Our trip included three dinners (two hits and a miss), a brunch, and a continental breakfast. We were particularly impressed with both Bacchus and Odd Duck. Bacchus is a great choice if you’re in the mood for an elegant dinner, perhaps for a special occasion. Odd Duck is wonderful for a more casual meal, and if I lived in Milwaukee I would probably be eating there again and again and again. Details and photos follow for each of our stops.
Our dinner at Bacchus was thoroughly outstanding in every way. The food was delicious and creative, the décor elegant, and the service impeccable. Some of the dishes had added notes of presentation that elevated them beyond the excellent centerpiece. For example, the foie gras appetizer could have been named “foie gras for breakfast” - a slice of foie gras over strawberry jam, along with a small French toast soufflé topped with a quail egg and a piece of bacon and served over a smear of maple syrup. Similarly, the main course of butter-poached lobster (which had a very generous amount of lobster) was served over a really delicious chorizo hash and an amazing corn puree. The desserts had similar highlights, including a banana cake special with a hazelnut smear (Nutella?) and a scoop of malt flavored ice cream (not chocolate malt, just malt powder malt) which I loved, and a strawberry rhubarb dessert with a strawberry gelee inside a rhubarb mousse.
Bacchus is just east of downtown and is not terribly visible; it’s in the Cudahy Tower, a restored older white high-rise building. The entrance is on the west side of the building, facing their valet parking lot. Across the street to the east is a lovely park, perfect for a stroll before or after dinner. Bacchus is part of the Bartolotta Group which has half a dozen restaurants in Milwaukee, including the well-known Lake Park Bistro and Harbor House. This was the upscale meal of my trip, and I was pleased and delighted with my dinner at Bacchus. I highly recommend Bacchus!
925 E. Wells St.
Milwaukee WI 53202
Rocket Baby Bakery (Bayview Satellite)
Due to a late start, we didn’t go out to breakfast, so Blue’s Egg will have to wait till next time. Instead, we stopped by the satellite location of Rocket Baby Bakery, on Kinnickinnick in Bayview for snacks. (Their main location is in Wauwatosa.) And it was outstanding. We had three things: a bacon-cheddar croissant that my companion deemed the best she had ever had, an excellent “monkey bread” (basically a pull-apart cinnamon sticky bun), and an awesome almond brioche. This last item appeared to be a slice of brioche loaf, topped with the same almond cream that is used as the filling in almond croissants, and then baked. Yum! And of course, they have the usual assortment of coffee beverages.
Rocket Baby Bakery
2434 S Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee WI 53207
This was less successful. I had chosen Maxie’s because it opens at 4 pm, permitting a leisurely dinner before heading to Miller Park for a 6:00 game time. Maxie’s is a casual place serving Southern, Cajun, and barbecue, at 68th and Fairview on the west side, a couple miles west of the ballpark. Things started out well, with an excellent mussels appetizer, featuring spicy chicken Andouille and a broth that was thicker, richer, and creamier than the thin broth that usually accompanies mussels. The fried green tomatoes appetizer was also quite good, accompanied by an excellent remoulade. The entrees, though, weren’t up to the quality set by the appetizers. The slab of St. Louis spare ribs was very fatty, and was also falling-off-the-bone, so it was just not that appealing. The pecan-crusted trout fillets were also only so-so, with a thick breading and not much trout or pecan taste. It’s also worth noting that most of the items on the menu are heavy, with high fat content, and not much in the way of alternatives to avoid that. All in all, dinner at Maxie’s was only so-so.
6732 W. Fairview Ave.
Milwaukee WI 53213
Smyth at the Iron Horse Hotel
Smyth is a casual, bar-focused restaurant off the hotel lobby. They serve their “Route 66 Sunday brunch” using seating at Smyth. The entire menu is all-you-can-eat; one column consists of items prepared to order, and the rest of the menu is a buffet served in the hotel lobby. The menu isn’t that unusual; you’ve probably had most of the items a hundred times before. But the quality of all the items is extremely high, from the prime rib, to the omelets, to the smoked salmon, to the crabcake benedict (oddly served without an English muffin), to the French toast. I enjoyed this brunch and recommend it for those looking for excellent quality food and who don’t mind that it’s not that unusual. Note: there is virtually no signage outside the hotel; it’s the older brown building just off the circle. It’s just south of downtown.
Smyth at The Iron Horse Hotel
500 West Florida Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Wow. Just… wow. I LOVED this dinner. The menu is a small plates format; we had six savory dishes and two desserts, and every single item was unique as well as amazingly delicious. The presentations and accompaniments were equally stellar, often as delicious as the main ingredient. We had the duck flautas, beef short rib, braised pork shoulder, tempura soft shell crab, roasted beets, and honey drizzled eggplant fries; for dessert, we had the sweet corn blancmange and the white chocolate orange mousse with rhubarb jam. Everything was so great, I can’t even single out any specific dish as “don’t miss” because they were ALL so amazing.
Also, the portions were fairly generous for a small plates restaurant – maybe not quite entrée sized, but darn close, and larger than appetizers in many places. Our server recommended starting with two items per person, which seemed like a good recommendation; after that, if you want more, you can order more. In our case, we ordered the five savory dishes, then wanted one more item, so the eggplant fries was the add-on; since it was slightly sweet, it was perfect as a transition to the desserts. (Okay, if I have to name one “don’t miss” item, it’s the eggplant fries)
The prices are also shockingly reasonable; all this food, plus two beverages (one alcoholic) came to $79 before tax and tip.
Odd Duck is on Kinnickinnick (often referred to as KK) in the Bayview neighborhood south of downtown Milwaukee, and is only a block north of Rocket Baby Bakery (see above). The restaurant is very casual, and there’s an outdoor patio in the rear for al fresco dining.
2352 S Kinnickinnic Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
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