By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 22, 2024 at 1:31 PM

The building which formerly housed The Noble at 704 S. 2nd St. won't be empty for long. In fact, a new concept called Cute Robot Japanese Kitchen is slated to occupy both floors of the building with an opening expected by late July.

Behind the family-owned restaurant is Janet Boettner, who grew up in the restaurant industry. Her family worked at Izumi under both the original owners and later with Fujiko Yamauchi. And Boettner herself operated Konohana Japanese Restaurant on Brady Street in the early 2000s.

Boettner will operate Cute Robot alongside her husband Marc Boettner with her brother, Michael Oboyle, handling front-of-house operations.

On the menu

Boettner says that Cute Robot is an homage to her mother, a native of Okinawa, Japan, who passed away in 2014.

“She always believed in me and she said she knew I would find success in starting my own restaurant,” says Boettner, noting that the menu at Cute Robot will be inspired by the yoshoku fare (Westernized Japanese cuisine) she ate growing up.

“I loved the food she made for me,” she says. “And I really believe in my heart that other people will enjoy it as well.”

Those dishes include comforting dishes like sweet and savory Japanese curry, okonomiyaki pancakes and omelet rice (omurice) featuring fried rice wrapped in a thin egg omelet.

Another feature will be Okinawa soba, a variation on ramen showcasing thicker, chewy wheat-based soba noodles and a broth made with both dashi and pork will also be served with toppings like fish cakes, pork belly, scallions and Japanese ginger pickle.

While Cute Robot won’t serve sushi, Boettner says she plans to serve onigiri, Japanese rice balls with various fillings, some of which might mimic the flavors of maki rolls.

Boettner says she’d also like to serve a Japanese-style Friday night fish fry like they used to do at Izumi. 

Anime meets nostalgia

Cute Robot will occupy both the first and second floors of the building. The first floor will feature a “curry counter” where guests can enjoy bowls of curry much as they might eat ramen in a Japanese ramen shop.

Upstairs will showcase additional seating and a full bar serving beer, wine, sake and specialty cocktails. She also hopes to incorporate an area that features tatami-style seating.

As for the aesthetic, Boettner says it will incorporate both an anime theme and elements of vintage Japanese pop culture from the 1970s.

“Overall, it will be colorful, comforting and lots of fun.” says Boettner.

Once open, Cute Robot is expected to offer both lunch and dinner service.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.