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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Roots Cellar: A Locally Sourced Delight

Enjoy small plates and a view overlooking the city

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Roots opened seven years ago in the Brewers Hill neighborhood, on a site that offers a spectacular view overlooking the city of Milwaukee. Under the guidance of chef/owner John Raymond, Roots became a pioneer in the use of locally sourced organic ingredients.

The restaurant is actually split into two. The upper level features the main dining room and an outdoor deck. The menu here contains fine entrees ranging in price from $20-$36. Reservations are highly recommended (and a must on weekends).

Down the stairway is the other venue, Roots Cellar. Metallic vines curl their way down the stair railing and make more appearances in the Cellar. In addition to a long bar, patrons will find beautiful wooden tables. Beyond the bank of windows is an outdoor dining patio with splendid views of the city. Many of the menu items here are the same (all of the salads and small plates, for example), but the Cellar's menu also offers sandwiches and a smaller selection of entrees. It is very possible to have a decent meal for less than $20 per person. There are no reservations for the Cellar, which is first come, first served.

The best way to enjoy the Cellar is to focus on the many delights offered in the small plates and salads. There is a Moroccan radish salad ($9) that has red radish in thin slivers, carrots and mint served over tahini with apple slices. The light touches are typical of the new seasonal menu. A newer salad offers zucchini ribbons with kernels of fresh sweet corn ($9). It comes with Aleppo pepper mayonnaise and bits of queso fresco. Aleppo pepper is a fairly mild chile pepper from Turkey that is enjoying growing popularity.

The small plates, categorized as “Starters,” show great imagination. The Maine peekytoe crab cakes ($12) are a meaty pair served over swirls of remoulade and with a tasty sweet corn salsa. The mussel and clam hot pot ($10) combines blue mussels with Manila clams. The splendid broth is loaded with fresh basil and chopped baby bok choy.

The devilled beef tartare ($10), three half hard-boiled eggs topped with a fine dice of raw beef in a gently spiced sauce, is the most creative item. The ever-so-tender beef melts into the soft yolk. Slivers of bread-and-butter kohlrabi add hints of sweet and tart flavors.

By all means, order the barbecue pork belly ($11), a piece of lightly charred pork belly that is cooked to perfection—fatty, meaty and sublimely decadent. It is served with a pair of beer-battered oysters and tiny mizuna greens—sprightly and utterly fresh.

In addition to an extensive beer list, there are dozens of wines available by the glass (and even more by the bottle).

The menu has evolved over the years, but Roots remains a top venue for locally sourced ingredients. It also offers a compelling California-casual setting. This is one of the best local places to bring out-of-town visitors.

Roots Restaurant and Cellar

1818 N. Hubbard St.

(414) 374-8480

$$$-$$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

rootsmilwaukee.com

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