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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Brocach's Irish Charm Adds to Milwaukee's Pub Scene

Fish and chips, weekend brunch among the attractions

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Brocach, in business in Milwaukee since December 2007, pulls off the Irish theme quite well. The original Brocach is located in Madison, right on Capitol Square. The name is especially appropriate for Wisconsin, as "brocach" is Gaelic for "badger den."

The Milwaukee location is in the spot formerly held by the Five & Ten, a relic of the days when tanneries lined this area of Milwaukee. Today, the tanneries have been replaced by apartments and condominiums.

The building was lovingly expanded, with perfectly matched Cream City brickwork. The interior, featuring bars on both levels, is nothing like the old Five & Ten. The lower bar is filled with dark woodwork. Chandeliers are replicas of antique lighting and shelves are filled with bottles of Irish whiskey, other liquor and eclectic bric-a-brac. The bar has wood and glass dividers, called snugs, which afford privacy. The upper level is more open than the lower. There is a fireplace for wintry days and a roof terrace that offers seating in warmer weather. This is a very pleasant place in which to savor a pint or two of Guinness.

The menu generally stays true to the Irish pub formula—exceptions are burgers, Buffalo wings and salads. But what burgers: The 8-ounce ground Angus looks a bit pudgy when placed in a brioche. The basic is the Brocach burger ($10.50), which includes only lettuce and tomato. The mushroom Swiss burger ($12.50) is topped with a portabella mushroom cap, bacon, grilled onion and a Guinness Stout sauce. The roasted beet salad ($8) also does not seem especially Irish, but it too is a good version, featuring baby spinach mixed with arugula. Bits of color are provided by creamy white cheese and roasted golden beets—the color palette is almost the same as the Irish flag.

The Irish specialties start with a very nice potato leek soup ($5). The soup is a puree with a pronounced leek flavor and hints of black pepper. The dinner menu offers Guinness steamed mussels ($13) as a starter. This is a big bowl of PEI mussels in an herbed Guinness cream sauce—simple and nice.

Irish Americans seem to expect to find corned beef in a pub, even though it is an item rarely found on any true Irish menu. At Brocach it is served as a sandwich ($10.50) and an entrée ($13.50). The meat—lean, tender and well trimmed—is accompanied with colcannon mashed potatoes and horseradish cream. The cabbage and potatoes are fine, though the potatoes are a puree. Colcannon potatoes should also include cabbage.

The fish and chips ($13.50) are a clear winner. A pair of haddock filets comes in a fine batter laced with Harp beer. Decent fries and an even better tartar sauce accompany the fish, along with a delightful curry slaw made with cabbage and mushrooms.

Vegetarians are accommodated with a few salads, a black bean burger and wild mushroom pasta.

Brocach also serves a very popular weekend brunch. Arrive early or be prepared for a wait. The signature item is the big Irish breakfast ($12.50), a heaping platter of two eggs with sausage, rashers, black and white pudding, baked beans, grilled tomato and toast. It is also served at lunch and dinner.

The accommodating service is enhanced with Irish cheerfulness. Expect Brocach to be very busy on St. Patrick's Day, as there is no setting that feels as Irish in Milwaukee.

Brocach Irish Pub and Restaurant

1850 N. Water St.

(414) 431-9009

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

brocach.com/Milwaukee

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