By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Apr 23, 2024 at 10:02 AM

The wait is over!  There's officially a new incubator concept at Zocalo Food Park, 636 S. 6th St., with a familiar female business owner is behind it.

Malee Thao is behind the new mobile operation, which she has dubbed Sandu. Thao is the entrepreneur behind S’Blendid Boba Tea, a concept she debuted at farmers markets in 2022.

And while Thao won’t be serving her delicious boba tea at Zocalo, she will be serving the popular Korean fried chicken sandwiches she served at the North Avenue Market as well as a selection of chicken katsu sandwiches and sides.

Thao says that when she saw that Zocalo was looking for an entrepreneur for their incubator program, it piqued her interest. She’d contemplated launching a food truck in the past, but didn’t feel confident that she knew the ins and outs of what it would take to run a mobile operation. 

“The incubator program appealed to me because I knew that I’d have support from other owner-operators,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity for me, since it allows me to get to know the business before going off on my own.” 

Thao says she was also attracted to Zocalo’s overall mission.

“Their goal of bringing the community together really resonates,” she says. “It ties in with my goals early on: to build community around food and beverages.”

On the menu

Once open, Sandu will offer a menu of six sandwiches and sides. 

Among them are Thao’s distinctive Korean fried chicken sandwiches which are made with buttermilk marinated chicken that’s been dredged in seasoned flour and fried.

Korean fried chicken sandwiches (Photo: Sandu)
Korean fried chicken sandwiches (Photo: Sandu)

The sandwiches, which are served on brioche buns, will come in three variations: Classic (topped with cabbage and mayo, $10.99); Sesame (featuring sesame sauce, pickles, cabbage and sesame seeds, $11.99) and Gochujang (featuring gochujang sauce, cabbage, dilled carrots, pickles and mayo, $12.99).

She’ll also serve three variations of Japanese chicken katsu sandwiches made with brined chicken that’s dredged in corn starch, dipped in an egg mixture and covered in seasoned breadcrumbs before being fried to a crispy golden brown.

Japanese katsu sandwich (Photo: Sandu)
Japanese katsu chicken sandwich (Photo: Sandu)

The sandwiches, which are served on slices of brioche bread include the Curry Up! (Japanese curry sauce, dilled carrots and cabbage, $11.99); the Tonkatsu (tonkatsu sauce, Kewpie mayo, pickles and cabbage, $10.99); and the Momo Peach (tonkatsu sauce, light sweet peach jam and cabbage, $10.99). 

Guests can also purchase Thao’s signature seasoned fries ($3.99) or indulgent Purs-Asian Loaded Fries topped with sweet unagi-style poké sauce, Kewpie mayo, scallions, sesame seeds and bonito flakes ($7.79; guests can add fried chicken for +$3.99).

Thao says Sandu will keep hours consistent with other vendors at Zocalo Food Park, serving lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Current winter hours for the Zocalo Tavern are currently Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Vendor hours vary slightly and can be viewed online.

Looking for an excuse to visit Zocalo?  Join us on Wednesday nights for our "Top Chef" viewing parties & post-episode recaps!

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.