display of scones, cookies, muffin and cake, I ask Latin-Kasper what she decided would help set her bakery apart from the rest when it opened in February.
“I think the city has a great history of a lot of European bakeries,” she says. “There’s such a long tradition of that. So, we wanted to do something different. A lot of people are also doing French-inspired bakeries with croissants and macarons. We wanted to make sure that we were offering something different from those because the people who are already doing that are doing that very well. We wanted to hone in on American-style bakery goods and vintage American desserts, which I don’t think a lot of people are doing.”
That’s where treats like cheddar scallion scones (my personal favorite/one of the most popular items on the menu), tater tot casseroles and corn muffins come into play on the savory side of the menu.
As for the sweet side…
“At least in my family, we’re not big health food people,” she says. “If you’re making a dessert, that dessert is full of butter and sugar and all the good stuff. I really like all the butter and sugar, which is why I’ve really been drawn to Southern desserts, especially their pies. They’re all just ooey-gooey and buttery, which is great.”
That means her menu is filled with items like confetti cake, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecakes and pies.
“I think with Wisconsin and the Midwest, it’s just very hearty and filling cooking,” Latin-Kasper summarizes, “A lot of the person is put into it.”
Batches is located at 401 E. Erie Street. It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.