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Friday, April 9, 2010

CONTEMPORARY

Metro Milwaukee Dining Guide

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Bacchus

925 E. Wells St.

Bacchus is an expensive place that has it all: a setting overlooking Lake Park, a spacious luxurious interior, an innovative contemporary American menu and fine service to match. The small touches, like flatware being replaced at every course, justify the expense. Dinner entrees include a selection of steaks, other meats and seafood. The wild barramundi, imported from Australia, is exceptional. This is a very worthy restaurant in a setting it deserves. (J.B.) $$$$. CC: All major. Handicap access. FB, RS. 765-1166

Balzac

1716 N. Arlington Place

The preferred beverage at Balzac is wine, although the beer list also is not bad. The menu enhances the wine drinking experience with thoughtful cheese plates and a myriad of small plate courses. The pizzas have a thin crust; consider white and sweet potato frites served with a trio of dipping sauces. The vegan strudel will please any vegetarian. Meat eaters might try duck leg confit or some lamb lollipops. The outdoor tables are a quiet refuge in summertime. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: All major. FB, OD. Handicap access. 755-0099

Bosley on Brady

815 E. Brady St.

A white linen establishment with a popular and trendy bar, the menu focuses on seafood along with a few steaks. Many items have touches of Key West. Grouper, though pricey, is always impeccably fresh. Try a fancy fried green tomato, luxuriantly topped with lump crab meat and shrimp. Pistachio crusted scallops also are the stuff of dreams. There is a thoughtful wine list with 90-some choices. (J.B.) $$$. CC: All major. OD. Handicap access. 727-7975

Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn

801 N. Cass St.

Though Buckley’s is small it has charm and style. The dining room is dominated by a durable wooden bar with an ample stockpile of Guinness. Outside of Irish stew the menu bypasses Eire completely with panini sandwiches, a few Italian entrees, BBQ ribs and salads. An appetizer not to miss is a plate of three Kobe beef burgers, tender and delicious. The menu may be small but the warm service and quality of the food compensate. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: All major. Handicap access. 277-1111

Café 1505

1505 W. Mequon Road

(behind M&I bank)

Serving only breakfast and lunch, the café is a pleasant place to enjoy light fare. Breakfasts center around omelets, French toast, baked goods and a quiche of the day. Lunches offer salads, sandwiches plus a few entrees. The salad ingredients are always very fresh and the daily soups all are very well prepared. Salads include a parmesan portabella and balsamic chicken. Sandwich examples are an eggplant pita and a jumbo half-pound Angus burger. Service is efficient and pleasant making Café 1505 a great mid-morning getaway. (J.B.) $-$$. CC: All major. Handicap access. (262) 241-7076

Café Brucke

2102 N. Prospect Ave.

Café Brucke is a very European affair. The small bar specializes in imported beers. The menu has an eclectic list of sandwiches and lighter fare. There is a cheese and fruit plate and red pepper hummus for starters. Sandwiches include a lighter chicken pesto and the more substantial Deutschlande braunschweiger with limburger on rye. Opt for pretzels with mustard at the bar. (J.B.) $-$$. CC: MC, VS. OD. 264-0477

Café Hollander

2608 N. Downer Ave., 963-6366

7677 State St., 475-6771

The Café Hollander offers casual European fare in a setting to match. The menu focuses on things Dutch and Belgian. Think heaping bowls of steamed mussels and fries with a side of mayonnaise. Dining is on two levels; the large bar has a distinguished menu of Belgian beers. Though the split pea soup is very Dutch the menu has considerable diversity, adding burgers, pastas and a daily fish fry to this Low Country mixture. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: All major. FB. OD. Handicap access.

Cafe LuLu

2261-2265 S. Howell Ave.

The original Café LuLu proved so popular that an addition with a bar was added. The newer room features potted plants, hardwood floors and vintage armchairs. The menu is casual and vegetarian friendly with appetizers, salads and sandwiches. Try a baguette with grilled portabella mushrooms and sweet red peppers. The meat eater would like the half-pound heart attack, a half-pound burger topped with Gorgonzola. Homemade potato chips or crunchy Asian slaw accompany sandwiches. Pies are homemade. (J.B.) $-$$. CC: MC,VS. FB. Handicap access. 294-5858

City Market

2205 E. Capitol Drive, 962-0100

8700 W. Watertown Plank Road, 479-0479

8725 W. North Ave., 453-0000

This European-style café is a winning choice for sandwiches, coffee and a picture-perfect bakery case. I love their ginger scones in the morning, the baked basil chicken sandwich in the afternoon. And if I can’t take the time to sit down and soak up the sunny ambiance, I order one of their stellar box lunches to go (fresh-baked cookie included). Don’t forget to sample a few of the malted milk balls at the counter—chocolate heaven! (B.R.M.) $. CC: VS. MS. Handicap access.

Crazy Water

839 S. Second St.

Casual, light entrees and appetizers are the forte of this small kitchen. Sauces have hints of Louisiana and Asia from the crab cakes with roasted red pepper coulis to five-spice duck breast salad. This adds a much-needed touch of refinement to an area more known for taverns than fine dining. (J.B.) $$. CC: MC, VS, AmEx. FB, OD. 645-2606

Daymaker Café

7225 W. North Ave.

At Daymaker Café, food is homemade with fresh ingredients. Signature dishes include the Reuben sandwich, made with slow-roasted corned beef slathered with sour kraut and melted Swiss cheese, and a grilled tofu Philly with provolone, served on French bread smeared with tangy sun-dried tomato paste. Rotating lunch and dinner specials feature New York strip steak with red wine mushroom sauce and hash brown crusted chicken with fresh herb horseradish sauce. (H.Z.) $-$$. CC: VS, MC, DS. 774-1200

Dream Dance

1712 W. Canal St.

Dream Dance is the showcase restaurant of the Potawatomi Casino. There are champagne and cognac carts as well as a tremendous wine list. The approach is contemporary with a focus on American ingredients. Whether you try Maine diver scallops or venison, everything will be prepared with respect and skill. The décor is of contemporary luxury, the cutlery ultra pricey and everything from the amuse-bouche to dessert an exercise in good taste. The prices rank with the most expensive but this is a worthy splurge. (J.B.) $$$$. CC: All major. FB. Handicap access. 847-7883

Elsa’s on the Park

833 N. Jefferson St.

The facade is Victorian brownstone; the interior is trendy. Fresh flowers adorn every table and the crowd is well dressed. So why is everybody eating burgers and pork-chop sandwiches with their martinis? Try one and you’ll know why. (J.B.) $$. CC: MC, VS, AmEx, DS. FB. Handicap access. 765-0615

Envoy

2308 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Envoy is the jewel of the renovated Ambassador Hotel. The lobby is an Art Deco masterpiece and the dining room illuminated by massive chandeliers. The menu is contemporary with a fusion of international ingredients. Rack of lamb is scented with Thai curry and the quail appetizer is served over a bed of fennel and mushroom. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: All major. FB. Handicap access. 345-5015

Firefly Urban Bar & Grill

7754 Harwood Ave.

The menu focuses on wood-smoked meats. Entrees include a choice of two sides, mostly picnic fare like baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad. The refreshing crunch salad is a legacy of the old Bjonda. For an appetizer the samosa is a curry-flavored delight and the lamb sausage pizza is worth a visit in itself. This is casual fare with high ambitions. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: All major. Handicap access. 431-1444

The Grove

890 Elm Grove Road

The dark wooden bar with its deep booths is a popular after-work stop in the western suburbs, but don’t ignore the casually elegant dining room, where burgers and typical American food come shoulder to shoulder with appetizers and entrees from the Mediterranean. The patio is a quiet spot for drinking and dining in the summer. (D.L.) $$-$$$ CC: MC, VS, AmEx, DS. FB, SB, FF, OD. Handicap access. (262) 814-1890

Harvey’s Central Grille

1340 W. Towne Square Road, Mequon

Private dining rooms, warm fireplaces and a continental menu make a warm welcoming for customers. Located in the former Chip and Py’s, the North Shore restaurant boasts a new menu. (J.D.) $$. CC: All major. RS, OD, FB. Handicap access. 262-241-9589

Hi Hat Lounge

1701 N. Arlington Place

For an upscale twist on the standard bar fare, try the vodka, Parmesan and olive-smothered martini burger or the fresh and healthy hummus platter with warm pita bread. As if the food wasn’t enough, another draw is the Brady Street people watching you can do on the summer patio. By scoring a coveted outdoor table, you can also take in the music from the attached Hi Hat Garage while you down your Hi Hat Sliders. (B.R.M.) $$. CC: VS, MC, AmEx. FB, OD. 225-9330

Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub

222 E. Erie St.

Hinterland is a gastropub where one can order a beer and enjoy fine dining at the same time. It’s not a pint-drinking and dart-shooting kind of pub. This is an elegant bar and restaurant with a small lounge located in a classic renovated Third Ward building. Roasted oyster mushroom bisque and fennel-dusted Japanese sea bass are far more gastro than pub. Where else will you find Hawaiian opah and Tasmanian salmon? (J.B.) $$$-$$$$. CC: All major. Handicap access. 727-9300

Hotch-A-Do

1813 E. Kenilworth Place

Options are the essence of Hotch-A-Do along with organic ingredients. Eggs benedict can be ordered with tofu, bacon or ham at no extra cost. A dozen sandwiches are offered, from homey snacks such as grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly to the heftier “Granma Franca’s Meatball Hoogie.” Nibble on bread with olive oil or fill up on an enormous bowl of spinach artichoke dip ringed with blue chips and flatbread. It’s not fast food, frozen a week earlier and heated in the microwave, but prepared freshly. Order at the counter but be prepared to wait a few minutes before the waitress brings your meal to your table. (D.L.) $$. CC: MC, VS, DS. Handicap access. 727-2122

The Jack

4823 W. National Ave.

Think of The Jack as a sports bar that happens to serve decent food at low prices. Chicken wing appetizers are beyond large, they are huge! Ditto for the sandwiches. The “Rican” is actually a Cuban, filled with roast pork and ham. The grilled salmon has a slice of fish larger than most dinner entrees. The best items are the dinner entrees. Bacon-wrapped shrimp have a tropical fruit marinade and there are ten of them. The air-dried filet is the best steak value for miles around. Try it crusted with black peppercorns and blue cheese. (J.B.) $-$$. CC: All major. FB. Handicap access. 384-8111

Jackson Grill

3736 W. Mitchell St.

The kitchen is tiny and the dining room, casual as a supper club from the 1940s, has only 10 tables. Chef/owner Jimmy Jackson works magic with his menu of pastas, steaks and daily seafood specials. Start with an appetizer of Cajun barbecue shrimp, more than enough for two. French cognac salad dressing has a retro steakhouse feel. The Black Angus filet mignon is one of the best to be found locally, seared on the outside and a perfect medium-rare in the middle. This is the place for serious red meat eaters. (J.B.) $$$-$$$$. CC: MC,VS. 384-7384

Juniper 61

6030 W. North Ave.

Juniper 61 has a casual contemporary setting and fare to match. Start with tempura green beans and move on to salads or a lamb pita sandwich with great homemade potato chips or Asian slaw. Heartier appetites will find entrees like a fine chicken paprikash, pork tenderloin with juniper berries and rib eye steak. The menu isn’t large but it is thoughtful. Every neighborhood should have a restaurant like this. (J.B.) $$. CD: MC,VS. Handicap access. 727-6161

Kenadee’s

725 N. Milwaukee St.

Even the nightlife of Milwaukee Street deserves a token sports bar. This one comes glammed up in green lights, art pieces and leather chairs. Put aside 20 minutes to take in Kenadee’s incredible beer list (they carry more than 90 brands). Then take a moment to dip into dinner, which puts a contemporary spin on classic comfort foods. Mac-n-cheese, burgers and piles of flavorful “onion straws” entice the palate. Stay past 10 p.m. and let the beautiful charms of cocktails and perfume entice further. (J.D.) $-$$ CC: All major. FF, FB. Handicap access. 431-5556

Kil@wat

139 E. Kilbourn Ave.

With its décor of serene, uncluttered luxury, Kil@wat is the star of the Wyndham Milwaukee Center. The menu is on the edge of current trends, concentrating on top ingredients with hints of Europe and Asia. For a starter try the trio of tuna tartare; for an entrée, the braised short ribs. Or chart your course by choosing a meat and the sauce of your choice. For the quality, wine list and setting the prices are fair, though expect to spend at least $50 per person for a proper Kil@wat experience. (J.B.) $$$-$$$$. CC: MC, VS, AX. Handicap access. 291-4793

The Knick

1030 E. Juneau Ave.

The floors and metal-edged tables are retro dinette but the colors are bright and contemporary, with rich burnished gold, ruby red and azure blue. Sinuous wood partitions provide privacy for diners. The menu includes sumptuous appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees. The bar is well stocked and martini friendly. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: VS, MC, AmEx. FB, OD. 272-0011

La Merenda

125 E. National Ave.

La Merenda features over 25 tapas; a few are Spanish but more are Asian, South American and Mediterranean. Where else can you combine lobster & crab arancini with lumpia Shanghai and Argentine style beef? The beer list is good and the wines are moderate in price with several choices under $20 per bottle. Portions might be small, order at least two per person, but the quality is excellent and nothing is priced over $10. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: All major. FB. RS. Handicap access. 389-0125

Meritage

5921 W. Vliet St.

Meritage has the style of a bistro and a focus on wine and casual fare. This theme is not uncommon locally. What is uncommon is the quality. Start with lamb ribs in a Chinese BBQ sauce or possibly the leek and ricotta tart. There are just 10 or so entrees but they are chosen with care. The rib eye steak has a sauce made in house with red wine. Duck two ways is a whole breast also with an Anaheim chile stuffed with duck meat and goat cheese. The menu changes seasonally. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: MC,VS,DS. 479-0620

Metro Bar & Cafe

411 E. Mason St.

The restaurant at one of Milwaukee’s favorite luxury hotels lives up to its ambitions. The menu covers all price ranges from a 10 oz. Angus burger to a 16 oz. New York strip steak. The dessert menu is substantial. Breakfast and lunch are served daily. Considering the quality and setting, prices are moderate. (J.B.) $$$-$$$$. CC: All major. RS, OD, SB, FB. 272-1937

Mi*key’s

811 N. Jefferson St.

Mi*key’s occupies a choice Cathedral Square location. In summer the front of the restaurant is open-air with tables cascading to the sidewalk. The menu is trendy, familiar foods with different twists. A burger may be of ground chicken wrapped in bacon. Noteworthy items include the seafood martini, an assortment of chilled fish and shellfish large enough to serve two. Rosemary lamb chops are thin and served with a cabernet glaze, reasonable for the price. (J.B.) $$-$$$. Credit cards; MC,VS,AX. Handicap access. 273-5397

National Café

839 W. National Ave.

The menu offers a variety of organic and local ingredients. Try the Mediterranean veggie wrap, a Spinach tortilla filled with sun-dried tomato cream cheese and flavorful vegetables that taste like they were just picked from a backyard garden. On the side enjoy the crunch of homemade chips with your choice of guacamole or salsa. The coffee and juice options are endless, and everything is affordable. (H.Y.) $. CC: All major.

NSB Bar & Grill

8649 N. Port Washington Road

A trendy, contemporary setting with a menu to match. Salads and light appetizers rule. The uncomplicated Caesar salad excels, and the shiitake mushroom white pizza is a rich treat. The half-pound burgers are deservedly popular, too. (J.B.) $$. CC: MC, VS, AmEx, RS, FB. 351-6100

Oakcrest Tavern

4022 N. Oakland Ave.

The Oakcrest is half bar/half restaurant. The warm tones of wood and a stone fireplace add a cozy, inviting feel. The menu adds to the casual theme with sandwiches, entrée-sized salads, appetizers and an interesting group of entrees including tofu marinated with balsamic vinegar, mussels steamed with mustard and sage and a great hangar steak topped with Chimichurri, a condiment of parsley, herbs and olive oil. (J.B.) $$. CC: All major. 967-0222

Ovation

Bayshore Town Center

Ovation is part of the IPic complex boasting move theaters, the Sequel bar and lounge and a bowling alley. While some food is served at the bar the restaurant is quieter with windows overlooking the heart of Bayshore Town Center. The menu is family-friendly. Daily specials tend toward pot roast or a turkey pot pie. Appetizers such as asparagus with Serrano ham add a contemporary twist. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: MC,VS. Handicap access. 963-8779

Palms Bistro & Bar

221 N. Broadway

The Palms offers Third Ward charm with exposed brick and woodwork and large windows with views of the theater district. The bar is spacious and the dining room intimate. The contemporary menu is filed with delights, including tomato gnocchi with a sauce of blue cheese and walnuts. (J.B.) $$-$$$ CC: All major. FB, OD. Handicap access. 298-3000

Panera Bread

15040 W. Greenfield Ave.,

(262) 641-0550

3200 Golf Road, Delafield,

(262) 646-5510

N9240 Rivercrest Drive, Menomonee Falls, (262) 251-8559

600 E. Ogden Ave., 224-0200

690 Westfield Way, Pewaukee, (262) 691-7777

1300 W. Mequon Road, 112N, Mequon, (262) 834-9999

2095 N. Calhoun Road,

(262) 641-9999

2500 N. Mayfair Road

(Mayfair Mall), 831-7777

5595 N. Port Washington Road, 962-4775

7840 W. Layton Ave., 281-9999

8907 S. Howell Ave., 764-8699

Hot or cold, Panera satisfies a wide range of tastes with its rotating menu of soup specials and sandwich pairings. The interior is bright, breezy and modern, making it the perfect place to enjoy a light summer salad. Helpful hint: The homemade lemonade is a true, icy treat. (J.D.) $. CC: All major. OD. Handicap access.

Roots

1818 N. Hubbard St.

Perched atop Brewer’s Hill, Roots offers panoramic views of the city. The outdoor deck and patio are prime seats in the summer. Most of the produce is organic and the kitchen seeks out quality sources for meat, whether fresh scallops or Kobe beef. Chef John Raymond’s cuisine proudly merits its description as California fusion. The Roots Cellar on the lower level boasts a large bar and a menu focused on sandwiches and appetizers. Vegetarians will love this place. (J.B.) $$$-$$$$. CC: All major. FB, OD. Handicap access. 374-8480

Sanford

1547 N. Jackson St.

Once a corner grocery store, Sanford has long been Milwaukee’s premier contemporary restaurant. Chef/owner Sandy D’Amato has received national awards and draws customers from a wide area. The menu, of course, strives to use the freshest ingredients. (J.B.) $$$$. CC: All major. RS (recommended). FB. 276-9608

St. Francis Brewery & Restaurant

3825 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

The brewery produces five of its own beers focusing on ales. Most popular is the KK weiss, served in a proper glass. The menu has all the appetizers necessary for beer drinkers from pretzels to chicken wings and nachos. Sandwiches offer burgers and others like pulled pork and a Reuben. Entrees include chicken pot pie, baby back ribs and a noteworthy beer steak. The décor is comfortable and casual. A children’s menu makes the place family-friendly. (J.B.) $$-$$$ Handicap access. 744-4448

Swig

217 N. Broadway

Swig’s front is open-air on warm days, with an intimate bar and a dinging room with warm wood tones. The menu offers sandwiches for lunch as well as salads, entrees and “small plates,” the international version of tapas. Creativity is in flower here. Baked stuffed mushrooms are filled with shrimp and pine nuts. A roasted poblano pepper is stuffed with cheese and lobster in a pool of sweet red pepper sauce. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: MC,VS,AX. Handicap access. 431-7944

Triskele’s

1801 S. Third St.

JoLinda Klopp, former head chef at the River Lane Inn, now has her own restaurant in a former corner tavern. The menu is not large but is innovative. Grilled andouille with fried okra adds a Cajun touch, the ahi tuna hotpot a bit of Asia, and the mussels have flavors of Mexico. Macaroni has a homespun feel with a choice of cheese—Gorgonzola, goat or aged cheddar. The setting is not fancy but the reasonable prices more than compensate. (J.B.) $$. Credit cards: MC,VS. No handicap access. 837-5950

Trocadero

1758 N. Water St.

$-$$. CC: MC, VS. OD, SB, FB. 272-0205

Twisted Fork

2238 N. Farwell Ave.

Located in that historic corner of Farwell and North, long the location of Oriental Drugs and snuggled alongside the Oriental Theatre, Twisted Fork offers an eclectic menu of sandwiches, soups, salads and entrees during the lunch hour and through the evening. It’s one of the crowded hubs of East Side social life. (D.L.) $$. CC: MC, VS, AmEx, DS. OD, SB, FF. 431-1080

Water Buffalo

249 N. Water St.

Water Buffalo offers great river views as well as outdoor seating along the RiverWalk. The interior is dazzling with two levels, two bars and contemporary artwork. The menu is casual with appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees at moderate prices. Try lobster and fennel fritters or sautéed shrimp and mussels over pasta. Every table has a great view. (J.B.) $$-$$$. CC: MC,VS,AX. 431-1133

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