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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hinterland Gastropub as Good as Ever

Enjoy tasty, trendy food and house-made beer

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Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub, an offshoot of the original Hinterland in Green Bay, became Milwaukee's first gastropub when it opened five years ago. Since then, it has done very well. The interior features an inviting bar and a dining room with spacious seating. Serene décor includes candles and smooth river pebbles on the wooden tables.

The menu stands out, as well. Chef Dan Van Rite has been a James Beard nominee for the last three years. Van Rite is very knowledgeable about current trends, as evidenced by house-made charcuterie and meat exotica like veal brains and veal heart tartare. (If you have your heart set on veal brains, be aware that the menu changes daily.)

Start with the Luna stout ham butter ($2). Luna stout is produced at Hinterland's Green Bay location. The butter holds an intense pork flavor and is served with tiny biscuits, an amuse bouche. You might also find a house-made Hungarian sausage ($6), a single link served with fingerling potatoes, peas and pearl onions. The sausage has the gentle fire of paprika—very tasty, indeed. The miner's lettuce ($10)—with shaved fennel, roasted red and golden beets, a hint of orange and ricotta crema—is another fine dish. For something that really has sizzle, try Tunisian spiced pork belly ($12). It is a round of meat served with squash puree seasoned with harissa and a chopped Mediterranean salad. The star is the grilled pork, which offers fantastic flavors.

The entrees are subject to frequent change, which is a good thing—even if it did cause me to miss the duck confit cassoulet by a day! Fortunately, the wood-fire grilled beef hanger steak ($30) was a worthy replacement. Slices of Angus beef are served with fingerling potatoes, trumpet mushrooms, grilled romaine and nettle pesto. The meat offers an intense, beefy flavor.

Sturgeon is a fish seldom seen on menus. Here, the sturgeon ($34) is a total delight, wood-fire grilled with a great charred flavor. It is served over petite parisienne gnocchi with bits of braised oxtail, tiny pieces of cauliflower and miniature yellowfoot chanterelle mushrooms. There is also some nettle cream, which is sweeter than the pesto. In spite of the competition, the simple grilled slice of sturgeon remains the star act on this plate.

A gastropub should have good beer, and the house products, brewed in Green Bay, fit the bill. The IPA is full-bodied and hoppy, though it is upstaged by an even better pale ale. The extensive wine list offers bottle prices starting in the $20s.

The menu can get pricey, but it also includes affordable options. Weekdays feature “Happy Hour” specials—$5 bowls of pho on Mondays, $3 tacos for Tuesdays, $8 porchetta sandwiches on Wednesdays, $5 house-made sausages for Thursdays, and $4 margaritas on Fridays.

Hinterland remains as good as ever. Chef Dan Van Rite deserves the accolades that come his way.

Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub

222 E. Erie St.

(414) 727-9300

$$$-$$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

hinterlandbeer.com