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Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011

Port Washington's Pier Street Shanty

Victor's serves seafood and more

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Port Washington and fish are like Door County and cherries. Aside from its fishing harbor heritage, Port Washington was, for many decades, home to Smith Brothers, southeastern Wisconsin's most beloved seafood restaurant in an era when steakhouses ruled. Longtime Ozaukee County resident and restaurateur Victor Cerda was probably well aware of the history when he opened Victor's Pier Street Shanty in July. Cerda operated one of Ozaukee's best fine dining restaurants, Victor's of Cedarburg, from the late '80s through the late '90s. His new place in Port Washington is a casual spot with a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and a diverse menu with an accent on seafood.

The red meat is good, too. Victor's has hamburgers and buffalo burgers and a Southwestern quesadilla. On a recent visit, the veal Oscar special included an attractively served pair of tender, lightly seasoned medallions with green asparagus in a hollandaise sauce on a bed of crispy German noodles. But even here, there was a touch of crabmeat.

The menu includes a number of intriguing seafood mélanges, including a cioppino with mussels, shrimp, scallops, salmon and crab simmered in tomato sauce and served with crispy baguettes. Wrapped in flour tortillas, the Baja fish tacos (choose from haddock or shrimp) with avocado and shredded red cabbage make for a cool, tasty dish on a warm late-summer day.

The fish fry is traditional Milwaukee with three pieces of lightly battered fish accompanied by marbled rye, good coleslaw and crispy chips substituting for the usual french fries. Shellfish are all over the menu—on an oyster po'boy on a baguette and an appetizer of oysters Rockefeller. Mussels and shrimp enhance the jambalaya of chicken, ham and sausage.

The picture windows in the rear of Victor's command a splendid view of the Port Washington power plant and the pier where coal boats once docked. A cement patio in back doubles the restaurant's seating during the warm season.

Victor's also boasts a sit-down Sunday brunch, a Tuesday through Thursday happy hour, affordable prices for lunch and dinner, a full bar, a good selection of domestic and imported draft and bottled beer and a slender but thoughtful wine list. The service is friendly but unobtrusive and, if he isn't in the kitchen, Victor Cerda is often in the dining room greeting customers.

Victor's Pier Street Shanty

301 E. Pier St., Port Washington

(262) 268-7875

$$-$$$

Handicap accessible

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