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Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011

ParkSide 23 Touts Local Foods, Craft Beers

Brookfield restaurant takes over for Sticks & Stones

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Local foods and craft beers are among the themes of ParkSide 23, which opened in Brookfield in November. The meats come from Wisconsin producers and the beer list focuses on micros. A 10,000-square-foot kitchen garden is in the works so that vegetables and herbs can be grown just a few hundred feet away from the dining room.

The owner of ParkSide 23 (or PS 23, as it’s called on the menus) is the De Rosa Corp., which also runs the Chancery restaurants and the upscale Eddie Martini’s. This restaurant, set in a former De Rosa restaurant named Sticks & Stones, represents quite a change in format. A large park is located just across the street, creating a nearly rural setting in this suburb. The interior is a bit countrified, and yet urban at the same time. The warm, earthy color scheme complements the dark hardwood tabletops and hammered-metal flatware. The two dining areas are in addition to a very inviting bar—a warm, cozy spot on blustery winter days.

The menu takes a radical departure in its organization. Instead of the typical division of starters, mains and desserts, most items are grouped by price categories ($5-$12, $13-$17, $18-plus), with desserts listed under “Rewards.” A few side items are available as well, including creamed spinach, fresh vegetables, soup and a side salad. The priciest item is live Maine lobster and Viking scallop risotto, at $27. Most items are less than half that price, and some, like a farm fresh flatbread or a Caesar salad, cost only $7. The flatbread is a personal pizza with a flat crust.

Vegetarians should enjoy the stuffed pepper ($10). Large and brilliant red in color, the pepper nearly fills the plate and is filled with Parmesan risotto with garlic and fresh tomato. The aged cheese is produced in Antigo, Wis.

Meat eaters will like Andy’s Eastside shells ($8), a trio of stuffed pasta shells filled with spinach, pine nuts, fennel and Italian sausage. The shells, topped with cheese and baked with a robust tomato sauce, are a tad small for an entrée, so consider adding a farm salad ($4). A tasty Caesar dressing tops leaf lettuce with slices of Roma tomatoes, seeded cucumbers and carrot threads.

Higher up the price ladder are Viking Village scallops ($13.50), three sea scallops that are not especially jumbo. They are served over a Gran Queso polenta cake topped with a tomato reduction. Gran Queso is a Wisconsin cheese produced in a Spanish style. There is plenty of polenta, and it is good with the tomato sauce, but the scallops seem somewhat out of place.

A daily special of Asian panko grouper ($15) succeeded in many ways. The filet was not overly large, but the panko crust was properly done and the classic flavor of grouper stood out. Other Asian touches included jasmine rice, swirls of wasabi vinaigrette and carrots marinated with vinegar and fresh ginger. Too many times food labeled as “Asian fusion” features a poor balance of ingredients, but here they are in harmony.

Many items fall within the zone of comfort food. In fact, the braised short ribs ($15) define it. The beef, in one piece and slow cooked until its most tender moment, is served with flavorful mashed potatoes and delightfully sweet honey-glazed carrots.

Those on gluten-free diets will be pleased to find a special menu nearly as large as the regular one.

The craft beer list is perfectly fine, though it could focus more on local producers. Those in the mood for wine will find just nine options.

Among the few misses is the chicken dumpling soup ($3.50), which has a broth that seems alien to chicken. The soup is merely serviceable. Generally, however, the menu is successful.

PS 23 is a very nice restaurant and deservedly popular. Whereas Sticks & Stones was legendary for slow service, this kitchen is capable of timely service. It will be interesting to see what the kitchen garden offers this summer.

ParkSide 23

2300 N. Pilgrim Square Drive

(262) 784-7275

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

parkside23.com