11.07.12 Dinner. Oscar's Pub & Grill (Clark Square/South Side. Milwaukee, WI)

Restaurant front to back
It's been a very busy time lately and Jamie and I haven't hung out in a while.  So, why not hang out?  Right?  Of course, we decided to go out to eat and catch up.  After emails back and forth trying to pick a restaurant, we decided on burgers and fries at Oscar's Pub & Grill.  We decided to head over there earlier since we had a light lunch and with us (not sure about Jamie but definitely know it's true about me) hunger does not wait and if it does, crabbiness comes out.   Anywho, we decided to head over around and get there around 6pm.  Christina met us there.   

As you enter the pub, first thing that will probably catch your eye is the bar that takes up the majority of the right side of the front room.  Across the bar are a few high top tables in the front left and then a longer high top in the front rear.  There is also a back room that isn't as hoping and busy as the front room with the bar.  The rear is filled with low top tables and another long high top in the left rear.  When we arrived, there were a few tables that were occupied and a handful of people at the bar.  During the time we were there, the crowd was very diverse which included people coming after work for a drink, a younger family, middle aged couples and college folk.  We walked toward the bar where most of the employees were and they instructed us to seat ourselves.  We decided on a front room high top.  The decor was a typical Milwaukee type bar with Milwaukee sports
The bar
gear and neon beer signs that adorn the walls.  The decor is darker with red and black walls and a tin/copper tiled ceiling.  As we looked at the menu, I noticed myself jamming to some Bob Marley... I mean who doesn't get into a slight trance when listening to Bob
The music was decent.  Was a mish mosh of top 40s from different decades.  Caters to all ages.  The music wasn't too loud that you couldn't keep conversation, which is nice.   The bar has a simple wood back bar that included a Green Bay Packers sombrero and an old school turn dial telephone. 

The server came to get our drink order within a reasonable time.  Christina and Jamie ordered diet coke and I ordered a tallboy bud light.   Why bud?  Why not?  It, along with Budweiser, was the special of the evening for $2 each.  Can't pass up a tallboy deal!... or maybe you can.  If you don't like the cheaper tallboy specials, they offer microbrews too.  They do have a full bar and a pretty decent selection of drafts and bottles/cans.  Christina and Jamie thought that their diet coke was one of the best bar diet cokes they have encountered.  That's a pretty big deal as Christina is somewhat a diet Coke connoisseur.  Typically, at a bar that serves coke through a gun, it's watery...per Christina.  But here, just right.  Jamie second the notion.  

Jamie had reviewed the menu prior to coming tonight, as both of us usually do.  But, I only had enough time to look at pictures.  I thought they looked similar to another local burger joint's burgers.  But, once I read a little review found on OnMilwaukee.com, it made much more sense.  I won't go into the details but this little review on the place provided a tid bit of history.  Also, on the website for the restaurant, finding that the owners are from Mexico and Austria helps to provide some reason for some of the flavors of the burger options.  On that note, let's get on to to good stuff.... The food!

The food menu is simple, yet inclusive.  The have apps, burgers and other delicious options.  Pricing is pretty good as the sandwiches do include home fries or Oscar's fries (sweet potato fries) for a dollar up charge.  Also, the burgers are all 8oz patties which is a hearty serving.  One item that I noted on the menu that isn't on the online menu is a vegetarian burger but can't completely remember the details of the burger.  And, they have a Friday fish fry... classic Milwaukee.  A theme that I noticed is that this menu is not super lactose intolerant friendly.  Cheese on almost everything and anything.  But, I'm sure you can request to not have it as well.  But, let's get real... This is Wisconsin.  I think we'd sometimes wonder where the heck the fried cheese curds are on the bar/pub menu.  Mmmmm cheese curds. 

Here is what we ordered!  Jamie and I pulled a half and half split and Christina got her own. 

Christina's Pick (when we asked what she was getting, she started off with "I know that it's weird to order a salad in a bar but....")
Details: Caesar Salad, hold the croutons (peanut gallery aka Jamie thought "no croutons...not a real Caesar")  and add the Chicken Littles.   Fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and scallions topped with pieces of fried chicken tenders. $4 plus $1.50 up charge

Caesar Salad with Chicken Littles
Her thoughts: Mid first bite, Christina flashed a big thumbs up.  In regard to the Caesar salad, Christina is again the connoisseur.  If you know this girl, when she likes something, she likes something.  And, when I say connoisseur... I mean she eats it often.  When asked to elaborate upon what she liked about it, she noted that the dressing was very good and similar to what she had growing up.  It had good accents of garlic in the dressing accented by the grated Parmesan cheese dusted over the salad.  As I closely dissected the salad with my eyes, which I do often and people that I hang out with are probably used to by now, I asked if the chicken tenders were good and if they tasted like they were previously frozen.  She said no, and thought they were really good.  Also noted during my visual inspection, I saw a lot of larger pieces of red onion which would throw me off due to the size.  Plus, the menu said scallions which, while writing this, made me second guess my food knowledge but was confirmed by wikipedia that it is a green onion.  But, none the less, Christina was very happy by her choice of food despite initially feeling apprehensive about getting a salad at a bar.  She rated it a 10/10 on her own rating scale.

Mine and Jamie's Picks
Details:  The Big O.  8 oz. Premium Black Angus Burger, Chipotle Jack, Smoked Gouda, Hickory Bacon, Chorizo, Fried Onions, Jalapeños, Side of House Guacamole.  Prepared medium.  Side of home fries.  $7.25
The Big Hongo. 8 oz. Premium Black Angus Burger, Swiss Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms. Prepared medium.  Side of Oscar's fries.  $6.50

The Big Hongo with a side of Oscar's Fries

Our thoughts: When they first came out to the table, I thought two things: 1. Thank God I didn't push for an appetizer because these burgers were ginormous 2. I should have worn my "I'm going to eat a lot of food" pants.  Jamie's initial thought the burgers had a great bun to meat ratio which we find very important in a good burger.  You don't ever want more of one or the other.  Your last bite should always have sufficient amounts of both meat and bread.   Every time you bit into either of the burgers, you can taste how juicy the burgers were.  The Big Hongo was the first one that I took a bite out of as it's a common burger that most burger joints offer so wanted to start with a clear palate as it could be a good comparison burger.  It had good flavor to it the mushrooms weren't overcooked but instead al dente which provided some nice texture.  The meat of both burgers weren't overly seasoned which was a great template for the flavorful options on the burger list.  The Big O burger was bursting with flavor.  You would think that with the both the bacon and the chorizo, it might be somewhat salty but it definitely wasn't.  My first bite was without the guacamole which was good and you can taste the creamy flavor of the melted gouda.  But, when you add the guacamole, it adds another layer of creaminess and cuts down on some of hot spice to the burger.  In regard to spice,
The Big O with a side of home fries.
due to the jalapenos and possibly the chorizo, there definitely is a kick.  So, spice wusses beware...this burger definitely has a spice alert.  The burger almost reminds me of having classic Mexican cuisine topped on a burger.  It had so many layers of flavor... creamy, savory, and spicy.  A nice compliment to this spicy burger was eating it with the sweet potato fries.  They are dusted with some cinnamon which adds a nice counter to the sweetness.  The aioli provided some savory flavor to
the sweet potatoes but, if paired with the Big O, probably not necessary.  The home fries were fair.  Salted just right but tasted as if they sat a little longer than we'd probably want them to... a little flat.  The home fries were even dusted with grated Parmesan... cheese love for all.  The sweet potato fries definitely trumped the home fries.  

Other things to consider: 
-Jamie noted that "It's a keeper" and possibly one of her top Milwaukee place for burgers
-Vegetarian options available and Friday fish fry option
-Both street and parking lot adjacent to the restaurant as options... plus for those that hate parallel parking 
-Appears to be family friendly as there was a family with younger children that were sitting down to dinner
-There is an option for take out and lunch delivery (M-F 11-2pm)
-Business started to pick up around 7pm with most of the tables occupied
-Come hungry because the burgers are HUGE 
-Offers some bar games options (darts, video games, etc)

To wrap it all up, this was a pretty awesome first trip to a fairly new (2011) burger joint to Milwaukee.  It definitely reflects the owners background and experience.  And if the food speaks for their experiences, it must have been an awesome one.  The food is great and we'd definitely go back again to try the other options if not eat the same thing all over again... but with some "eat a whole lotta food" type of clothes.  Check it out.  Eat, drink and be merry.  

Oscar's Pub & Grill
1712 W. Pierce Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204
 (414) 810-1820  Fax: (414) 810-1824
Monday-Wednesday 11am -12am (kitchen 11am - 11pm)
Thursday- Saturday 11am - bar close (kitchen 11am - 11pm)
Sunday 11-10pm (kitchen all day)


5.17.12 Dinner. Odd Duck (Bay View. Milwaukee, WI)

Main dining area from seated at the bar.
One of my co-workers/friends, Renee, and I thought we'd start studying together for our certification exams as an external motivator.  Of course, we knew that food would have to be somehow involved.  I'm sure that most of you agree that food is a good motivator.   On our first study date, we chose from a list of restaurants we want to try out and Odd Duck in Bay View won.   

We arrived at Odd Duck around 7:00pm.  The hostess asked if we had a reservation, which we didn't, and offered us immediate seating at the bar for possible full food service.  We decided on taking two spots at the bar for a beverage while we waited for a table to open up.  She estimated a 30 minute wait.  Since we had time, we thought some wine would be appropriate.

Outdoor back patio.
Seated at the bar.
We sat at the bar for about 15 minutes prior to being called for our table.  This allowed us some time to take in our surroundings.  When you first walk in, you'll notice the bar on the left and the low top tables with fun blue chairs on the right.  There were two tops and other larger groups where the tables were pushed together.  The dining area itself is cozy and there is about 20 tables or so.  The tables were occupied by various groups of people, some older couples, mid 20-early 30s groups of friends but not many under 20s in these parts.  The colors are cool and light wood makes up the trim and beams where there isn't, what I believe to be, cream city brick...  but I'm not certain.  When you pass the bar, you will see the pick up window on the left.  During a bathroom break, I spied the outdoor patio in the back of the building.  There are about 8-10 tables in the back patio.  It's fenced off to allow some privacy from the business of the area.  Various works of art dress the walls and there is a fun border along the wall of the font of the space that has various animals painted in front of a city block.   And, you can't really miss the various antlers that are hung up.  I, myself, don't know the appeal that people have for antlers but, that may be the city gal in me. 

While drinking our wine, Renee chose the Syrah ($10?) while I had the Malbec ($8), we checked things out to see what we'd be in the mood for.  I noticed a bar snack list on a chalkboard right by the bar and it reminded they have a happy hour, Monday through Friday 4-6pm which includes drink deals and bar snack deals.  We all need a happy hour or two after a long day of work right? Right.  The bar snack list included various types of boiled eggs, fried pickles and other goodies.  All cost $3 for each order.  We thought it'd be cool to try one out while we waited since we were already super hungry prior to getting to the restaurant.

Beet pickled egg and curry and jalapeno egg.
Bar Treat Details: 
We decided on the beet pickled eggs. We were offered the opportunity to either get two of the same egg or a mix and match.  Of course, we picked the mix and match.  Can't pass that up.  We chose the curry and jalapeno pickled egg to accompany the beet one.  I'm not the biggest fan of curry but Renee likes it a lot and so I sucked it up and decided to be adventurous.  ($3)

Our Thoughts: 
The eggs came split in half and over a drizzle of hot sauce... tasted similar to a Tabasco brand hot sauce with a more vinegar bite to it. The presentation was simple yet beautiful.  The colors of the eggs were just striking.  Reminded me of a psychedelic Easter egg hunt... could have been due to the lighting that came through the place.  The eggs were delicious and we both agreed it was a good call to try them.  You, of course, have to like hard boiled eggs and pickled food to try it.  But, I would recommend them.  The beet was the first one I tried.  Had a little spice to it which I think came from the hot sauce but without as much sauce on it, was still spicy.  The sweetness of the beet was very subtle and was more of an aftertaste that was overpowered by the tart vinegar flavor.  The curry and jalapeno, in my opinion, wasn't nearly as spicy as the beet one.  But, like I said, may be the hot sauce.  The curry was subtle and added a nice flavor to the egg.  It was Renee's favorite.  But, she's the curry fan. 

Now let's get to the real thing.  Odd Duck's dinner menu includes small plates, large plates and meats and cheeses.  Mid dinner, we had asked our server, who was oh so friendly and what Renee and I consider the typical fun and nice Bay View persona, how often the menu is changed.  She informed us that it can change anywhere from one item to up to 5 from one day to another.  On the weekend, there are usually a lot more changes.  You can't ever really tell I guess.  We asked this because on the site the restaurant boasts that they use local ingredients.  When you do that, you have to roll with the seasons.  That always makes for a fun menu.  To me, using local means things are fresh and different.  Read more about the restaurant flare and inspiration on the site as you please.  If I go into it here, the blog will be much longer than it will already be.  God, I love talking about food.  And, on that note, let's get rolling to the good stuff.  

We both decided that sharing some small plates would be the best choice for us because it will allow us to try a bunch of different things in one sitting.  We each picked our top four.  We were all the same except for one which we then agreed upon after much deliberation (really only less than a minute).  We ordered.  The plate were brought out one plate out at a time.  Perfectly spaced out, I might add.  Here we go!  Listed in the order that they came out.  (I don't have pricing for them... the menu on the site may not have these dishes as they do change frequently).

Arugula salad with beet-horseradish puree.
Arugula salad, horseradish-beet puree, roasted beets, house goat cheese, champagne vinaigrette, garlic tuile.  

Our thoughts:
First off, what the heck is a tuile? you might ask...  If you didn't, give yourself a pat on the back.  I sure as heck learned something new.  A tuile, per wikipedia, "is a thin, crisp sweet or savory cookie or wafer made of dough or cheese."  At first glance, it's a colorful fun presentation.  This plate included both gold and red beets.  I've had them before, but noticed the differences between the two types a little more with this dish.  The gold is more firm and not as sweet as the red.  The sweetness of the beets offsets the bitter taste of the arugula quite nicely.  The vinaigrette provides a nice tart flavor and the cheese a creaminess.  I love dishes and food that are able to hit the different spots of your mouth to create a roller coaster of flavor.  Maybe the combination of my love for science and art lead to my love of food... who knows.  This was a great starter.  Light, yet flavorful.  The tuile itself was small but Renee noticed it enough to comment on it... "I don't know what that crisp thing was but it's really good."  Big flavor in a small package. 

Moroccan spiced beef tenderloin skewers.
Moroccan spiced beef tenderloin skewers with caramelized onions and a pepper/chili oil.

Our thoughts: 
Before even tasting it, the smells made my mouth water.  The serving came with three skewers and caramelized onions draped over them.  Cutting through the meat was easy enough with the provided butter knife... like cutting through butter.  The temperature at which the meat was prepared was perfect.  For as small as the cut was, you really wouldn't have to cook it long and both Renee and I thought they got it right on the dot.  There was a darker pink to the middle.  So those that like it well done, close your eyes and just try it.  I wasn't too familiar with Moroccan spices prior to this dish but I definitely tasted a prominant presence of cumin.  The caramelized onions added a sweet buttery flavor to the meat as well.  Oh, and don't forget a nice little sweep of the chili oil to give it that little kick.  But, watch out, the spice provides a delayed onset of heat that kicks you in the back of your mouth.  So, spice alert... spice wusses, don't go for the extra sweep of the oil from the plate.  Great flavor all around.  Renee and I both agreed, after we tried them all, that this was our favorite plate.  

(blurry) Grilled vegetable flat bread.
Grilled vegetable flat bread with some sort of cheese (I failed to make a note of it) and minted yogurt.

Our thoughts:
At first bite, we wished this had come before the meat.  The meat dish was a hard one to follow as it was so full bodied in it's flavor.  We both initially said it was OK.  As I continued to eat it, I liked it more with each bite.  I think it's because my mouth became further detached from the taste of the meat... sad.  But yes, the flat bread had a light vegetable flavor.  The creaminess of the cheese was the first to stick out and then later the tartness of the mint flavor lightened it up.  The flat bread crust was a little overcooked but, the crunch to the bread added a nice texture.   I liked this fact since I rarely like eating anything that's all mush.  So, not just flavor, but texture is important.  Note, this one is definitely a hearty and filling plate.

Grilled prawns, yellow jasmine rice and green curry.
Grilled prawns with yellow jasmine rice and (coconut?) green curry.

Our thoughts: 
The prawns served whole and in the shell was nice presentation.  Although, I think the head may make some nervous.  It came with two prawns served over a sauteed rectangle of yellow jasmine rice, served over the green curry.  I can't recall if it said it was a curry with coconut but it definitely had a creamy appearance and a coconut flavor to it.  The prawn itself was simply grilled allowing just the natural seafood flavor to come through.  Once dipped in the curry, you get the nice combination of flavors.  I've noticed that the curries that I've tolerated more are those that are cooked with coconut milk.  The rice had a nice texture to it since it was, what appeared to be, sauteed on both sides. It provided a little crunch here and there.  But, it may have had some curry in it as well.  I only had a few bites of it because of this.  But, Renee loved it.  Who knows, my dislike of curry could all be psychological, who knows.  I'm slowly expanding my horizons.  

Other things to consider:
-Street parking only.   Some metered and some not.
-May be a wait on Thursday nights and the weekends.  But, call ahead and see if you can make a reservation.  414-763-5881
-Service was great.  Nice bartenders, nice hostesses and nice servers (at least the one we had). 
-Casual feel to the restaurant but, may not be the most accomodating to larger groups (10+ people) during busy times.
-Option for outdoor seating.
-Their site says they provide options for "vegans, vegetarians and omnivores."
-Dinner only kind of joint (after 5pm) but also open for just beverages.
-Offers desserts, no menu for this, just verbally provided by your server.
-Oh so changing menu, so, despite a review that might be amazing, you have to go soon to make sure that option is available.  

This first visit was a good one.  They might even rank as one of my tops... but, then again, I have various lists based on categories.  But, definitely a must.  The dishes were great for people to share and try different things.  I was fortunate to go with Renee on this first round as we both had similar tastes and aren't too picky.  But then again, it got me to try out something I say I don't care for.  Who knows, I may be turning over a new leaf... we'll see.  There were so many good dishes that I wanted to try out too.  That's the one downfall to changing menu's, it might not be there the next time you go.  But, this may be a brilliant business strategy to get people to come back again, and often.  I know it's worked for me.  I almost want to go every week!  To conclude, Renee and I decided that all restaurants should have small plates as an option.  A taste here and there is great. I often like the idea "quality, not quantity." Unless, it's a situation where you're so hungry you think you could eat a whole cow.  But at Odd Duck, the large plates may provide for that.  Just food for thought... pun totally intended.  Cheers!

Odd Duck
2352 S Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(414) 763-5881
Kitchen: Monday - Saturday 5pm - 10pm
Bar: Monday - Thursday 3pm - 1am
Friday - Saturday 3pm - 2am

Food Blog Resuscitated

So, my blog went on a little hiatus.  Not a planned one but things got busy and the drive and fire to blog was gone for a bit.  Plus, it takes me a while to blog about something because I’m somewhat a perfectionist. Some of that may have to suffer in order to be more timely with posts.  Or, I shouldn’t think I should post about every doggone place I go… especially since I do eat out a lot... ask anyone I know.     

I recently went out to Odd Duck in Bay View and was highly satisfied with my meal there.  It was so good that I wanted to post about it.

 People have been inquiring about any places I didn’t like.  There are those places that provide a sub-par experience.  But, isn’t it a lot more fun to rave about a good experience?  I think so.  I’m not saying I won’t post about one of my not so good experience but, for now, I can’t help but talk about my Odd Duck experience.  Just a little teaser for you… Live, laugh, love food.