Chef Dan Jacobs’s restaurants have long been fixtures on best-of-Milwaukee lists. One of his latest, called EsterEv, offers an eclectic mix of gourmet and comfort food: The $65, five-course menu features caviar tater tots and schmaltz-and-poppy-seed focaccia with hot mustard butter. But while diners may be eager to return, Jacobs can’t find enough workers to get his place back up and running.
He’s offering $40,000-a-year salaries and $20 an hour for part-timers. He’s begging on Craigslist. He’s even scouting people who’ve served time in prison. No luck. “It’s a coin flip,” Jacobs says of the chances that EsterEv and his other two restaurants will survive. “I have to be realistic and realize there is a distinct chance this will not work.”