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Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012

What’s New In Milwaukee Dining

Reviewing the hottest spots (and trends) of 2012

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2012 has been a very active year for local restaurants. As the year began, Braise Restaurant was the new place to go. The emphasis is on locally sourced produce and meats, which deserves to be called the Trend of the Year. It’s a good trend and Braise remains a significant proponent. Not far away, C. 1880 opened in the former Marchese’s Olive Pit. C. 1880 also features local ingredients and C.1880 does slow food so very well. On the same plotline is the Odd Duck Restaurant, located in Bay View. Odd Duck focuses on local charcuterie, which can be very fine. Most recently opened is Wolf Peach in the former Roots Restaurant. A wood-fired pizza oven was added and the cooking is rustic European.

Barbeque, never Milwaukee’s strong point, has two new places of note. The Smoke Shack opened in the Third Ward with a quaint rustic interior and outdoor deck and Walker’s Point saw the opening of Ashley’s Que. The original Ashley’s is a simple carryout place on Milwaukee’s North Side. The new place offers a bar, table service and a very nice setting. The BBQ sauce here rocks.

Ethnic restaurants continue to add diversity to the city. The modest Arin Bert Coffee and Grill brings simple Armenian fare to town. España Tapas House returns with Spanish tapas and entrees, finally filling the gap created when Don Quijote closed a few years ago. Sababa brings Middle Eastern small plates by expanding and adding a bar to their café in the Plaza East building. Terra Restaurant Bar offers some fine Mexican fare in a contemporary artsy setting not normally found in area Mexican eateries. They make an excellent Yucatan tamale. Chef Paz brings delightful Peruvian fare in a modest West Allis café and they have recently started serving Peruvian beer.

Small plates continue to be popular. They include Japanese and Asian at Kanpai, located in the Third Ward at the former Nanakusa. There is no limit to the imagination here, with many unusual pairings among the small plates. Von Trier, the classic East Side bar, added a small plates menu this spring—an eclectic group with some Germanic touches. The setting is made for this type of food. Due to the popularity, international small plates seem to be a crowded field now. Clutch opened and closed this year in spite of a cool interior and decent fare. Other closings of note are South Woods, one of the area’s last old-time supper clubs; Palermo Villa, which will soon reopen under a new name and format; and Sabor, the only local Brazilian spot, but which recently reopened as the Rodizio Grill.

The Menomonee Valley now has the Twisted Fisherman Crab Shack, offering crabs and seafood along the banks of the Menomonee River. The lake perch fry here is decent. Brookfield has an all-star lineup at 8-Twelve MVP Bar & Grill, with the “8” being Ryan Braun’s number and “12,” of course, Aaron Rodgers. This ultimate Brookfield sports bar serves steaks, ribs, chops and seafood. The Bartolotta Restaurants group added two new properties in Mequon and Greendale. Both are called Joey Gerard’s and have a classic supper club format.

One restaurant will have to wait for the New Year. It is Bourbon & Tunns Tavern, a new format for the Palms Bistro in the Third Ward. As of press time, the remodeling is not complete, although the bar and kitchen are open. The theme is Midwest fusion and small plates. It should be very interesting.