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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Grove Finds Its Groove

Live music adds to casual ambiance at Elm Grove restaurant

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Bluemound Road west of 124th Street seems to be one strip mall after another, with every restaurant chain imaginable, but it is easy enough to escape this scene and find unique, compelling places to dine. A few blocks north in Elm Grove, for example, you will encounter Village Court, a small development of shops and offices. Among these shops is The Grove, a bar and restaurant with Veuve Clicquot umbrellas that beckon diners to outdoor seating.

The interior is inviting as well. A large and comfortable bar sits in the center of everything. Pale yellow walls and exposed rafters enhance a dining area filled with booths and tables.

The menu is as casual as the setting. Featured items include salads, sandwiches, seafood and meats. There is also a section devoted to Mediterranean items.

Salads offer an abundance of options. The Caesar ($4.35-$7.95) is a sound, no-gimmicks choice offering Parmesan, croutons and the appropriate dressing. Other salads include berry spinach, citrus and Greek. There are 10 options ($3.95-$10.95) for turning any salad into a meaty version, including Parmesan baked chicken, Pacific king salmon, beef kebob and wild shrimp. One daily special offered a pan-grilled sea scallop salad ($14.95) served with mixed lettuces, black olives, crumbled Gorgonzola and red onions. The pair of large scallops was cooked to the precise point of tenderness.

Soups include French onion ($4.95) prepared with cognac and topped with a blend of three cheeses in addition to a daily special or two ($2.95-$4.95). A mushroom soup with wild rice proved to be a decent starter.

Sea scallops reappear as an entrée in the “Fish Monger” category in the form of Parmesan sea scallops ($24.95), a dish served with Roma tomatoes, shallots and white wine sauce over linguini—a nice, simple preparation. Other items, like the steamed mussels and grilled king salmon, also tend to be straightforward. One item that stands out is the Canadian walleye cakes, served as an appetizer ($10.95) or entree ($19.95). The pan-seared cakes have wild rice and hints of Parmesan and garlic. The texture resembles Thai tod mun, a bit springy, which works really well with the wild rice. A fine Gorgonzola aioli and small salad with balsamic vinaigrette accompany the dish. This is the Wisconsin version of the Maryland crab cake.

The section titled “Mediterranean Tour” includes spanakopita ($17.95), chicken marsala ($17.95) and a few pastas, such as a classic Alfredo linguini ($14.95). All of the entrees include a choice of soup or salad.

The “Meat & Potato” category offers steaks and pork chops. A specialty is meaty baby back ribs ($18.95-$24.95), in which the meat falls off the bone. What pushes these ribs beyond the ordinary is the golden barbecue sauce. It has the sweetness of honey, the golden color of mustard and just a hint of hot pepper—a bit like a South Carolina barbecue sauce. The dish is served with a side vegetable—lately zucchini, summer squash and red pepper—plus a choice of starch. Opt for the herb-roasted Parmesan potatoes.

The service is friendly and efficient, and you will never feel rushed at The Grove. Another reason to visit is for jazzy live music Wednesday through Saturday evenings (the current music schedule is posted on the restaurant's website). You can dine in style at The Grove.

The Grove

890 Elm Grove Road

(262) 814-1890

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

getinthegrove.com

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