Three seems like a good number – so I’ll tell you about three restaurants I visited for the first time in the last couple of weeks. All three just happen to be in Walker’s Point, our Milwaukee neighborhood.
The first is Braise. http://braiselocalfood.com/ 1101 S Second St.
Go there when you really aren’t that hungry, but don’t mind spending a lot of money. Fairly faint praise, I know. The food is delicious; there just isn’t very much of it! Our party was 3 men and 3 women. We women all enjoyed our dinners and went home satisfied. The men, to a tee, all complained that they were still hungry and felt like they had to go eat again.
The dining room has these big long tables, so you dine in a quasi-communal fashion. The tables are wide – they’re made from bowling alleys that were originally in the building. They’re almost too wide to talk effectively across, so you might want to sit next to the person you want to talk to.
Braise is part of the slow food movement, and a big player in it around Milwaukee. I think the restaurant grew out of the farm, so you are pretty much guaranteed organic, locally grown or raised food. There are a lot of interesting and unusual items on the menu so don’t go looking for meat and potatoes. One of our dishes had “garlic mustard pesto” (Can you believe it?)
The Noble http://nobleprovisions.com/ 704 S Second St.
The Noble takes its name from “the noble experiment” a reference to Prohibition. The place is decorated to feel like a speakeasy, and it is very small and cozy. They have no more than 7 tables inside and another 4 on the porch. The menu is small, but the prices are really reasonable (even for the drinks). Look for an entree and flatbread special each day. Some of the good things we tried were a grilled artichoke salad and a mushroom pate for starters. Gerry had a succulent pork chop and I had great lamb chops for a second course. No reservations, so we sat at the bar until a table opened up for us. Just so you know – by 8:00pm you can get a table on a Friday night without waiting. Some people were there just for drinks – I tried an Au Pear – like a light pear martini – which I enjoyed enough to have a second. Gerry had two different kinds of Bloody Mary’s. This is a definite must try. As far as the demographics go, we were among the oldest people there. So if you’re close to my age, don’t let that put you off. The service was friendly and our waitress quirky and fun.
La Merenda http://www.lamerenda125.com 125 E National Ave (just off S 1st St)
One caveat about La Merenda – we didn’t actually eat dinner there. We stopped in to see what it was like and had a drink at the bar and dessert. We were really curious about the place – and it wasn’t at all what I had imagined. La Merenda serves small plates. I don’t want to call them tapas because you might think you’re in for Spanish food. Not at all. The small plates are international – each identified by its country of inspiration. (They even had tostones from Puerto Rico!) Lots of interesting flavors – and I like the small plates idea because it gives you plenty of room to try different things. The dining room is behind the bar – it’s fairly big and even at 10:00pm it was pretty noisy and full.
As I said, we had drinks and a dessert. My drink was called a “summer gin” . I didn’t recognize one of the ingredients but it was like a cherry infused something that turned the drink just a little red. It was good – If you like gin, you could try it, and then tell me what that ingredient was.
We had a delciously, decadent chocolate cake for our dessert. Definitely didn’t need it, but it sure tasted good.
So, now it’s your turn to go out and try these places and tell me what you think. Enjoy!