11.06.2011

9.28.11 Dinner. Rustico Pizzeria (Third Ward. Milwaukee, WI)

Bar Side of Restaurant.
Toward Rear of Restaurant.
So, it was a Wednesday night and Jamie and I were due for a dinner out.  We both are obsessed with Groupon and I had one for Rustico Pizzeria so we decided that it would be the night to use it.  Both of us had been there before and enjoyed it.  It was an earlier time for dinner, 6pm, and a Wednesday night so of course we didn't have a problem with being seated.  There were many tables open.  It was so early that I think that the after work "happy hour" crowd was still at the bar.  We're getting old... our stomachs demand early bird dinners.

The space itself was the typical Third Ward Milwaukee feel.  Cream city brick walls, long and narrow building and exposed pipes and beams.   It provided a darker ambiance.  The bar is immediately to the right when you enter and there are some high top tables across from it.  Along the rest of the restaurant are low top tables. Old photographs adorn the walls that are painted a nice earthy color.  Despite the brick and exposed beans and pipes, the restaurant provides a warm and homey vibe.

When we were at the table, we must have not hung out in a while because we were a pair of chatty Cathy's.  It took us forever to decide on what we wanted to drink and eat.  Our server was nice and patient with us as we often apologized for not knowing what we wanted time after time that she stopped to check in.  We finally decided on some beverages.  I hoped for an Oktoberfest brew, which they didn't have, but she did offer me a seasonal that they had on tap, Birra Moretti's La Rossa, a doppelbock.  Jamie chose Schlitz, she would.  Side note, Jamie calls me a hipster for drinking PBR while she often drinks Schlitz.  Same thing right? I think it is.  Hypocrite...just saying.  Her Schlitz was a Schlitz.  Not much to say about it but it was nice and cold.  Nobody likes a luke warm and flat lager.  My doppelbock was delicious.  Doppelbock is a darker malty beer.  It was a very smooth beer but of course, since it's dark, it's something I would only have one of.   To me, it had chocolate and coffee tinges to it but on websites, some would describe it as a smokey and oak type of flavor.  Try it out for yourself.

La Rossa and Schlitz.
After more chit chat, we finally started to decide what we wanted to eat.  The menu had lots of pizza options.  We went into this knowing we wanted pizza.  Of course, they had other Italian options.  Since this was a pizzeria, I obviously won't break it up into what we individually ordered as we just shared. We are good sharers.  Although, I'm not the best sharer/split'er unless we each split our own meals and half'sies.  I can eat quite a lot and I like me some food fo' sho'.  Let's get into the goodness then, shall we?
Grandma's Meatballs Served with Bread.

App details:
Grandma's Meatballs.  Three hearty sized meatballs served within their tomato sauce and served with warm bread.  $6.95 

Our Thoughts:
Let me tell ya, my grandma doesn't make meatballs...or at least I don't think she does... But, if she did, I would hope they would taste like these.  These were amazing.  Who knows if it was because I was hungry but Jamie agreed with me.  These meatballs were so flavorful and tender.  It may be the best meatball I've had in a long time (sorry Mom, yours are delicious but these were a party in my mouth).  The meatballs were garnished with some Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.  The blend of italian spices was perfect.  I'm a marinara snob and their sauce passed my inspection.  It wasn't too acidic like some marinara and tomato sauces can be.  Of course, the soft bread is a nice addition to mop up any left over sauce on our plates or the bowls.  If it weren't frowned upon, I would have licked the bowl and my plate clean.  But, of course I didn't.  Jamie would probably just shake her head at me.

Toscana Pizza.
Pizza Details:
12" Toscana Pizza.  Sausage, porcini mushroom, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and asiago. $13.95

Our Thoughts:
The sausage came in slices of sausage.  Jamie didn't like the fact that it was in slices.  I myself, don't mind the slices but the sausage is somewhat off.  We both agreed that it didn't taste like the typical Italian sausage that we're used to.  But, who knows, we're not Italian sausage specialists.  I couldn't pin point the typical spice I taste in Italian sausage but with some research I found that it was the fennel seed that I didn't notice.  But, who knows, it could have been ground in.  Then, I wondered if it was too porky... couldn't pin point it.  Loved the sauce.  Not sure if it was the same as the one on the meatballs but either way, Rustico knows how to work their tomatoes.  The crust was on the thinner side.  Cheese was good.  Mushrooms were barely noticeable.  So, if you're a mushroom hater, you may be able to slide by with this one.  Overall, the pizza was good but it was a hard act to follow after the meatballs.

Other things to keep in mind:
-Menu included Italian inspired sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes along with pizza's.
-They do have a brunch menu.
-They may be the same owner as Zarletti and Stubby's (noted that they advertise these locations on their website) so if you like those places, you might like this place. 
-Street parking only so you have to consider this.  But, there is a parking structure just down the block and East of their location. 

I really really enjoyed the appetizer in case you already didn't know.  I do enjoy the crust of their pizza's.  They do have desserts and other dishes that I may try another time.  The restaurant set up itself is typical third ward which I do enjoy.  Obviously, I'll come again since I've enjoyed my visits.  If there is another Groupon, I'll definitely get it.  Go and try their food.  If you go, and try out the sausage, let me know what your thoughts are in regard to the slice factor and the flavor flav.

Rustico Pizzeria
223 N Water St 
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 220-9933
OPEN
Lunch: Monday - Friday 11am
Brunch: Saturday/Sunday 11am
Kitchen open late: Monday - Thursday 12am, Friday/Saturday 1:30am

10.21.11 Dinner. Centro Cafe (Riverwest. Milwaukee, WI)

It was a nice Fall evening.  Christina and I had plans for dinner.  Her choice.  We ended up a Centro Cafe in Riverwest.  This place is a hidden gem!  Definitely has a quaint feel to it.  This was my first time here and I was surprised to see how the inside looked compared to the exterior.  It was a late dinner on a Friday night and you can definitely tell that it was a Friday by how busy it was.  There was quite a bit of wait which allowed us to work up an appetite.

Pasta Line Viewed from Bar.
Bar in the back.
When you first walk in, you notice that it's a skinny and long space.  What appears to be a bar but is really dining that looks upon a chef/cook whipin' up some pasta dishes, runs along the right side of the restaurant. Pretty sweet to be in on the action.  You can see a row of white bowls ready to be filled with some pasta goodness.  A bench lines the left side of the room with close set tables and chairs on the opposite side.  Another row of tables resides between the bar and the tables along the wall.  As you go further back, you take a couple steps to a back bar and a couple low tables with ottoman type seats further back.  It's busy throughout the entire place and it is buzzing with conversation and music that is playing.  If you want to hear your guests, the close seating is necessary due the constant noise.  Overall, the ambiance is of a low lit lounge/cafe.  Christina commented that it reminder her of a space that you would find in Europe.

Tables Set up by the Bar.
We sat in the back waiting for our names to come up on the list.  We didn't order any beverages while we waited.  I, myself, was super hungry and didn't want to get tipsy on an empty stomach.   The wait actually got long enough that we started to get up to check with the hostess and of course, as we did so, the hostess was walking back and calling our name... always happens.  Should have gotten up sooner, right?  The hostess sat us at a table along the bench.  I guess a small container of olive oil broke close to or at our table because you can feel how slick the floor was and someone was just finishing up the wipe down right before we got there.  If it weren't so cramped there, I could have rocked a sweet moonwalk along the floor since it was so slick. Maybe next time...  I would recommend that you take caution when going to sit on the bench as there are low hanging lights that many a restaurant go'er hit their head on.  It was entertaining to watch... of course, that's only if you weren't one of the patrons that did so.

Pinot Grigio.
Our server was quite nice.  She asked us if we wanted to beverage to start and provided us with the specials for the evening.  I ordered a pinot grigio, not quite sure on what kind it was, they only had one option and Christina ordered a seltzer water, her drink of choice.   Always nice to have a DD (designated driver) right?  Right.  As always, I was hassled for my ID.  Let's get real, I've been carded twice to go shopping at the mall after a certain time (at the malls in the Milwaukee area, you need to be 18 years old to shop after 3pm on the weekends unless you have parental guidance).    With our beverages, we were served some warm bread to dip in some olive oil.

There is quite an assortment of Italian dishes on the menu.  The menu is primarily pasta dishes which includes those that are traditional, special to the restaurant or a "pick your own" type of set up where you can choose the pasta, sauce and mix ins.  There are also a list of various sandwiches, antipastos (appetizers) and salads.    On the menu, they boast using locally grown and raised ingredients.  Enough about what's on the menu, let's get to the goodness... the food of course.

Caprese salad.  Bread with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.
Christina's Choices
Details: Starter (which I of course dove into as well) Caprese salad.  Roma tomatoes, fresh Wisconsin mozarella, basil with a olive oil and balsamic reduction. $7.00
Entree Spaghetti di Fruit di Mare. Calamari,scallops and shrimp in a tomato white wine sauce finished with cream.  $14.00

Spaghetti di Fruit di Mare.
Her thoughts:  The salad brought her past when growing up because she ate it all the time.  It was a nice ratio of tomato, cheese and greens.  The basil was interlaced with some arugula which cut down on the strong basil flavor.  We both agreed that we liked this little touch.  I myself can find that one of the two happens... one, there is too much basil that it overpowers the soft flavor of fresh mozzarella or, two, it ends up being just a tomato and cheese "salad."  When I have a salad, I want me some greens.  Unless, of course, it's a egg, tuna or chicken salad... now that's another story when it's for a sandwich, ya dig?  She enjoyed her pasta dish.  The calamari was a little much for her because of the quantity that was present and also the tentacles.  I've gotten over the tentacle fear and ate them right up.  Can't let good seafood go to waste.  I was struggling toward the end though because I was stuffed.

My Eats
Details: Ravioli.  Lobster ravioli in a garlic cream sauce.  $14.00

Ravioli.
My thoughts:  I'm typically not a ravioli person. I often deter from ordering this as sometimes I feel unsatisfied.  It might be the idea that everything is wrapped up in one thing and put together for me.  I think I like the act of eating various things on a plate and being able to mix and match bites and combine at my own will.... Who knows, might be the science side of me?  For the same reason, I usually will not order lasagna.  Although, I do like eating both, I rarely order them at a restaurant.  I'm sooooo glad I went against this.  The lobster ravioli was oh so tasty.  The cream sauce wasn't too heavy or overly garlic that I would be sweating garlic from my pores.  The ravioli were large and filling.  Presentation wasn't the best.  It was all globed in a bowl.  A green garnish perhaps?  But, the flavor outweighs the lack of visual appeal.  There was something in the ravioli that provided some texture.  I couldn't quite pin point it.  Was it a nut?  If so, it was softer.  A walnut perhaps? Or some short of veggie?  No idea.  But, overall, very satisfied with my choice.

Other things to consider:
-Street parking only but even on a Friday night, we were able to get a spot pretty darn close to the front door.  VIP status, even.
-Menu had vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.  Quite an equal opportunity restaurant.
-Service was nice but there was a bit of a wait which was expected for a Friday night but I wouldn't recommend coming here if you're already super hungry.
Ad on Back Tables.
-Tight set up.  Wouldn't be wheelchair or walker friendly but I'm thinking if it weren't so busy, they'd be able to shimmy some tables here and there.
-They offer their space for private parties or gatherings.  

This was an awesome first experience.  The wait to be seated was worth it.  I would probably go back and try out sitting at the bar so that I could watch the cook/chef make all the delicious dishes.  That may have to be something I do with someone who is in the mood to do the same as I'm sure I wouldn't be paying much attention to the conversion.  And, if I was, it most likely be conversation that goes in the lines of "What was that? How'd they do that? How long did they cook that for? etc."


Centro Cafe
808 E Center St
Milwaukee, WI 53212
(414) 455-3751
OPEN
Monday - Thursday 5-9pm
Friday/Saturday 5-10pm
Sunday: closed "for football"
Sunday available for rental.

9.13.2011

6.18.11 Brunch. Trocadero Gastrobar (Lower East Side. Milwaukee, WI)

Entrance of the building.  from ztrocadero.com
It was a great summer weekend and the sun was shining.   Since he missed my birthday dinner and drinks, Jordan thought it would be a good idea to go to brunch.  So, Jordan, Phil, Laura and I decided to go to Trocadero since it’s one of our favorite brunch spots.  I biked over there to meet them around 11.  As I rode my bike over, I saw various different groups of people running in matching shirts.  Some sort of challenge was going on and later we found out it was the Great Milwaukee Race.  One of their challenges was to play a life sized game of jacks.  Pretty entertaining to watch.  People were intensely competitive.  My kind of people!  I decided that I will start training for it that day for the next one.  It looked like a lot of fun.

Since it was a nice day out, we decided to sit outside.  Just like any other  weekend morning, it was pretty packed.  But, we didn’t have a wait.  Trocadero has a great set up both inside and out.  On the inside, you will see that it has a nice European style charm to it, just like the other Diablo restaurants (Cafe Benelux, Cafe Centraal and Cafe Hollander).  There is a bar in the front entrance that you can immediately order on of their delicious bloody mary's or  a mimosa if there does happen to be a wait.  Between the inside dining area there is a, what I would call a “four seasons room type area.”  It’s as if it was part outdoor seating with heaters and four season type walls with large windows to them.  Then, it leads to the outside patio that’s fenced in from the sidewalk and has a nice little fountain to it.   The crowd tends to be quite mixed.  Groups in their 20s, parent’s with their adult children and sometimes the church crowd that come for some good eats after their church service.  Who doesn’t like to grub down after hearing about God?  I know I do.  

We weaved our way through all the tight knit tables on the patio and was sat at a cute little table close to one of the walls and just a table away from the fence.  It was nice and shaded so that we didn’t burn to a crisp in the sun.  Felt just right.   When the server came, she informed us of both food and drink specials for the day.  

Traditional Lime Mojito.
Glorioso's Bloody Mary Special and High Speed Wit Chaser.
Laura, Jordan and I ordered the special bloody Mary of the day which was the Glorioso’s bloody Mary.  For those of you that don’t know, Glorioso’s is a local Italian grocery store located on Brady which serves prepared meals, makes hot sandwiches to order,  serves desserts and provides a complete grocery for all your Italian needs.   The bloody Mary included garlic and basil infused vodka and Glorioso’s fixin’s.  The fixin’s included fresh mozzarella, lemon and lime, pepperoni and a sport pepper.  The bloody Mary’s, as they should in Milwaukee, come with a high speed wit chaser.  Jordan enjoyed the pepperoni, Laura liked the mozzarella ball.  I thought the pepperoni was a tad on the greasy side.  As I do with bloodies that come with bacon, I would probably remove it from the drink to minimize the congeal factor. Gross.   The bloody Mary wasn’t overpowered by garlic as we had anticipated it might be.   I thought it had a great tomato to vodka balance and not all that spicy.  Because of the lack of spice factor, I squeezed and submersed the pepper into the beverage to give it that extra kick.   Phil ordered a mojito.  He’s not a bloody kind of guy.  It included three limes along the rim and per Phil, it had a pretty smooth and neutral flavor.  Great summer drink. 

We looked at the menus for a bit before decided.  The menu tends to lean toward the southwest feel with items that come with black beans and pico de gallo.  Of course, they have standard brunch items like an all American type plate, omelets and pancakes.  But, all with a little troc flare to it.  Let’s get down to the real deal… the food. 

Mamacita Burger with frites.



We’ll go in order of the person to my left and then around the table.  Of course, we all know I like to be organized and structured that way.  So, here we go!

Phil
Details:   Mamacita Burger.  Burger cooked to order (medium well is what Phil chose), pico de gallo, queso fresco, avocado and garlic aioli.  Served with frites.  $13.00

His Thoughts:   The temperature looked to be perfect to me.  Nice and Pink.  Phil enjoyed the burger and said it was pretty tasty and juicy.  The fries, looked delicious and from past experience, I remember them to be pretty darn good.  They’re the cut that I usually enjoy… not too meaty. 

Jordan
Details: Spicy Black Bean Cakes. Hand-crafted bean cakes, poached eggs, queso fresco, salsa verde, pico de gallo.  $10.00

Spicy Black Bean Cakes
His Thoughts:  Jordan is a foodie like me.  We often talk about food a minimum of twice when we hang out.  No complaints here about that.  I can talk about food for hours.  But, on this day, Jordan had little to say about this dish.  He said he had no complaints but would probably put a spicier salsa on if he were to prepare it.  So, the spicy in the name is more so regarding spices that are used versus a heat factor.  Good thing to know for SPICE wimps. 

Quiche Lorraine with side of fruit.


Laura
Details:  Quiche Lorraine. Bacon, onion, and Gruyere cheese.  Served with a side of seasonal fruit. $9.00

Her Thoughts:  She thought it was good.  She really digs quiche in general and was in the mood for one that day. The quiche crust was the same as mine so you will see details regarding it in my thoughts below.  Never go wrong with the rosemary potatoes.  Are a nice addition to the quiche but creates a pretty hearty platter.  


My Food
Details: Veggie quiche of the day.  Veggie quiche that consisted of onion, artichoke, white cheddar and a sundried tomato pesto. Served with a side of rosemary potatoes. $9.00

Veggie Quiche of the Day with rosemary potatoes.
My Thoughts:  Amazing.  So flavorful at the first bite.  Definitely a kick of flavor in the mouth.  Nice blend of fillers for the quiche and the crust was nice and flaky but not dry. I do like when the crust is a flakier consistency and doesn't just crumble when you bring your knife or fork to it.  Nobody wants a crumbs with their egg goodness.  At least, I know I don't.  The top of the filler had a nice baked crusted finish to it and the pesto was primarily just placed on top and did not appear to be mixed into the quiche itself.  It was just the right amount of pesto.  This is especially important because pesto, in my opinion, can be a little overpowering in large amounts.   It was a hearty meal with the quiche and the potatoes so I was only able to eat half of both.  But, then again it could have been partially due to the bloody Mary and its fixin’s. 

Other things to consider:
-Street parking only.  Plan accordingly.  Bike!  Save the ozone.
-Large servings.  So, if you eat like a bird, find some kind person to split with you unless you are a leftover eater.
-Typically a wait for a table during the brunch time rush.
-Vegetarian and gluten intolerance options.
-Daily specials for both drink and food during brunch. 
-Outside seating not the most wheelchair friendly due to proximity of tables and the steps.  (I know, somewhat random but it is a tight squeeze and I’m a physical therapist by trade.)

Overall, this was another enjoyable experience at Troc.  Great weather added to the experience for sure.  The quiche is always a delight and filling so be ready to share of take home left overs.  The bloody Mary options are out of this world.  Try it out!

Trocadero Gastrobar
1758 N Water St
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 272-0205
OPEN
Monday - Friday 8am-close
Saturday/Sunday 9am - close

6.16.11 Dinner. Comet (Lower East Side. Milwaukee, WI)

It was my birthday!  So, guess where I wanted to go?  That's right folks... Comet Cafe.   This will be a quick because I was too lazy too get everyone's foods pictured and blog about it.  I didn't want to be preoccupied with my blog notes while a bunch of my wonderful friends came out to celebrate.

I decided to get there early and wait for everyone to come since I'm such a good host and don't want anyone sitting by themselves.  Plus, I had a bunch of people coming, since I'm so popular (jk) and wanted to ensure that we had an appropriate sized area to fit us all.  If you've been to Comet, you know that it isn't the best spot for larger groups but they always try to accommodate the best they can.  I put my  name on the wait list, ordered a Bell's Oberon (one of my Summer beers of choice) and sat outside to wait for my friends.  They said it would be a wait but what can be expected on a Thursday night on the East Side.

When my friends all arrived, we waited about 20-30 minutes to sit.  (Shout out side note to my friends that came.)   The server that was keeping an eye on out for our party was super friendly and helpful.  She kept an eye out on all the different spots in the restaurant to get a good idea of what two tables were going to be open first.  She often checked back with our group to give us tentative seating times.  They sat us at two booths, back to back on the bar side with one chair at the end.  Of course,  I sat on the chair at the end to ensure that I can mingle with all my friends throughout the night.  We all ordered food.  As I said before, I will only review what I ordered.  Refer to the 6.3.11 and 6.12.11 blogs for more details about Comet's atmosphere and jive.

Here's what I got...
Details.  Comet Cuban.  Wilsons farm pork shoulder, ham, house-made pickles, swiss cheese, whole grain mustard pressed and grilled on ciabatta bread.  Side of fries and a pickle.  $9.00
Slice of wild berry pie with a dollop of whipped cream.  $0.00 (Birthday girl special, with a candle in it!)

Comet Cuban and fries.
My thoughts:  A whole lot of food packed into a little sandwich.  Boy, was I stuffed at the end of it.  Lots of meat was loaded onto this sandwich.  Obviously, if you're not a pork person, don't eat this.  Very tasty sandwich and the whole grain mustard really stands out.  I had a wipe some of the mustard away because at times, there was too much present in one bite.  The ciabatta that was pressed and toasted added a very nice texture to the sandwich.  As it is with most Cubans, the act of toasting and pressing the sandwich is key.  But, per Wikipedia the Cuban sandwich is usually served on Cuban bread.  The ciabatta on Comet's Cuban adds another level of flavor and texture with it's crisp crust and soft porous body.   As I bit into the sandwich, I noticed how juicy the meat was as the natural juices of the meat dripped out of the sandwich.  (ALERT: not a first date type of sandwich because could potentially be a messy meal but don't hesitate to manage it if you think you have mad sandwich handling skills... I guess mine were lacking on this day.)  The fries were good and crisp.  Pickles are always a plus with a sandwich. The wild berry pie came with an oatmeal crumble on top.  The crust was a little crisp for my liking.  The filling was great with whole fruit and not too sweet with a little tartness to balance it out.  Good sized slice for everyone to have a bite.

Comet pies.  from Cometcafe.com
Other things to consider:
-Not the best for larger groups. If you still decide to go, you'll have to break up your group a tad.
-Nice enough server... you may get a birthday treat.
-Various flavors of home baked goods.


As you already know, I love me some comet cafe.  This sandwich wasn't one of my faves at comet but definitely not the bottom of the list either.  If someone asked me, probably wouldn't recommend this if they were going to Comet for the first time.  The pie was pretty darn good.  I would want to get the other flavors some other time, warmed up and with ice cream.   A la mod-E as she would say in Little Miss Sunshine.  Dig that movie.  I will be back there soon for sure!  Hope to see ya there. 

Comet Cafe
1947 N Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202 
(414) 273-7677
OPEN
Monday - Thursday 10:30am-2am
Friday 10:30am - 2:30am
Saturday 9am - 230am
Sunday 9am - 2am
Food service ends at 10pm nightly
Happy Hour M-F 3:30 - 6:30pm
Daily Drink Specials start at 6:30pm

7.25.2011

6.14.11 Dinner. Crisp Pizza Bar and Lounge (Lower East Side/Brady Street. Milwaukee, WI)

 1st flr from 2nd. From Yelp.com
Since he was going out of town, Bryan and I decided to celebrate my birthday with dinner and some drinks since he was going to miss the birthday festivities.  So, we decided to hit up Brady Street, one of our favorite places to hang out.   Always an opportunity for good people watching.  We decided to go to Crisp Pizza Bar and Lounge.  It helped that I had a Groupon to use.  I'm a Groupon junkie.  Why not get some great deals for fun places to eat?  Right? Right. 

It was a lovely Tuesday evening around 630pm so we didn't have much of a wait to get a table.  Our time inside was brief as it was just to talk with the hostess.  We asked for a table outside.  I had been to crisp prior to this experience but only to check out the vibe and grab a drink.  In regard to their food, we were both Crisp virgins.  The place was two floors.  The main floor, from what I noticed, has a bar, tables and a walk up counter for orders to go.  The second floor wraps around to look down at the main part of the first floor.  Very modern and clean lines decorate this place.  There is a place for a DJ to mix some tunes for the later bar hours.  The place overall seems somewhat out of place on Brady street and instead has a Milwaukee Street type feel.  In my opinion it would be more appropriate to be located by Kenadees, Umami Moto, Sake Tumi, etc.  But, then again, maybe that's their strategy... to be the only place like this on Brady that can attract the fist pumping crew of Brady Street. Anyway, we sat down at a table on the sidewalk and the hostess brought some waters and the menus.  

The menus were loose pieces of paper on little clipboards.  On a breezy night as that night, they were hard to handle and read because the paper was all over the place.  But, nothing to really complain too much about.  Just enough to mention.  Of course, since it was me and Bryan, we attempted to order PBR tallboys, which were cheaper than the regular PBR cans on the menu... I'm thinking it was a typo.  Either way, we were left disappointed because they were all out of them.  So, we had to settle for the regular sized ones ($2).  Definitely not heartbroken over it.  We looked through the menu to try to decide what to get.  It was a rather extensive menu but we knew we wanted pizza so that helped.  Also, not a toughy because we share similar tastes in pizza toppings. 
Obviously PBR and water.

Here's what we got!
Details: As an app, the Crisp Bread Sticks and chose the garlic butter as our dipping sauce. $6
Signature Large Pizza.  Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper.  Italian sausage, mozzarella, goat cheese, and fontina paired with roasted red peppers in a spicy red sauce and topped with basil.  $20

Thoughts:  

Crisp Bread Sticks with Garlic Butter.

Appetizer.  The bread sticks were light and fluffy and drizzled with what seemed to be a balsamic vinegar reduction, some grated parm and herbs.  At first glance, it reminded me of funnel cake with much bigger pieces of dough and the balsamic drizzle looked like chocolate sauce.   Wasn't the prettiest looking thing, that's for sure.  Shaped like pieces of ginger root.  But, this was very delicious.  The bread itself was very light.  The balsamic reduction provided a sweet and tangy zing to it.  The garlic butter was just that...nice, what appeared to be, drawn butter with larger fresh pieces of roasted garlic that settled to the bottom.  Despite the larger pieces of garlic, it wasn't overpowering.  Even though the sticks being light, they were rather filling and a great amount for the price.  

Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Pizza.
Pizza. The crust was the same as the bread sticks.  Hand tossed, thinner crust to the pizza.  Crisp yet chewy on the inside.  First bite...  so fresh.  The sauce has great fresh tomato flavor but isn't overly acidic, as some sauces can be.  Every ingredient tasted like it was just cut up and put together right before it came out.  Crust was dusted with corn meal which provided some nice texture.  Goat cheese creaminess and flavor countered this crunch.  The fontina was barely noticeable to me. The sausage itself was crumbled into smaller pieces which allowed it to be in every bite.  The sweetness of the peppers balanced and paired well with the savory sausage. 

Other things to consider:
-Server was rarely mentioned because she was barely present.  Someone always kept our water full though, which was nice.
-App came on a nice Fiesta-ware style plate but the dipping sauce came in a little plastic cup... cheesy for such a higher end type of pizza joint
-They do serve brunch and have other menu items that include salads (which is a bar that you can pick all the topics), sandwiches, individual slices, dessert and various apps.  Gluten free (crust) options!  Yay Jen!
-Their menu gloats about supporting the slow food movement.
-Large drink menu.  Didn't glance at it all that closely because when with Bryan, we go PBR.
-Happy Hour:  3-5pm on weeknights.  Half priced slices and $2 selected taps (per yelp.com)

I'll definitely come here again.  The vibe itself is a little different and I can see myself being a brunch, lunch and early dinner patron versus the bar and late night crew.  Instead you'll most likely see me fist pumping at Jo-Cat's on Brady.  But yes, I'll come back to try some of the other menu items especially brunch.  They offer a 24oz bloody Mary with a tallboy PBR chaser.  That's intense...

Crisp Pizza Bar and Lounge
1323 East Brady St
Milwaukee, WI
(414) 727-4217

Open
 Fri/Sat 1130am - 230am
Sun-Thurs 11:30am - 2am
Slices served until close

7.24.2011

6.12.11 Brunch. Comet Cafe (Lower East Side. Milwaukee, WI)

Sunday Funday!  I don't know if you are aware that I like, no, I LOVE brunch.  So, Maretes and I were due for some hang out one on one time.  We decided to hit up Comet... huge surprise right? I got there first and signed up for a table.  It was only about a 20 minute wait which was pretty darn good but, it was earlier for the Sunday Brunch crowd... 10am.  Remember, this is a "slow food" restaurant who prides themselves in good food from scratch, so don't expect a speedy in and out kinda joint. 
Bloody Mary with High Life Mini for the Chaser
Maretes was running late but placed an order with me to get her a bloody Mary with a chaser.  So, I ordered two bloody Marys with chasers and both with bacon.  The Server was very attentive and got me a drink right away despite the other person not being there.  I ordered mine spicy (SPICE alert.  not for spice wimps.  constant Tabasco heat to the back of your throat.)  When you order a bloody, they ask you with bacon or not.  If you've been following my blog, you've gotten the idea that I'm down with the bacon movement.  Please keep in mind, when you order a bloody with bacon, I recommend that you remove the bacon and either eat it immediately or put it to the side.  The bacon fat starts to congeal and it's not appetizing...unless you like a film of fat in your mouth.  Gross.  The other fixins in the bloody include pickled mushroom, pickled brussel sprout, lime, lemon, olive and bacon.  I don't like brussel sprouts but I do love me some pickled brussel sprouts that has been bathed in bloody Mary goodness.  The bloody Marys come with a cute mini high light life bottle.  Love it. 
Diner side.  Obtained from Yelp.com
Crowd is usually 20-30s typical east side crowd but also people from all around Milwaukee and people coming into town.  As noted in my last blog on Comet, the restaurant was shown on Diners, Drive ins and Dives so it brings in quite the foodie crowd sometimes.  There are two sides to the restaurant, the diner side and the bar side.  You can eat on both sides and can also eat at the counter and the bar. On nice days, there is also an option for sitting outside.  So many options.  It can get rather busy and you usually sign in on the sheet on the cafe side.  Next to the sign in sheet is their beautiful baked good display.  Great placement.  The cupcakes and pies always look delectable.  The servers and bartenders are usually very friendly.  On this visit, the server was very nice despite the place being pretty crowded as time went on that we were there.  There is usually some music playing can be from a wide variety of genres.
Due to my need to try something different every time I go to Comet (still have no doubled up on menu items...thank you very much), I ended up ordering an omelet.  Maretes was excited to be part of the blog and asked me what else I have not adventured to try on the brunch menu and so she ended up getting the meat and eggs. 
Maretes' Meal (I like alliteration.)
Details: Meat and Eggs.  Meatloaf covered with homemade sausage gravy, two eggs which she ordered over easy and covered with cheddar, hash-browns and asked for onions added to it, and chose cinnamon toast. $11.00 (additional cost for her cheddar and cinnamon toast as well, I think, but I don't know how much.)
Meat and Eggs. Hashbrowns, Over Easy Eggs covered and Cinnamon Toast.
Maretes' thoughts:  Initially, she was surprised and disappointed when she noticed that the sauteed onions were in a little clump under the hashbrowns instead of mixed into them but when she tasted them with the hash-browns, they were so good.  She was happy and impressed with how fresh everything tasted.  The eggs were overcooked and not over-easy as she had ordered.  Possibly because they had to let the cheese melt onto them.  Cinnamon toast was made from scratch in her opinion and was oh so delicious.  Kind of like they took a piece of white toast and spread some butter on it and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar.  Their homemade gravy is creamy and full of flavor.  Large helping of meatloaf so come hungry.  Per the servers, it's made daily.  Let me tell you, this meal was comfort food in a nutshell.  It's like getting a hug from an all American Grandma.  Now, who wouldn't like that?

My go.

Details:   3 egg omelet with tomato, spinach and mozzarella, served with hashbrowns and I chose rye bread (I know, I've already been told that only old people eat rye but I love it!... Not just bread for a Ruben... a bread for all occasions.) $7.50 and $0.75 cents for an extra ingredient since the omelets come with a choice of two. 

3 Egg Omelet (tom, spin and moz).  Rye Toast and Hashbrowns
My thoughts:  The mozzarella tasted so good.  I really enjoy omelets with good fresh mozzarella.  It was melted just perfectly and maintained a good melted consistency versus hardening up.  The omelet, overall, was tasty but pretty simple.  Not something that really stands out but when you order something like this, you can't expect anything mind-blowing and unique right? Right.  It's an omelet that you can get at other places.  Hash-browns were made just how I like them.  I added a few shakes of Tabasco to my potatoes and it really brought them up a notch but that's my style.  Dig the spice.  Crispy and well done on the outside yet still soft on the inside.  The rye is unique, as stated in the past Comet blog, since it has a salted crust.  I love salt so this could be a turn off to those that don't enjoy it.  Just like with a salted pretzel, I'm thinking it could be rubbed off if someone doesn't dig it. 

Other things to consider:
-Since I had a bloody Mary, I was in need of some caffeine.  I was able to order a coffee to go.  BONUS was that I wasn't charged for it.  God, I love this place.
-Great service on this visit despite the crowd and how busy it gets.
-Able to get your meal how you want it... ie all Maretes' add ons and the option for vegan and vegetarian dishes.
-Parking can be terrible on the lower east side.  Maretes was struggling with this one. 
-Brunch menu is more extensive than their typical daily breakfast menu.  Brunch is served on both Saturday and Sunday.

Overall, this was a good visit.  You know I'll always come back here. Love this place to death.  Of course, there are some things I like more than others.  On this visit, my meal was average, the bloody was good as always and the company and service was fantastic. 

Comet Cafe
1947 N Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202 
(414) 273-7677
OPEN
Monday - Thursday 10:30am-2am
Friday 10:30am - 2:30am
Saturday 9am - 230am
Sunday 9am - 2am
Food service ends at 10pm nightly
Happy Hour M-F 3:30 - 6:30pm
Daily Drink Specials start at 6:30pm

6.10.11 Dinner. Bel Air Cantina. (East Side. Milwaukee, Wi)


Tall Boy PBR and Water.
As I said in my 5.28.11 post on Bel Air Cantina, it's a place worth going back to.  And so I did.  Bryan had never been there and we were down for some grub on a Friday night.  Renee was going to meet up with us because she was in the mood for some Friday fun as well.  It was earlier in the night and it didn't take us long to get a table.  We ended up sitting at a booth.   Like the last time I was here, it was a bit drafty.  Who knows where it was coming from but it was tolerable.  We both ordered tall boy PBRs of course.  Any time Bryan and I hang out it's all hipster all the time.  Whether we're true hipsters or just posers is a discussion for another time and depends on who you ask.  As always, they bring their trio of salsas and chips.  Love me some chips and salsa.

The green tomatillo salsa is still my favorite and Bryan agreed with me on this one... I have pretty good taste in food. Check it out for yourself and challenge it if you wish.  We looked over the menu for a bit of time to try to figure out what we wanted to get.  I, myself, knew I need to try something different from the tacos to try and redeem the food from my previous experiences.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't terrible, but it left me wanting more.  Renee wasn't going to join us for food.  Only drinks and chips and salsa so we ordered before she got there.  We both decided on getting a burrito.

Since we've already gone through the details for the location and the setting in my previous blog, let's get on to the more important topics of conversation, the food. 

Blog guest first...What Bryan ordered.


Carne Asada Burrito.
Details:   Carne Asada Burrito.  Grilled skirt steak with black beans, crema fresca, guacamole, rice, shredded lettuce, cilantro, onions and topped with queso fundido and salsa roja. $9.89.

Bryan's Thoughts:  Bryan gave his burrito a solid B+. It was pretty cheesy from the cheese sauce.  He really liked the flavor to his burrito. He didn't have complaints about his burrito and he was obviously digging it because he joined the clean plate club.  Winner! I tried a bite of his.  I thought the fact that it was refried black beans versus whole black beans made the burrito a little mushy for my palate.  Compared to mine, it didn't have as much flavor.  I rarely try other people's food in fear that I'll like their better than mine and be jealous but in this case, I didn't.  Phew.

Corona Lite.
A little side note away from the food.  Renee finally met up with us a little bit after we got our food.  She ordered a Corona Lite and enjoyed some of the delicious chips and salsa.  She asked me, "could you take a picture of my awesome corona lite?  It makes my night."  Who knew she was a poet in addition to a physical therapist? Now we do! Unlike Jamie from the previous visit, Renee really enjoyed the fact that her beer came in a can.  To each their own...to each their own.

My turn
Details:   Pollo Yucatan Burrito.  Grilled chicken with achiote (a ground spicy seed), pinto beans, avocado salsa, cotija queso, shredded lettuce, crema fresca, pineapple and topped with salsa roja.  $9.23

My Thoughts:   The burrito was soooooo flavorful.  Renee had a bite and agreed that it was tasty too (not just one opinion but two!).  The chicken had a smoky flavor to it (kinda like Qdoba and
Pollo Yucatan Burrito.
Chipotle chicken).   I found it a bit odd that there was peas in the burrito.  May have been from the rice as I do recall that their rice has carrots and peas, maybe?  Also, I often don't dig the idea of having lettuce in a burrito as it gets warm and wilts but that's just a personal preference.  There was some spice to it but wasn't anything that really called for spice alert for readers.  Just enough spice to add some good flavor and possibly the sweet and tart pineapple countered the spice factor.  Overall, it was a very enjoyable dish and I would even rate it ten times better than my previous taco experiences.  From what I've learned the chicken dishes are my favorites... so far. 

Other things to consider:
-Fun group of servers and tenders.  Looked over at one point and the servers and bartenders were enjoying a shot together.  That's what I call teamwork.  (Hope this doesn't get them into trouble.  Service was very good during this visit). 
-As always, it's on the East Side and only street parking available.  Not difficult to find parking when you get there early.
-Corona in a can is definitely relative to the person who is enjoying the beverage.  Renee was just a happy little duck with her can of corona lite. 
-Great atmosphere to hang with friends.  

I definitely enjoyed the food much more during this round at the Cantina.  The place itself is always fun and I'll definitely consider it when I'm craving some Mexican.  There are a number of items that I want to try out (brunch, nachos, tostadas and burrito bowls). 

Bel Air Cantina
1935 N Water St
Milwaukee, WI 53202
414.226.2245

OPEN
Weekdays: 11am-2am
 Weekends: 10am-2am
Happy Hour: Regular M-F 3pm-7pm
Late night: 11pm-1am (except Tues)

7.04.2011

6.9.11 Dinner. Points East Pub. Yankee Hill (Milwaukee, WI)

NBA finals time means sitting at the bar and drinking beers right?  Right.  So that's just what we did.  Jamie and I have been talking for months about going to Points East Pub to try out their famous wings.  It was a Thursday night and they have 50 cent wings on Thursdays.  Just our luck!  We didn't even know it was 50 cent night.   We like wing night deals.

view from the door.  obtained from www.yelp.com
We walk into the bar and it's bumpin'.  The place was pretty full.  All the tables were occupied and just a few seats left at the bar.  Jamie and I were able to snag two spots at the bar.  Tight squeeze but not so tight that we were bumping elbows.  On one side of the place there is the bar and then along the windows is a bench with low tops that run along it.  Between these tables and the bar are a few high tops.  Into the back of the building there are a couple more tables.  The bar itself had some nice wood paneling along it.  The ceilings have exposed pipes and copper tiles throughout.  The place is definitely pub-style.  Nice and quaint.  Louder music plays throughout the bar.  Not too loud that you can't hear your neighbor.  Definitely a mix of various types of music.  At one point they were playing Rihanna which was somewhat out of place compared to everything else that was playing.  There are two TVs behind the bar.  They were showing the brewers game and the NBA finals. 

Obviously Beer and Water.
When we sat at the bar, we were immediately asked if we were eating.  We said yes.  We were told that there was about a 40 minute wait for wings and per the bartender, this wasn't a bad wait time. We both ordered a pitcher of Miller Lite.  It was flat.  Almost couldn't finish it. We're not ones to complain unless it's horrid so we just sucked it up.  But, when we were done with the pitcher, we switched over to bottled beer.  We sat next to some guys.  Guys were the majority.  Few ladies scattered throughout the place but male to female ratio was definitely close to a 4:1.   Primarily in their 20-30s.  Seemed like the typical happy hour type crowd, probably because of the wing deal.  Some people that came straight from work still lingered as well.  They were still in their work shirts and ties.  The guy sitting next to me said "Ever get the wings?" Me, "no."  Him, "Oh, you're in trouble.  They're hot."  Me, "I can handle it."  I looked over to him as he was eating his wings.  He was strugglin'.  Have to admit, I was somewhat apprehensive.  But, I do like me some spice so I was up for the challenge.

A little background on this place and their fantastic wings. They have a secret recipe.  Word on the street is that there is high competition between this place and Club Garibaldi in Bay View because they have pretty much similar recipes.  We won't get into all the details but supposedly someone brought the recipe from Points to Garibaldi.  Maybe check out both and you can be the judge. 

Back to the topic at hand.  We enjoyed sitting at the bar, watching the games, talking with our fellow pub goers and to the bartenders. The bartenders were friendly and helpful.  They said we can order any increment of wings we wanted.  There is only one type of wing available.  No options for sauce.

I'll combine our food and thoughts since we both ordered wings and shared a side.
Details:   I ordered 6 wings.  Jamie ordered 8.  We ordered a Large side of fries to share with a side or ranch dressing for dipping.  Blue cheese and celery. 

Large Side of Fries and Side Ranch Dressing.

Thoughts: Ranch had a nice creamy consistency to it.  Slight touch of onion flavoring to it compared to other ranches.  Blue cheese dressing was creamy and had a nice blue cheese flavor to it that wasn't too overpowering or strong.  Good sized pieces of celery and they weren't the wimpy celery that you can sometimes get with wings.  They were nice and crisp and hydrated.  If you bent them, they'd break versus just bend.  Fries were crispy.  Wings were out of the park (might as well go with the baseball analogy since the game was on).  They were cooked perfectly.  Cooked well enough that the skin wasn't soft and fatty textured but not too long that it made the wings dry.  The fact that they fry, sauce and then grill the wings leave them free of being greasy and not overly saucy.   It seemed more like a dry rub type of wing because of this.  The lack of excessive sauce cut down on how spicy it felt on your lips when you bit into them (you may know the sauce's effect on the HEAT [pun intended due to the NBA finals...go Mavs!] factor if you watch Man vs Food.  Some things were so spicy he had  to wear gloves while eating some things covered in hot sauce).  The wings did have a kick to them.  The guy next to me would periodically do a quality check to see if I was handling the heat.  I think he was impressed by my skills.  Definitely a kick to them.  Spice that hits you at the back of your throat.  It didn't get me sweating until the fifth wing I ate.   Just a little glisten of sweat... didn't require me to wipe my
6 Wings with Celery and Blue Cheese Dressing.
brow.  Definitely a SPICE ALERT for spice wimps out there.  At one point, I could hear Jamie sucking in air through her mouth to cool off and I almost aspirated from laughing.  Close call.  I tried to keep count and Jamie had at least 3+ waters.  She does drink like a fish but geez, that was a lot.  6 wings was just the right amount for me.

Jamie's thoughts:
Jamie enjoyed the smokey grill flavor the wings had.  Thought the size of the wings were perfect and enjoyed that there wasn't any soft skin pieces.  She also commented on the fact that in our baskets there was a nice wing to drummy ratio (can't you tell she works for a bank?).  Jamie said she could pass on the fries.  Nothing special.   Almost like we got the bottom of the bag of fries because we got little pieces.   8 left her stuffed.

Other factors to keep in mind:
- We were carded at the door.  Not a kid kind of place.
-The wait time was initially 40 minutes for the wings but I timed it and it only took 30 minutes.  Not bad really since we were drinking beers while waiting and the game was on which kept us occupied.
- May have to wait for an open space to open up on Thursday night due to the wing night crowd.  Can't really say on how the other nights are.
- Menu consists of typical bar type foods.
- No website to link to.  But, many review and pictures from pub goers that are online.
-Nightly deals include: Mon $1.25 beef or chicken tacos and $1 off Mexican beers, Tues $2 hamburgers and $1 off pitchers, Wed $1 PBRs (grrreat deal), Thur 50 cent wings.
- Bathroom situation is sub par.  Nice pub like this would benefit from bathroom update. Felt like a dive bar type bathroom set up.   Two different worlds.  

I would definitely come here again for wings.  I neglected to pay attention to the menu close enough to give you a run down of everything else they had or how much the wings were on a normal night.  I had one thing on my mind when I went, 50 cent wings, and that's what I got.  I was very satisfied with the food.  The place was a nice chill hang out too.

7.03.2011

6.5.11 Lunch. Apollo Cafe (LowerEast Side. Milwaukee, WI)

It was the day of the annual UPAF ride for the arts.  Jamie, my cousin Harry and I did the ride together.  It was a perfect day for the ride.  Not too hot and with a nice little breeze.  The sun definitely made a difference though.  After doing the 25 mile ride over the Hoan Bridge.  We decided that we were in the mood for some Greek food and decided on going to Apollo Cafe on Brady St.  We rode our bikes from Summerfest grounds to Apollo and locked our bikes up.

Front view.  (Used from www.apollocafe.com)
There were both tables available inside and outside without a wait.  There are tables on the side of the building that extends to the front of the building so you can do some people watching along Brady, which is always a good time.  You can often find some characters strolling up and down the strip.  Apollo is set up where you order at counter and your food is placed on a tray and you bring it to a table yourself.  The restaurant itself isn't all that special or unique.  It's clean though so that's a plus.  Definitely not a dive type restaurant.  There were two guys behind the counter.  One taking orders and setting up trays and the other preparing the food.  They tend to be the usual crew. They're usually a friendly group.  When they get the after bar time crowd, they are a little more short with the customers but who wouldn't be when they have a long line of inebriated customers? I know I wouldn't be able to tolerate it the whole night.

They have a decent sized menu that includes apps, sandwiches/plates, Greek favorites, salads, sides and desserts.  It isn't a menu that is overwhelming though which makes it easier for my indecisive self.  The menu is on the wall just like any walk up and order type of joint.  As you stand at the counter, you see the gyro meat rotating on the rotating spit.  Mmmmm...tasty.  Not always appealing to vegetarians, I'm sure, but I dig it.  Jamie, Harry and I all ordered the same thing, the gyro plate.  The plates come with your option of fries, Greek salad, or rice pilaf.  Jamie and I ordered the Greek salad as our side and Harry ordered fries.  We all supplemented our water bottles with some ice water to go with our meals.  We were super thirsty since we had just done the ride.  The gyros and salads come right up.  Otherwise, they call numbers for other orders that may take a little longer to prepare.

Harry wasn't down for sitting outside to eat but Jamie and I don't like to pass up an opportunity to enjoy the nice weather.  With Milwaukee weather, you can't risk missing out on a nice day that isn't cold or too hot.  They are few and far between.  We sat at a table that was in the sun on the sidewalk along the front and it did get a little warm but not unbearable.  Majority of the people at Apollo sat outside.  Everyone there on this day was in their 20-30s.

I'll combine all of ours since they are pretty much the same.  It'll make it easier.
Gyro Plate with Greek Side Salad.
Details: Gyro Plate.  Seasoned lamb and beef served with pita tzatziki sauce, tomato and onion.  Greek salad has tomato, onion, blocks of feta cheese, olives and pepperoncinis with a Greek vinaigrette dressing.  Fries are a typical thicker cut, but not steak cut fry.  $8

Thoughts: Fantastic flavor to the gyro meat which is also nice and moist.  Not overdone.  Pita is tasty and soft.  Restaurant pita always seems so much better than the stuff you get at the store at eat at home.  Why is that?  It's a mystery to me.  You get an entire bottle of tzatziki  sauce which is fantastic because it's so delicious and adds a nice cool flavor to it.  The Greek salad is simple yet full of flavor and has fresh ingredients to it.  Greek salads are one of my favorites.  The feta isn't too overpowering.  Since it's in block form and you break it up yourself, it has a nice texture and moisture to it.  I'm glad I didn't get the fries because they were soggy (not pictured on this date).  It wasn't too busy so I'm sure they didn't have much fry turn over and they may have been sitting there for a bit longer than desired.  The servings were generous enough that I was able to take pretty much half the gyro to take home with me for another meal.  Definite plus!

After we ate, an employee came by and collected our dirty dishes.  There are also little bins by the side door for people to place their dirty dishes, trays and bottles of tzatziki sauce when there isn't someone coming around to clear tables.

Other factors to keep in mind:
-They are open after bar close.  A great after bar treat that isn't just all fried food.
-Vegetarian friendly
-Walk up service, don't expect to just sit at a table and have a server take your order
-Fairly fast preparation for food, especially the gyro plate.  So, if you're hungry and don't have a lot of time, this could be an option.

This was a good trip to Apollo.  Good Greek food at a pretty descent price.  I'll definitely come back again.  Good location but nothing all that exciting about the place itself that would get it vibe points.

Apollo Cafe
1310 E. Brady Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 272-2233

OPEN
Sunday-Wednesday 11am - 11pm
Thursday - Saturday 11am - 3am