5.27.11 Dinner. Bel Air Cantina (East Side. Milwaukee, WI)

From back end of the bar.
So, Jamie and I went out for dinner yesterday.  We ended up choosing the Bel Air Cantina (previously The Good Life) because we were down for some Mexican.  This was my second experience to Bel Air and Jamie's first.  We arrived around 8pm.  We had about a 20 minute wait.  We went to stand by the bar to wait. The space itself is awesome and oh so very  modern.  Lots of floor to ceiling windows.  The windows save this long narrow building from looking too cramped.  Christmas lights hung along the windows.  Surf boards, art and pictures decorate the walls.  The theme, to me, feels like a Key Largo, Florida type feel.  As always, Jamie and I were super indecisive about getting a drink that by the time we decided we wanted to get one while we waited, we were already being seated.  Surprise...

We were seated at a table by the window.  Some weird draft was present.  Was it from the window or a vent? Who knows, but it wasn't bad enough to complain.  Some decent music was playing.  We even discovered that one of Jamie's guilty pleasures is the movie Coyote Ugly.  It must have given her the happy-guilty-pleasure-feeling when the "one way, or another..." song came on.  Memorrrriessss.  Anyway, for a table of two, volume was good but I could imagine it would be difficult to hear someone at the opposite end of a 6 person table.  Drinks were ordered.  I had the El Cheapo lime margarita (frozen/blended with rail tequila) for $5.50.  When it arrived to the table I initially thought, "Did they bring me a tequila on the rocks without rocks.  Where's the ice?"  Blended, it was not.  Or, if it was, it was sitting for too long.  But, it was tasty for a rail drink.  Jamie, had a corona, $4.  If she knew that it came in a can, she would have passed on a bev.

From our table.
Chips, Salsa Trio, and Bevys.
Trio of salsas with chips were brought to the table (best part about mexican restaurants).  They include the following: roasted jalapeno (mild/red), arbol chilis salsa (med-hot/orange) and tomatillo salsa (med/green).  The salsas are oh so delicious.  For those that like just a pico de gallo (on menu for $2.29) type salsa or tostitos type salsa, may not be down for the trio.  Also, if you don't like spicy, this would also not be your cup of tea.  The trio has some bite... and I like it!  The tomatillo has a delicious garlicy flavor to it and it's my favorite of the three.  Then, I like the roasted jalapeno that has a nice smokey/roasted type flavor to it.  Last, was the arbol chili.  By no means is  it bad, but someone has to be last right? Right.  The chips were slightly stale. 

Let's get to the main course.  The menu is huge!  It can be overwhelming for those that cannot make decisions (like me) unless there is someone who is there to assist them in their decision making needs (for me, it's Jamie).  Tacos, burritos (bigger than chipotle), nachos, salads, oh my! We asked our server, who was a very friendly gent, for taco recommendations.  He recommended the Baja tilapia as his favorite.  The menu has tacos a la carte or a plate deal of order 3 tacos and get rice and beans included.  There are tons of options to the menu to choose from and for time and space sake, I will leave it to you to explore the menu. (FYI: The online menu doesn't match their updated menu.  Some new items were added to this original menu)

Jamie's Plate: (from left to right) taco 2, 3 and 1.
Rice and refried black beans.
Jamie's up to bat
Details:  3 taco plate.  Rice and she chose the refried black beans. 
1. Korean beef taco (spicy sweet marinated beef garnished with greens, jicama, carrot, lime and sriracha creama) with corn tortilla. $3.39
2. Pollo Yucatan (grilled chicken with achiote, pineapple, avocado salsa) tostada. $2.57
3. Baja Tilapia (breaded and fried, with jalapeno slaw and buttermilk avocado dressing) $3.19 with corn tortilla. 

Jamie's Thoughts (She was much more verbal on this visit.):  [Taco 1] The srirach adds good spice.  Not too spicy but spicy enough no deter the spice wimps out there (Jamie was downing water like a fish while eating this one and she likes spicy).  Tender meat and the jicama/carrot added a great crunch for texture.  [Taco 2] Good grilled chicken flavor to the meat (similar to Chipotle and Qdoba's chicken).  The pineapple added a good sweet/tart level to the taco.  Avocado was barely a factor.  [Taco 3] Bland.  But, that's tilapia for ya.  For being the only breaded fish on the menu, somewhat a let down.  Little breading.  Needs more flavor. Jamie's rating for the three tacos: 1, 2 and then 3.  Liked both the pollo and beef but prefers spicy over sweet any day. The rice is ok.  If she paid attention and new that they were refried beans, she wouldn't have gotten them.

My Meal
Details:  3 taco plate. Rice and I chose the pinto beans (he said it had bacon and beer in it and I said "Bacon?!? of course... I'll have that!" Bacon makes everything better, fo sho!)
1. Spicy Tuna taco (grilled tuna with soy glaze and sesame...some other stuff too but I neglected to write down the details and it's a new menu item...fail.) with corn tortilla. $3.something
2. Pollo Verde taco (shredded spiced chicken, salsa verde, queso cotija, onion and cilantro) with corn tortilla. $2.57
3. Barbacoa taco (BBQ beef slow cooked with Modelo, Orange Soda, Coca Cola, garnished with raw onion and cilantro) with corn tortilla. $3.39

My Plate: (from top to bottom) taco 3, 2, 1.
Rice and Pinto beans.
 My Thoughts: [Taco 1] Asian sweet and sour fish in taco form.  Very tasty.  Fish overcooked for my preference for Tuna but overall was very flavorful.  [Taco 2] Chicken is very tender.  Could be considered salty for some folks but me, bring on the salt!  Also, huge fan of the cilantro and onion combo for tacos.  The salsa is most likely the tomatillo salsa from the trio which was my fav.  [Taco 3] Tender meat but oh so very very bland.  Really just tasted the tortilla.  Disappointing.  Added salsa for more flavor.  Did the tasty salsa's as a started kill my buds? Who knows... but I almost wish I didn't eat it first and take up stomach space.  (Chronic dilemma:  To eat my favorite part of my meal first or last? Really, I have solved this and should eat it first but, I still eat it last.  Creature of habit. Lame.)  Taco rating: 2, 1, 3.  Beans... So good.  Bacon and beer have never failed me.  So full of flavor.  FYI, the pepper, if present, is not a green better but a jalapeno.  Learned that the hard way. Rice...nothing all that special.

Other factors to keep in mind:
-Brunch menu... future reference as Brunch is one of my favorite pastimes.
-Big ass tequila menu for those that enjoy it.
-Vegetarian friendly (similar to sister restaurants Comet Cafe and Honey Pie)
-Street parking only.  It's the East Side.  Plan for this.
-Diverse crowd: dad and daughter, family with younger kids but majority in 20-30s.
-Other food thoughts: Corn tortillas come with 2 tortillas/taco, which is common, but theirs were thicker and overbearing.  Sweet plantain pieces on the rice were super delicious.
-Service was good.  Frequent water checks (important when dining with Jamie.  Jamie = Fish).  And perfect number of quality checks.
-Pricier for Mexican food (along the lines of Cempazuchi pricing versus south side restaurants)
-Garage door type windows will have great summer appeal (especially since Milwaukee lacks some rooftop options).

For my second time around, it was ok.  Obviously my first experience made me want to come back and so does this second one.  I really like the space and vibe so will most likely check this place out again.   Might go on a Taco Tuesday to check out the other tacos as a cheaper price ($2/taco). 

Bel Air Cantina
1935 N Water St
Milwaukee, WI 53202

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


5.15.11 Brunch. INdustri Cafe (Historic Walker's Point/5th Ward. Milwaukee, WI)

This past Sunday, me and Jamie (a fellow foodie) woke up and initiated our typical Sunday...texts back and forth trying to decide where to go for brunch.  Rough life, I know.  The common question is, one of our usuals or something different?  We got adventurous and picked something new.  Jamie, loves her some onmilwaukee.com, and an article recommended that we go to INdustri Cafe.

Front of the restaurant with chair/couch seating
We get to INdustri right around the time that it opens up for brunch on the weekends, 11am. Despite it being open for less than 30 minutes, the place was pretty packed.  There is an awesome sitting area at the front of the restaurant of chairs and couches, there is a bar that you can sit at, tables dispersed throughout the main floor and an upstairs that sits over the bar and overlooks the main dining floor.   First thoughts of the place is "woah, this is freaking awesome."  Nice little gem in the area.  Cream city brick and wood flooring with art along the walls and an old school gas station logo.  Five points for whoever knows that gas station logo it looks like...too lazy to research.

Where we sat at the bar
There is a short wait for a table but we are offered seats at the bar.  Initially, we were told that food wasn't served at the bar, which we were fine with.  We are rarely on a time crunch and it gives us more of a reason to start the day off with a delicious beverage, whether coffee or bloody mary or in this case...both.  The bar was super busy with orders for the bloody mary and mimosas.  We saw the bloody mary and first thing that came to mind was (in the words of the woman from Napoleon Dynamite when she lays eyes on the model boat) "I want that."  It was just ridiculous.   I'll just post the pictures of it and provide some details.

INdustri Loaded Bloody

Yes, that's a side plate for your fixins' enough said.  One fantastic aspect is the grilled prawn.  The bloody details:  24 oz, house INfused(roasted garlic, roasted red onion, roasted poblano, and horseradish) Rehorst vodka, pickled goodness, grilled prawn and wisconsin gouda.  Rim was dusted with some special smokey rub/flavoring...tasted a hint of what I thought was nutmeg.  A bit of spice that hit you in the back of the throat but did not cover up the overall flavor of the bloody mary.

Thoughts on the bloody mary: good ratio of alcohol to tomato, great amount of spice in the basic blend, slightly sweeter than the typical bloody mary, no chaser (But, who really needs one with a meal worth of fixins and a whole 24 oz of fluid? Not I but, wouldn't have turned one down either.)  SWEET DEAL ALERT: bloody typically costs $13 a pop.  But, we saw at the bottom of the menu, it's $5 off with a purchase of a meal.  Only one per meal allowed. 

As more people started to sit at the bar, the hostess gave the bartenders the heads up that we can now dine at the bar.  I dig dining at the bar because I like watching the art of mixology.  The bartenders here, Steve and some other nice guy, kept us entertained.  Jamie and I tend to be question masters when it comes to food and beverages.  We learned that they make their own INfused Rehorst vodka and SIDE NOTE, they support local brews and spirits.

So, let's talk food.  You will learn that we tend to try the same type of dish at various restaurants to compare.  Jamie = eggs benedict  and Lisa = corned beef hash and the all american (eggs, toast, bacon and some sort of potato).  We had asked our two bartenders for their recommendations.  One, had never looked at a brunch menu before and the other, had five things he recommended (I'll spare the details, this ones getting a tad long already).  We were both debating between a few options.  Jamie = corned beef eggs benedict, savory crepes or the fried egg muffin sandwich with a side of potatoes o'brien.  Lisa = corned beef hash and basted eggs with a side of english muffin or the corned beef benedict.  We obviously knew we couldn't get the same dish and I remembered I don't dig hollandaise.  Jamie ordered the sandwich and I, the corned beef hash.

Fried Egg Muffin Sandwich with side of Potatoes O'brien
Let's start with Jamie's. 
Sandwich.  toasted english muffin, applewood bacon (2), sauteed tart apples and red onions, fried egg (1), wisconsin cheddar cheese.  $4.29
Potatoes added to dish. $2.00 (roasted potatoes with roasted poblano peppers and roasted onions)

Jamie's thoughts: Liked the onions as they were somewhat pickled like.  Great flavor.  To quote her "a fancy egg McMuffin" and "great bang for your buck."

Corned Beef Hash and Basted Eggs with side of English Muffin

Here is my meal.
Corned Beef Hash and Basted Eggs: corned beef with roasted potato, roasted poblano pepper and roasted onion and egg (2).  $8.95
English Muffin: toasted, dry (no butter served on it. available upon request). $2

My thoughts:  Pretty damn good.  I tend to not like mushy corned beef hash as some places tend to cook them too long that the potatoes get starchy.  This hash is almost not like your typical hash.  Corned beef was very lean.  No fat was noted..which is awesome texture wise.  corned beef is pieces of brisket with thinner cuts and not minced up.  potatoes are kept dry and roasted.  Yolk is what adds some "sauce" to it.  If you're a nut about having all the egg white cooked through, possibly ask for an "over" cooked egg (i.e. over easy, over medium, etc.).  Great flavor in my opinion.

As I mentioned, we each had a coffee.  Pretty good flavor.  A dark roast.  Fairly strong but not so strong that it's bitter.

Other factors that come into play for the overall experience:
- Fun music to enjoy while dining/drinking (old school rock that you can sing along with...for example, bohemian rhapsody)
- Fresh squeezed OJ was noted while sitting at the bar
- Great conversation with employees (host and bartenders) and other restaurant patrons (check out their website bestbloodymary.com and new finds from other patrons that Vintage plays gLee, Tuesdays, on the big screen and serves slushies!)
- Different brunch items on the menu including three types of benedicts, lobster dishes, dishes that include common items (tart apples, poblano peppers, and bacon polenta griddle cakes
- Great place to just chill.  We stayed there for a few hours... more so because we were in a food coma and couldn't mobilize right away.

I was really digging this experience.  It was a pretty good first go at this restaurant and I'm sure if people ask me about a new brunch place, this will be a top on my list.  This dining session totally got me throwing my arms up and saying "I love my life."  So, hit it up!

Overall Dining Experience (average of food, drink, atmosphere and service):  4.2/5
Food: 4.5/5 (great flavors, different menu options)
Drinks:  average 4.25/5 (bloody with great fixins...a meal itself.  coffee, with good flavor, no need for cream to cover it up)
            Bloody 4.5/5       Coffee 4/5
Atmosphere: 4.5 (small  yet two levels provide enough space between tables, good bar service, 5th ward style)
Service: 4/5 (friendly bartenders and hostess)

Recommend to others? Big fatty yes.
Go again? In a heart beat.  Probably to try lunch or dinner and get adventurous with a house INfused Rehorst beverage.  

INdustri Cafe
524 S 2nd St.
Milwaukee, WI 53204
414.224.7777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            414.224.7777      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Kitchen Hours
Brunch: Sa/Su 11-4pm
Lunch: Mo-Fr 11-4pm
Dinner: Su-We 4-10pm
      Th 4-11pm
            Fr/Sa 4pm-1am


Go Go Gadget Food Blog

Ya know, I was having a hard time deciding how to really go about this blog.   I pretty much want it to be perfect but I've gotten to the point where, I just want to get it rolling.  So, hold on tight and get pumped for some local Milwaukee goodness.

Some consider me the "go to" person on where to eat in Milwaukee.  For those who work with me and hang out with me, I tend to voice my thoughts on new dining adventures whether they ask for it or not.  Why not start a blog so that people can access my food thoughts all the time? I mean, I'd want to read it so why wouldn't everyone else?  By everyone, I mean a handful of my friends and if I'm lucky their friends and family.  But who knows, this could get big...  let's cross our fingers.  

So, I tend to eat out a couple if not a few times each week.  Yes, I'm going to admit, I have my favorites... *cough cough* The Comet Cafe.  But, I've tried to expand my horizons and try new places... with the help of other food loving friends.  So, you'll see some duplicate locations but each time I hope to review something different. 

Feel free to comment, share your thoughts, your experiences, questions and ideas.  I like sharing. 

Read. Eat. Be Happy.