The Vanguard destined to become a Bay View landmark

February 3, 2015

By Jeffrey Zimmerman

PHOTO JENNIFER KRESSE

PHOTO JENNIFER KRESSE

For a town that prides itself on all things sausage (from making them, to eating them, to racing them), Milwaukee has surprisingly few restaurants that singularly celebrate the tasty, tubular link. Sure, you can put on your Sunday best and spend a small fortune on a knackwurst platter in the ersatz-Bavarian downtown dining halls, but the approachable neighborhood sausage house is about as rare as a winter street festival.

That is, until late last October when Bay View’s Vanguard successfully filled this gap in the market. Located at 2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in the space that was occupied by the Home Bar, Vanguard has already established itself as a great place to grab a brat and a beer. Bay Viewers will certainly appreciate that, especially during the long winter months when “street meats” are but a distant memory.

But Vanguard is also so much more.  Artfully combining elements of the foodie culture and the cocktail culture, along with the corner bar culture so central to Milwaukee’s identity, Vanguard is really an artisanal sausage and craft cocktail emporium hidden behind an unassuming Bay View storefront. The brainchild of co-owners Chris Schulist (longtime musician and manager of Bay View’s Cactus Club) and Jim McCann (a partner in Chicago’s Longman and Eagle), and cook Shay Linkus (formerly of Bay View’s Odd Duck), Vanguard offers a wide variety of tasty, well-prepared sausages, ranging from the traditional like bratwurst and mild Italian, to more exotic flavors like longanisa (pork, palm sugar, soy sauce), toulouse (pork, black pepper, garlic, nutmeg, apple), and vegan Italian (seitan, fennel, roasted peppers). Classic sausages ($4-6) are all served on a hearty, freshly-baked roll with condiment choices that include onion, sauerkraut, giardiniera, relish, and sport pepper.

The creativity of Vanguard’s menu is especially on display with the “styled sausages” ($7-8), which include Jamaican lamb currywurst, piri piri pork , and a duck BLT, among others. Daily specials, displayed on a sheet of butcher paper, typically add an additional vegan option. Foodies will appreciate that all of Vanguard’s sausages, except the smoked, are artisanal and made in-house in a downstairs prep area. It doesn’t get more local than that!

Sides are equally imaginative, hearty, and complement the main menu well. Diners can choose from two types of poutine (veal and onion gravy or roasted garlic, $7), baked potato balls or popcorn pork belly ($6). Even classic sides like french fries ($2) come with dipping sauces that run from the whimsically hipster (Cheez Whiz) to the deliciously vegan (deviled avocado).

No visit to Vanguard would be complete without also checking out the libations. A full-service bar offers 12 beers on tap — a wide variety of American and Belgian canned beers, wine, and dozens of whiskeys, bourbons, and ryes, enough to satisfy even the most discriminating of tastes. But the real powerhouse here are the craft cocktails, “draft cocktails.” I sampled the Vanguard Old Fashioned, which was subtle, complex, and bolstered with fresh orange zest.  Additional craft cocktails include the Ol’ Dirty Martini, the Vanguard Manhattan, and the Negroni Punch.

Co-owner Chris Schulist said that he wanted to create a casual, open, and welcoming venue where “a guy in a suit might be sitting next to someone in a Slayer T-shirt.” On this account, Schulist and his team have certainly succeeded. When we visited recently on a bustling Friday evening, every seat in the house was taken. An attentive hostess offered our party the three remaining seats at the bar, which we gladly took as this spot offers the best view of the open grill, where you can watch the cooks firsthand. The atmospherics at Vanguard kept us thoroughly entertained as we waited for our food. The main seating area includes multiple large, wooden community tables, where a diverse and jovial crowd seemed to making new friends.  The music rotation also reflects Vanguard’s open and eclectic concept, running through a wide-range of genres from Latin Lounge to Old School Country to Thrash Metal. Meanwhile — and this is my personal favorite touch — retro 1980s wrestling played on one of two TVs above the bar, along with the Bucks game.

Completely satisfied and slightly buzzed, my party and I strolled up Kinnickinnic where I couldn’t help but conclude that Vanguard makes a wonderful contribution to Bay View’s festive culture of locally-owned bars and restaurants. Vanguard is sure to please, whether you’re stopping in before a movie at the Avalon or coming home from an evening at Burnhearts. The late serving hours (until midnight, and soon 1am Thursdays through Saturdays) and the back patio (open weather permitting) will only add to the Vanguard’s popularity and guarantee it a prominent spot in Bay View’s cultural life.


BAY VIEW BITES — Café India

October 31, 2014

By Monica Maniaci

Bay View is in the midst of a new restaurant boom, and you won’t hear too many residents complaining about it. After all, there really is no better proof that a neighborhood is thriving. An  open-minded community such as Bay View wants choices, and the more choices, the better.

Café India Bar & Grill is the latest addition to the new crop of restaurants, and the only Indian restaurant in the area. Located on the northwest corner of Kinnickinnic Avenue and Ward Street, it opened September 26.

Café India Bar and Grill is owned by Rakesh Rehan, who goes by the nickname Ryan. Rehan moved to Milwaukee in 2000. A few years later he acquired the former Martha’s Vineyard in Walker’s Point Plaza, 601 S. First St., and renamed it Fine Vineyard. In 2011, he opened the original Café India a few doors down in the same strip mall, a small, fast-food-like restaurant.

It didn’t take long for Rehan to decide to open a larger restaurant. “I met people who were desperate to have fine dining, a place where they could enjoy the food and bring their family and friends,” Rehan said.

Before moving to Oak Creek with his wife and children, Rehan lived in Bay View for a number of years. He knew he wanted to open a restaurant in the neighborhood.

Originally from northern India, Rehan, the chief cook at Café India, traveled the world, which he said has greatly influenced his style of cooking. “I consider myself a big time Indian food connoisseur. Wherever I go, I try Indian food. I have traveled all over India. I have enjoyed almost every side of Indian cuisine — Bombay style, Calcutta, New Delhi, even the Indian food in London and Australia. Keeping all that in mind, I understand the flavor of food, and I make food that is a mix of everything that I love,” he said.

You can taste that experience, love, and attention in every bite.

My husband and I recently dined at Café India with our two daughters. The service was efficient and attentive, and the food was out of this world.

They have a full bar and offer several Indian beers in addition to domestic, craft beer, and imports. My husband and I shared a 22-ounce Kingfisher ($9.99).

We ordered the Veggie Korma ($10.99) for the kids because, traditionally, it is a less spicy dish. It still had a slight kick and my eight year old drank two full glasses of water with it, but she loved it and ate it up eagerly. The onion sauce had just the right amount of sweetness. The broccoli, red pepper, green pepper, and mushrooms were just the right size and were neither undercooked nor overcooked.

Of course, we ordered both regular and garlic naan, one of India’s traditional flatbreads, to go with our meal. We ended up ordering more because it was so good. It was “fresh from the oven” hot. The pieces were soft and pillow-y inside, but crispy and toasty on the outside. My children couldn’t stop sopping up the Veggie Korma sauce with their pieces of naan.

We ordered the Butter Chicken ($11.99), described on the menu as shredded tandoori chicken pieces cooked in a creamy tomato sauce. It arrived hot and steamy, with a wonderful ginger-garlic aroma. My husband and I were delighted by its creaminess as we spooned the thick chunks of chicken onto our cilantro-flecked rice. With a solid punch of spice, this dish offered creamy comfort with a bang, exactly what I love about Indian food.

Lastly, we ordered the Lamb Vindaloo ($14.99), bone-in lamb pieces, cooked with potatoes in a spicy ginger and garlic sauce. With a hint of mustard and red wine vinegar, the lamb was exceptionally tender and fell right off the bone as if it had been simmering all afternoon.

“I try to cook traditionally,” Rehan said. “In every home you go in, in India, you won’t find lamb without bones. I stick to the authenticity. I keep my tradition.”

The kitchen at Café India Bar & Grill has two tandoori clay ovens, one just for cooking meat and one just for cooking bread. They are careful to consider food allergies. “We don’t use any nuts, coconut or other. That’s the thing I learned from having a small restaurant — a lot of people are allergic to nuts or coconut. We don’t use any nuts. We do use milk and cream,” Rehan said.

Café India Bar & Grill has ample indoor seating, plus a patio with capacity for almost 100 people. The patio is also a hookah bar. Rehan said they are planning to put add fireplaces soon. Rehan offers take-out and will start delivery service some time in the near future, he said.

In addition to their full dinner menu, Café India offers a lunch buffet every day; $9.99 weekdays and $11.99 on weekends. It is available from 11am to 3pm each day.

Rehan is excited by his restaurant’s success, and you can tell he is a man who is passionate about Indian food. “People come from Shorewood, Franklin, Waukesha, and of course Bay View residents are so helpful, so excited,” Rehan said. “We want to take good care of the people who come for the fine dining experience.”

Now, if we could just get a sushi place to open up in Bay View.

Café India Bar and Grill
2201 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
(414) 837-6121; (website in development)


BAY VIEW BITES — Cream City Swirl

June 5, 2014

By Monica Maniaci

CREDIT Monica Maniaci

CREDIT Monica Maniaci

Frozen yogurt shops seem to be popping up everywhere. Contributing to the trend is Cream City Swirl, 2663 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., which opened its doors Easter weekend.

Cream City Swirl offers gelato, crepes, and weigh-and-pay frozen yogurt. It also serves Stone Creek Coffee. Although we skipped the coffee, my family and I stopped in one evening and tried all three desserts.

The gelato is from La Coppa Gelato, a local business in Brookfield, Wis. Cream City Swirl offers six flavors. We sampled the Merlot, which tasted amazingly just like the wine; Chili Chocolate, which had a robust chocolate flavor followed by an intense kick of heat; and Peanut Butter Cup, which tasted just like its name. We decided to order a single scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip ($3.95), which had a strong and satisfying mint flavor.

Next we tried a couple of crepes. First we tried the Love Capone ($6.50), which was filled with mixed berries, mascarpone cheese, and white chocolate drizzle. It was fantastic. The crepe itself was perfectly cooked, light and little crispy around the edges. It was abundantly stuffed, not too sweet, and not too big.

We ordered the KK Classic Crepe next ($3.50), which was filled with lemon juice, sugar, and butter. It was flakey around the edges and soft in the middle, and the lemon and the butter blend was succulent.

Next, my daughters shared a bowl of weigh-and-pay frozen yogurt. There are four self-serve frozen yogurt machines to choose from, each with three different flavors of frozen yogurt. Customers can make a number of choices and combinations. For example, my daughters chose Strawberry Cheesecake Supreme, which was a swirl of Strawberry Frozen Yogurt and Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt. I tried it and thought it was very tasty. My daughters couldn’t get enough!

With flavors such as Birthday Cake, Triple Chocolate, Chocolate Cupcake, and Blueberries and Cream, it was hard for them to decide on just one. Luckily, Cream City Swirl has tiny paper cups available for samples.

After they filled their bowl with frozen yogurt, they headed for the toppings. The day we were there, we counted 29 different toppings. They could have chosen Reese’s Pieces, Mini Malted Milk Balls, Caramel Cups, Snickers Pieces, Gummie Cubs, Mochi Rice Cake, Cookie Dough, Fresh Blackberries, Fresh Blueberries, S’mores Pieces, or Birthday Cake Pieces, but they took it easy with a large spoonful of Rainbow Sprinkles and Mini M&Ms.

After they chose their toppings, they went to the counter to pay. They put their cup of frozen yogurt on the scale and the employees weighed it. At 47 cents per ounce, the price was just over $4.

The employees were helpful, fun, and kind. Customers seemed satisfied, and were coming in one after the other. The décor is inviting. It is clean and simple, and the space is bright and open. Mirrors hang on the ceiling, adding interest and visual appeal.

It’s safe to say that Cream City Swirl is another nice addition to the neighborhood!


Lazy Susan

May 1, 2014

Text and Photo by Monica Maniaci

Lazy Susan BITESWhat? Another small, independently-owned restaurant opening in Bay View? That’s right. Lazy Susan, 2378 S. Howell Ave., opened its doors April 8.

It was created by owner and chef A.J. Dixon, most recently the head chef at Riverwest’s Centro Café.

At first glance, it doesn’t look like much, and maybe they’ll decorate it more along the way, but sitting down at the wooden tables, one gets the feeling of visiting your eclectic grandmother — the one who collects teacups and salt and pepper shakers, the one who wears patterned aprons, and cooks excellent food that makes you feel good inside.

The drink menu at Lazy Susan is small, but offers a fine assortment of specialty cocktails, beers, wines, and spirits. The dinner menu is also on the small side and all dishes are intended for sharing. The smallness of the menu isn’t limiting, however. In fact, it’s quite diverse, intimate, and interesting. It’s comfort food with a healthy twist.

First, my dining companion and I ordered the Coconut Sweet Potato Soup, which was outstanding in its simplicity and smooth and creamy richness. With hints of cumin and cilantro, it was delicate, but flavorful without being overwhelming. We ordered the Fennel and Grapefruit Salad next. It was bright and fresh, nicely balanced with a sprinkling of walnuts and a vinaigrette of honey, mint, and citrus.

Next we ordered the Corned Buffalo Hash, which was outstanding. The buffalo was moist and tender, cooked to perfection, and it was mixed with toasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes. Horseradish applesauce complimented the hash and a sunny-side-up egg on top brought the flavors together absolutely beautifully.

It was difficult to choose our final plate. Should we get the Swiss Chard Pancakes, the Chicken Fried Drummies, or the Cambodian Stuffed Wings? After much debate, we decided on the Cambodian Stuffed Wings and we were not disappointed. The chicken wings were succulently stuffed with pork, ginger, carrots, and glass noodles, expertly browned but still juicy. A spicy soy-like sauce was served with it, adding to the layers of flavor.

We finished our meal with the Ancho Pot de Crème, a thick, dark chocolate custard made with coconut milk and infused with just enough ancho pepper to give it a little kick, and to break up the heaviness of the chocolate.

Almost all the plates at Lazy Susan are or can be prepared either gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian, and they are listed clearly and appropriately on the menu. It was nice to be in such an accommodating atmosphere where the staff and owner clearly understand the wants and needs of its clientele.

All in all, it was an excellent meal. The service was great, too.

You can tell that Chef A.J. knows food, that she understands ingredients and cares enough to make things taste great. It was real, healthy, homemade food. It wasn’t pretentious, just simple and easy, a thoroughly thoughtful, loving food experience.

 


Restaurant Review — Little DeMarinis revives traditional flavors

February 28, 2014

By Gian Pogliano

Like many other Bay View natives, I was raised on Mama DeMarinis and was as excited as anyone else to hear that the original recipes were returning with a new restaurant. But I entered Little DeMarinis for its soft opening February 11 doing my best to avoid bias and examine the food objectively.

After all the secrecy surrounding the renovation, I was surprised to find the décor to be a garage/backyard patio concept. A Vespa stands inside the front door There is a scooter on the wall behind the bar. There are Vespa miniatures and posters everywhere. Work lamps hang from a ceiling with beer caps accenting its copper-colored tile. Many of the servers wear red bandanas a la Rosie the Riveter.

The sign that spelled out Mama DeMarinis on the exterior of the original restaurant on Potter is mounted on the back wall, attached to industrial sheet metal. The burnt wood wall accents reminded me of my grandmother’s backyard brick oven. The tables from Mama DeMarinis are back, refinished to match the wood on the walls, and the plastic chairs are the same, in keeping with the original bar/restaurant’s unpretentious blue collar vibe.

The bar seating is comfortable, and three televisions are tuned to different sports channels. Lakefront beers are on tap, along with Miller Lite. The bottled beer selection ranges from domestic standbys to hipper fare such as Bell’s Two Hearted.

The Cheese Garlic Bread ($5.50) is a good starter, but don’t expect to finish an order by yourself. The four thick slices of authentic Italian bread were soft and fluffy inside with a very crunchy crust. They weren’t over-buttered, and the strong mozzarella didn’t overwhelm the garlic seasoning.

Pizzas in various sizes range from $9-$25. I ordered the 10” pizza listed as The Works ($15.50). I opted for no tomatoes but specified fresh mushrooms. For whatever reason, you can choose between fresh or canned mushrooms. My pizza came in a round pan, but larger pizzas are rectangular, with more crust at the edges. The brick-oven-baked buttery crust was light brown, crunchy on the edges, and softer but still firm in the center. The sausage, made with Mama’s homemade spice blend, blends perfectly with the basil notes of the sauce, getting spicier as you continue eating.

The sauce is just that: sauce. Many are accustomed to tomato paste on pizza, but traditional sauces are thinner. Though this sometimes leaves some liquid on the bottom of the pan and can make some slices a bit floppy, especially when loaded with toppings, it delivers freshness that is well worth it. The pepperoni, well-distributed across the pizza, was piquant, keeping the spiciness consistent. The cheese was light and stringy. All the vegetables were fresh. The green peppers were crunchy, their juices providing a light zing, and the mushrooms were soft and flavorful.

I also sampled a 10” Italian Garden Vegan Pesto Pizza ($15), one of the menu-options added to attract the ever-growing vegan cohort. Putting artichokes on pizza can be a challenge, as they dehydrate very easily. But these artichokes were cooked perfectly — warm, soft, and full of juices. The vegan mozzarella (gluten- and soy-free) was fairly subtle, and I would have preferred it to have a greater flavor presence. The broccoli, red peppers, and fresh tomatoes rounded out a straightforward but complex flavor profile.

Little DeMarinis also features pastas served in fairly large bowls, perfect if you like to toss your pasta first. Options range from Marinara ($9.50) and Alfredo ($11.75) to lighter alternatives like Primavera ($11.25) and Garlic and Olive Oil ($9.50). Other notable items include the Chicken Parmesan Dinner ($13.75), Italian Sausage Sandwich ($8.50), Meatball Sandwich ($7.50), Friday Fish Fry ($10.25) and children’s menu.

Little DeMarinis
2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Tu-Th 4-10; Fri & Sat, 4-10:30; Sun 3-9

 


BAY VIEW BITES — Mr. Webo’s

November 1, 2013

By Gian Pogliano

Steak tacos scored well at Mr. Webo’s. — photo Jennifer Kresse

Steak tacos scored well at Mr. Webo’s. — photo Jennifer Kresse

Mr. Webo’s tends to be viewed as the odd kid out in Bay View’s restaurant scene: it is fairly new and with a name and signage that some find off-putting name. Some can’t even figure out the pronunciation — use a long “a” instead of an “e” and think huevos. It doesn’t help having the wildly hip Guanajuato’s (or GTO, as folks call it) two doors down. This is quite a shame, as the food is definitely not a thoughtless retread of GTO’s standard Americanized cantina menu.

Mr. Webo’s occupies a unique place in Milwaukee Mexican fare.

It is simultaneously traditional, using lots of cilantro and onions and featuring many menu items relatively unknown to non-Hispanic customers, while also putting a contemporary high-class foodie spin on standard dishes without alienating a customer base reared on Conejito’s and Johnny’s.

The décor is a crafty mix of contemporary urban murals and traditional Mexican tables and chairs. However, the background music of indie rock hits was a bit too modern and sometimes drew too much attention to itself. It took a bit longer than expected to get my food considering the number of customers, but not overwhelmingly so, considering the fact that all the dishes are made fresh to order. A few flies were milling about from the open patio in the rear of the building, but I don’t expect to see any when the back is closed up.

To start, I received chips and three house salsas: pico de gallo; salsa verde with red pepper flakes, and an unusual sweet and piquant salsa made with honey, sugar, and habanero. The chips were unusually long and thin, which made spooning up the chunky salsa a bit difficult even when the chips were broken in half.

I began with some enchiladas and tacos à la carte at $2.50 each, except for those with steak, which were $3. This is a great way to try each type of meat, and it fills you up quick even without the rice and beans. All of the tacos were served inside two fresh corn tortillas with lettuce and tomatoes that tasted like they came straight from the garden.

The pork, in long pulled strings, was juicy but a bit watery, having been marinating in a savory broth with long slices of celery. The chicken came in tender chunks and seemed to have a light marinade, a bit subtler than the heavily marinated pulled-chicken down the street. If you prefer chicken, GTO is the better choice, but if you like big juicy chunks of steak, Mr. Webo’s has proven itself superior to just about any cantina in town. My steak enchilada was full of tasty morsels, a rojo sauce with a sharp tang, and had pleasantly stringy melted cheese and sour cream on top.

Mr. Webo’s signature Fish Tacos Baja Style ($12.95) were perfect for rustic fall weather, with pickled cabbage, a mix of two types of cornmeal, chipotle aioli to add a bit of zing, and just a tiny bit of avocado to cool the palate back down. The tilapia was breaded just enough to give each piece a nice crunch, without overtaking the natural taste of the fish.

The refried beans served on the side were the restaurant’s one really weak point, and were the only item that didn’t seem to be particularly fresh. They seemed unusually spicy and were crusty and hard at the top. The rice was milder and less fried than typical cantina rice, with some cilantro mixed in.

Other interesting options with Mr. Webo’s mix of traditional and sophisticated include the Yucatan Style Pork Plate ($13.95), Shrimp Enchilado (smothered shrimp) in citrus tomato sauce ($15.95), and the Chorizo Roasted Poblano appetizer ($7.95).


BAY VIEW BITES: Beef-e’s

August 31, 2013

By Gian Pogliano

Though not typically accorded high visibility in sandwich fare, the Italian beef sandwich is a creation that is American and a surprisingly difficult thing to do well. It requires a perfect balance of heat and piquancy in the toppings, mouthwatering flavors in the meat, and savory herbs in a dip.

Since Beef-E’s, a new food cart debuted July 8, it has been steadily gaining momentum. Owners Eric Manke and Dave McGuinness have created sandwiches of distinctly high quality.

Unlike many of the city’s brick-and-mortar options that offer the sandwich, Beef-E’s meats are prepped from scratch on the same day they’re in the cart. Both meats and vegetables are undeniably fresh, as opposed to the reheated food service products that most greasy spoon diners rely on.

Pals Manke and McGuinness found themselves traveling to Chicago regularly for authentic Italian beef sandwiches from legendary restaurants like Al’s in the city’s Little Italy.

They resolved to learn how to make their own, and eventually felt they wanted to share the real thing with Milwaukeeans. But to create the menu for their future food cart, they went through a long trial-and-error process to invent unique new twists on the sandwich.

They have created seven sandwiches and offer four per day, rotating the mix daily.

Beef-e’s Classic ($6), the standard Italian beef sandwich, comes with sweet peppers and hot or mild giardiniera. It is available every day.

A true Italian beef sandwich experience is fast and intense, as your mouth is pummeled by spicy bites and your hand drips with dip and giardiniera bits. It is not for the faint of heart.

The Italian Stallion ($6) delivers this in spades. A variation on a Philly cheesesteak, it includes mozzarella, pan-fried mushrooms, fried onions, and green peppers, along with the obligatory hot giardiniera. The roast beef was bold, seeming to leap straight from the slicer. The mushrooms were big, flavorful, and clearly fresh, with just a slight veneer of char. The onions were soft and caramelized and the mozzarella was subtle but an incredibly important element of the whole package. (Mozzarella is a free add-on for their sandwiches that don’t include it.)

The Stallis ($6) conferred multiple types of spiciness that collided with each other and jockeying for supremacy. The creamy yet peppery Southwest sauce blended nicely with the gravy-like savoriness of the dip before its hot chipotle aftertaste sets it back at the top of the hill. I tried it with green peppers and mild giardiniera. Even with the mild giardiniera, the sandwich packed a pronounced kick.

The Brew City Beef ($7) is Beef-E’s spin on hometown pride with its white cheddar cheese curds and bacon. The plump curds are surprisingly mild but flavorful, with a pleasing, lightly-fried outer texture in contrast to an almost fluffy interior. The bacon is smoky and crunchy, and the sandwich works well with a dip as the curds give its flavor more subtlety while still preserving some of its light heat. The dip also highlighted the bun, the unsung hero of a good Italian beef. Made at Canfora Bakery, the bun held together without fail, even after a 20-minute walk home.

Beef-E’s cart is at The Bubbler in Bay View most Monday nights.

Consult twitter.com/milwaukeebeefes or
beefes.com for up-to-date location announcements.


BAY VIEW BITES — Palomino slims down

August 1, 2013

By Gian Pogliano

Palomino Bar has new paint and a new menu. They reopened after interior and exterior remodeling.  —photo Katherine Keller

Palomino Bar has new paint and a new menu. They reopened after interior and exterior remodeling.
—photo Katherine Keller

Palomino Bar, 2491 S. Superior St., reopened in June after some interior and exterior remodeling and with a modified á la carte menu (you pay for sides). Leslie Montemurro and Scott Johnson of MojoFuco Restaurant Group brought in their Comet and Honeypie partners, Valerie and Adam Lucks, to reconfigure the restaurant and menu.

The renovation dispensed with the clutter while retaining Palomino’s most handsome features: the well-placed chrome at the bar, the ’50s–style overhead light platform, and the vibrantly green wall murals. The new tables in the back section of the restaurant are reminiscent of north woods breakfast joints, as are the thick cloth napkins. The menu is pared down, has fewer deep-fried offerings, and is pricier.

Leaning heavily on “new wave of new wave” groups like Bloc Party, the background music didn’t jive well with the down-home surroundings, but it lent a nocturnal elegance and kept the employees in a peppy mood. The crowd consisted mainly of hip 20-somethings. My server was attentive, anticipated any needs I had, and was considerate enough to ask if it was my first time back since the reopening.

The new cocktail menu didn’t reinvent the mixology wheel, but offers subtle twists on American standards. The Old 77 ($8) has a summery citrus bite without sacrificing the earthy taste of its rye base. The Lux Old Fashioned ($8) has a perfect balance of strong and sugary, and the first sip exploded with orange and dark cherry flavors thanks to a very thorough muddle at the bottom. The beer menu includes offbeat choices from O’So, Dark Horse, and Pearl Street breweries, as well as more well-known selections from Lakefront and Furthermore.

My corn bread starter plate ($4) arrived promptly, as did my entrée and sides. The skillet plate was a nice touch and put me in the mood for down-home cooking. Each muffin had crunchy edges and a fluffy texture, though they were too crumbly to withstand the chunky apricot jam, which could have been more generously portioned.

The Smoked Pork Shoulder ($12) seemed small for its price, but in this case, appearance deceived. It was dry or tough in some sections but also yielded savory juices. There was a bit too much of the fantastically-sour Carolina-style mustard sauce, but the accompanying biscuit was just right for soaking up its excess.

The Pimento Mac and Cheese ($4-$7) follows MojoFuco’s de rigeur pairing of a mild cheese sauce that binds the pasta with a sharp cheese baked on top. It included chopped red peppers, an inspired move, though it seemed little more than a garnish. Adding more would help differentiate this offering from the nearly identical versions at Comet and Honeypie.

The heavily fried, golf-ball-sized Tots ($4-$6) were a throwback to the old Palomino. With dark, finely julienned hash inside, they possessed more of a soul food vibe than the other fare. The tangy ranch dip was a nice balance.

I had intended to finish with a Southern-style Cream Pie ($6), but there was simply no room. If you plan to include a dessert, I’d suggest skipping the appetizer. Other intriguing options I wish I’d been able to sample included Biscuits and Sawmill Gravy ($7), Grilled Shrimp and Organic Grits in Tomato Gravy ($12), Cast Iron Fried Chicken ($12), and the Smoked Duck Sandwich ($9).

The new Palomino might still have a few kinks to work out, and its pricier menu will certainly cause a number of the old restaurant’s fans to abandon it. But it has retained a sense of Southern authenticity, even if it has moved from authentic deep-fried to authentic home-baked. It remains, in its new guise, a unique, love-it-or-hate-it complement to other options in Bay View.

 


Hamburger Mary’s—a carnivore’s perspective

April 2, 2012

By Peter Lameka

I met three friends at Hamburger Mary’s around 6:30pm recently. Our ages ranged from 27 to 52. We went to sample the burgers to add a carnivore’s perspective to the this publication’s Hamburger Mary’s restaurant review.

The menu states that the burgers are made of 100% natural “humane” Angus. The owners put the quotes around “humane.” Not me. I didn’t ask what that meant.

I ordered the Sloppy Mary and was happily surprised by the burger, and the chili too. Both were great. The burger was perfectly done, medium; the chili was nicely spiced and not too salty. I didn’t think I would be able to eat the whole thing, but I did. I had a side of coleslaw that smacked of the mass produced. It didn’t hold up to the quality of the burger and chili. Rating: 8 (for burger and chili).

One of my companions ordered the Barbara-Q Bacon Chzburger. It comes with onion rings piled on the sandwich, plus barbeque sauce, cheddar and jack cheese. “The barbeque sauce had just the right amount of sweetness. The onion rings could have been a little crisper, but were still decent. The fries were average,” she wrote via email after she got home. Rating: 9.

Another of my companions ordered the Buffy (The Vampire Slayer) that is topped with a red wine sauce, Swiss cheese, and a lot of aioli sauce (garlic mayonnaise) served on a garlic toasted bun. She was a bit wary of the garlic but ordered it anyway. “It’s not too garlicky!” she yelled gleefully, above the too loud music, after the first bite. Rating: 8

The sliders were very ordinary. Rating: 2

The service didn’t hold up to the burgers. I am willing to give anyone a must-be-having-a-bad-day pass, but our service was dismal. When I ordered a beer that was listed on the menu, our waiter challenged me. He didn’t recognize it and tried to tell me they didn’t stock it. Ironically, not only was it on the menu, but it’s brewed about a mile away from the restaurant. After the food arrived, the waiter disappeared. Two requests for a glass of water were ignored. Like I said, he must have been having a bad day, or maybe he was new.

The crowd was a mix of adults of all ages, and children.

A boost in service will put Hamburger Mary’s on the map. And we all agreed we’d go back. We liked our burgers.

Also, the recycled/recyclable paper take-home container was an instant hit.

Read a vegetarian’s perspective here.

 

 

 

 


Hamburger Mary’s, flamboyant foolishness, modest flavors

April 2, 2012

By Linda Fausel

Boffo. Campy. Kitsch. So describes the décor at one of Bay View’s newest eateries, Hamburger Mary’s. Find it on the corner of Bay Street and Kinnickinnic Avenue, in the former Omega Burger location.

Started in 1972 in San Francisco, this franchise-friendly chain has 11 locations and dubs itself “the only national franchise actively marketing to the gay community.” Activities include “MaryOke,” hamBINGO, and drag shows.

From the fringe lamps, red-tasseled curtained windows, checkered floor, plastic palm trees, and silver disco ball hanging over the middle-of-the-room stage, to the dolls in the rafters and the glitter on the floor, the environment at Hamburger Mary’s ranks high on the tomfoolery scale. Known for its burgers, there are 11 half-pounders and three “premium” burgers listed on the menu, most for $10.50 and up. They certainly sound enticing.

Not interested in beast? Diners can switch out any of the “Humane Angus” burgers for chicken, turkey, or a burger made with black beans.

Hamburger Mary’s black bean burger. —photo Sandy Dean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Where’s the Spice?

Waiters walk around in red T-shirts that say, “Tasty Meat” and “Hot Buns.” If only it were true. The “Spicy Mary” black bean burger was anything but. The bun never saw the grill and the whole mushy mess crumbled on first bite. Sliced jalapeño and Pepper Jack cheese did little to make it sizzle.

The Big Kahuna Hawaiian burger, according to my dining mate, was big but not great. “There are better burgers in Bay View,” said this self-proclaimed aficionado, “at a more appropriate portion size and for probably less than $10.”

Hamburger Mary’s Britney Fried Spears—deep-fried pickles. —photo Sandy Dean

Around here it is not unusual to hear the words “deep fried” and “pickle” in the same sentence, so we loved ordering the “Britney Fried Spears.” And while they were deliciously crunchy with a divine dipping sauce, $5.50 for five simple spears left us feeling sour.

But there is much to choose from in this zany house of foodie frivolity.

“Sammies” on the menu include the Cran-Chicken Salad Sammie, which is Mary’s “secret” recipe: chicken breast, dried cranberries, green onion, and a “hint of tarragon” on choice of bread for $9. There is the Mama Mia Grilled Cheese (three cheeses with Roma tomatoes and fresh basil on garlic bread) for $8.25, or, the Cap’N and Taneal Fish Sammie (hand-battered cod fillets with cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tartar sauce on a brioche bun) for $9.50. The list goes on.

Aside from the Homewrecker Plate, a “rather large” smoked kielbasa, mashed potatoes, and a fried soft pretzel with sauerkraut and stone ground mustard ($12); and Loaded Mac-N-Cheese, mixed with red onions, red peppers, diced tomatoes and green peas, topped with a “pile of crispy onion strings” ($10); you will recognize more traditional entrees such as fried chicken, meatloaf, and fish-n-chips.

Desserts also scream fun. (No trans fat in the fryers, according to Mary, but OMG!) Try the Fried Twinkie Treat, three deep-fried crème cakes with raspberry sauce and whipped cream for $5 (You won’t have to wait till August!), or the Mary Tyler S’Mores, graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey’s chocolate melted over “Mary’s lil’ campfire.”

Dinner is over and you want the check? Peek inside the four-inch high-heel shoe the waiter just dropped off on your table.

Hamburger Mary’s is open from 11am to 10pm and offers a full bar, with a late-night menu 10pm-midnight Thursday through Saturday. Brunch is served from 10am to 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays. That includes $2 mimosas.

2130 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
(414) 988-9324
hamburgermarys.com/mke

Read a carnivore’s review of Hamburger Mary’s here.

 


Deliciousness and bewitching charm at Chez Jacques in Walker’s Point

September 29, 2011

By Linda Fausel Photos by Sandy Dean

A feeling of elegance envelopes patrons in search of sustenance as they step across the threshold into Chez Jacques, Milwaukee’s distinguished French bistro on the city’s south side.

Pronounced “shay jocks” for the non-Francophiles among us, Chez Jacques translates to “at or in the home of Jacques.” That would be chef and owner Jacques Chaumet, who was born in France and opened Jacques French Café a few blocks away on Second Street in 2001 before moving to the larger, current Chez Jacques location on First Street in 2007.

Berets off to the sweet lace curtains hanging in the green plant-filled windows, and blue-striped awnings on the off-white, one-floor stucco structure, formerly the Forelle Fish Netting company in the heart of what once was Milwaukee’s southernmost industrial district. But the inside of this dining destination—arched doorways, stone-tiled floors, and tin ceilings—is what resolutely fascinates the senses.

Soft beige and apricot walls adorned with twinkling lights, ornately-framed paintings, weathered wrought iron, and old photographs complement the dark wooden tables and cleverly-lit bar, providing an aura of European ambiance that inspires appetites and imaginations.

Chez Jacques delights the eyes and equally tantalizes the palate with wonderful dishes and desserts that appear to come straight from a kitchen countertop in France. Whether it is breakfast, with freshly baked croissants, savory crepes, quiches, and omelets; or lunch, Bouché D´escargots (puffed pastry with French snails), Crab Cakes à l´ancienne (crab cakes with old-style, coarse-grained mustard), Fromage de chèvre à la Provençale (baked goat cheese with tomatoes, garlic, and basil) and Moules Marinières (steamed mussels in white wine, garlic, and shallots cream sauce); or dinner, (including the spectacular Onion Soup Gratinee), you will find something amazing here.

Rich, distinctive parsley-seasoned potato soup is served in a fat ceramic cup on a delicate paper doily. A duo of tender, lightly browned spinach crepes, blanketed in creamy Roquefort and sprinkled with parsley and toasted pine nuts, proves to be divine, but too much for someone who (witlessly) devoured piece after piece of scrumptious chunky-sliced bread and butter. Coffee and delectable Mousse au Chocolat bring the meal to an oh-so-delicious close.

Stroll to the back part of the restaurant to visit the outdoor wine garden and mural depicting the story of how Chez Jacques came to be. Walk past the regal, 20-plus-seat table in a room reminiscent of days gone by. The petite, yellow chickadee sitting in a swing in a small white bird cage hanging in one corner of the room is just one of the many personal touches you will find at the magical Chez Jacques. Price range: From $3 to $14 for breakfasts; $7 to $20 for lunches; $7.50 to $25 for dinners.

Chez Jacques

1022 S. First St.

(414) 672-1040.

Closed Mondays


From 8-Track Greek Pizza to Root Beer Floats, Hi-Fi Café offers delicious dining scene

September 1, 2011

By Linda Fausel

A gooey garden medley at Hi-Fi Café. ~photo Sandy Dean

 

Plastic, sparkly silver window art sways to the late afternoon breeze blowing through the open door at Bay View’s Hi-Fi Café. Time doesn’t stand still here, but it appears to wane amid the Formica®  tabletops, magazines, oversized plastic serving ware, ceramic ashtrays, and old records. With a fan circling lazily overhead, and the oddly familiar, mix-matched furniture, Hi-Fi feels like that neighborhood place from childhood, the one where you left your library book—or a stranger would front you 35 cents.

A few dimes and a nickel won’t buy much these days. But at Hi-Fi, sandwiches—comfort cuisine right along with the trendy fodder—are under $10, so your change still goes pretty far. (The most expensive breakfast item, for example, is Eggs Benedict at $8). While you won’t find French fries, garlic mashed potatoes are listed on the menu under “Snacks.” (They also come with some sandwiches). Like the pizza sauce, the potatoes are “homemade,” and can be ordered with cheddar, bacon, or sour cream hollandaise sauce.

With a wide variety of meat and vegetarian options, breakfast items, soups, and salads (including Japanese Ginger Salad) it would be difficult not to find something appealing and reasonably priced at Hi-Fi Café.

Beverages include locally-brewed beer, teas, specialty drinks (Rose Water Lemonade), and coffees (Turkish Espresso), and even a Sprecher root beer float.

On a recent visit, the Toasty Veggie Baguette ($8) was tasty, but it arrived sans baguette(!), instead gently blended with dill and melted on a soft, white flour pita. Creamy Havarti cheese (brushed with mayo and Dijon mustard) was smothered under ripened summer jewels: green pepper, slivers of red onion, skinny-sliced cucumber, baby spinach, topped by crunchy sprouts and ruby tomatoes. It came with a generous portion of locally-baked, crispy-thick, golden “El Sol” tortilla chips. The Butter Cup ($3.75)—espresso, steamed milk, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter (delicious!)—doubled as both beverage and dessert.

A button at the Hi-Fi counter leaves the customer with this playful admonition: “God knows when you don’t tip.”

Hi-Fi is updating its menu. The prices in this article were accurate at press time but are subject to change.

What is your favorite Hi-Fi sandwich and why? Tell us: elle@bayviewcompass.com.

 

Hi-Fi Café

2640 S. KK

(414) 486-0504


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