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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Pleasant Dip in the Water

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Hopefully, location isn’t everything. Not that Cool Water is hard to find, but upon entering I couldn’t help but feel that the chic bar and grill would be more at home on Brady Street or Downtown. If youthink for a moment that you've stepped into the Third Ward, you're forgiven, as proprietors Tessa Santoro and Joe Schulte also own the Broadway Bakery at Broadway and Buffalo, and clearly imported their sleek design sensibilities a little farther south.  Situalted in a quiet, mostly residential St. Francis neighborhood just a few blocks east of Kinnickinnic Avenue, Cool Water most definitely stands apart from the smattering of corner "beer, burger, shot and a smoke" joints that dot the area.

Bright and cheerful, Cool Water offers patrons two levels, each with its own bar.  The exposed brick walls are appointed with works by local artists. The dining areas, while not vast, nevertheless feel pleasantly spacious—many establishments cram too many tables in, resulting in uncomfortable, unwanted intimacy with strangers. A large corner stage hosts occasional live music, but will remain unused in the summer months.

My first visit started with a surprise appetizer of four beef sliders, which disappeared down the gullet of my satisfied companion instantly. The spinach and artichoke dip met a similar early demise, with my gluttonous date quoting Seinfeld’s Puddy: “Why does dip have to be a snack? Why can’t it be, like, you know, a meal?” I maintain that anything wrapped in bacon is automatically worthy of my respect, but especially so with Cool Water’s savory beef and blue bacon wraps, with perfectly done strips ensconcing steak tips stuffed with tangy blue cheese.

There’s a pretty good variety of sandwiches to choose from, all less than $10. You won’t be disappointed with the burger, but eschew that in favor of the pulled pork sandwich, or, for those without cholesterol issues, the fried egg and ham sandwich, served open-faced with a decadent dollop of Gouda cream sauce, which also adorns the wild mushroom ravioli. Another house specialty are the slow-cooked ribs, $13 for a half portion or $18 for the full rack.

The bar offers a decent selection of local and regional tap beers, and I was pleased to see the rare inclusion of Hoegaarden, the perfect summer ale with which to wash down Cool Water’s Friday fish fry (which is also available baked with just the right amount of lemon pepper seasoning). Herbivores take note: Many of the menu items can also be prepared vegan.


Cool Water2247 E. St. Francis Ave. (414) 810-3975 $$-$$$. Credit Cards: All major. Handicap Access: Yes. Smoking upstairs only

Photos by Don Rask

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