Bringing it home

The namesake – and menu – of North and South Seafood and Smokehouse make a lot more sense once you learn the backstory of its founders, Keith and Erin Stoesz.

Keith is from Minnesota, what one could assume is the “north,” and Erin is from Texas, or the obvious “south.”

The couple met by chance in an even farther “north” – Anchorage, Alaska – and now lives in Verona.

For 10 years, they operated a Madison franchise of Joey’s Seafood and Grill restaurant chain on Mineral Point Road; however, the couple wanted to add brisket and barbecue items to the menu.

It was then, in 2015, they decided it was time to rebrand and their new seafood and smokehouse concept was born.

Just as their marriage brought together two ends of the country, so does their menu. The restaurant’s signature foods include brisket and burnt ends – two of its most popular items – as well as pulled pork, wings, crab, shrimp, cod, haddock and other seafood.

The Verona restaurant is the franchise’s third location, joining DeForest and Madison, and it opened Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 958 Liberty Drive, owned by another Verona resident, Kevin Krahn.

The restaurant took over the space that formerly housed Verona Woods restaurant, which closed in April after two years in business. It’s a few doors down from El Charro, which opened in October in the location where 4 Sisters had closed in February.

“It’s a little scary going into a location where the last business failed, but we want Verona to know we offer great values for families,” Krahn said.

Krahn, who has worked in the restaurant industry for decades, was recommended to the Stoeszs by the owner of the DeForest location, JD Duncan. Krahn and Duncan worked together at Olive Garden for many years.

“Madison and DeForest have been very supportive of getting this up and running,” Krahn said.

After 18 years at Olive Garden, Krahn worked at Cafe Hollander in Madison. This is his first time as a restaurant owner.

He’s lived in Verona for three years, previously residing in Fitchburg. Overall, the Kenosha native has been a resident of the Madison area for 15 years.

It took two-and-a-half months of renovations to transform Verona Woods into North and South.

The menu is the same at all three restaurants but Krahn said this location is the first to be true to the interior decorating style the Stoesz’s envisioned. The Madison location, he noted, still has an aquarium leftover in the front of the restaurant from the days of the space being a Joey’s franchise.

Despite being a first-time restaurant owner, Krahn feels pretty familiar with his job responsibilities from years of food industry experience.

“The day to day tasks are the same, but you take a lot more pride in what you do because it’s your own,” Krahn said.

There is a meat smoker on premise, and the restaurant smokes all its meats on site daily such as whole brisket and pork. The restaurant provides four barbecue sauces at every table, which are made in house, including Carolina Mustard, Spicy Whisky, the Smokey Smokey and Kansas City Sweet.

The sauces and dry rubs originate from Erin’s family recipes. However, Krahn said Keith has had a lot to do with the recipes, as well.

The restaurant is already hosting a variety of local businesses and organizations. First Weber Bank recently held a party for 50 staff members, the Verona Fire Department is holding an upcoming party for its firemen there and on Nov. 30, the Madison ESPN radio pregame on show announcers will come in and try some of the food live on air.

Krahn looks forward to the Verona location of North and South Seafood and Smokehouse being as successful as the first two.

“I’m excited to work with a family oriented, family run restaurant that believes community is the most important part of their success,” he said. “I am excited that Verona has welcomed and accepted us.”

Contact Neal Patten, Verona Community Reporter at