Has anyone been to Coast in downtown Milwaukee?
I've been their twice, the first for the preview party (I'm a freelance writer on the media list) and the second for lunch. I thought I'd share what I do know since I would like to see the place succeed. It is owned by the Zilli's in Waukesha.
First of all, the premise behind the restaurant and hence the name is showcasing food from the East and West Coasts as well as the Gulf and landlocked coasts, such as Lake Michigan. The decor also reflects this, and I have to admit. It's pretty cool. The restaurant is in the old Nola's, and they've done extensive remodeling. The view is fantastic - the Calatrava and lake to the east, up Prospect Ave. to the north. The atmosphere is really nice and open, lots of textures. It almost has a Rat Pack feel near the bar, in a good way. The only thing I didn't really get was the display of fresh fruit on ice in the middle of the restaurant. It didn't seem to fit.
Okay, on to the food. At the preview party, there were a number of finger foods, most of which I have heard are on the menu in some form. I had the best gazpacho I've ever tasted and a tator tot that included blue cheese (fabulous). In lieu of bread, the restaurant serves popovers, which was about the only thing I didn't really like. Not that they were bad, just personal taste.
I also went for lunch a week ago, and was also impressed. The prices are what I would call moderately high, but I though the food justified it. There has been some talk on onmilwaukee.com about $10 for a hamburger (which I didn't have), but I am also a big believer in you get what you pay for.
The lunch menu is nice, and I would advise you to consider any of the starters as potential options. There was someone walking around with a basket of the hot popovers and they give you three kinds of butter, the best of which was strawberry (there was an herb blend and a plain scoop). I still don't care for them.
Anyway, I had two starters for lunch: A crab cake ($14, I think) that was just huge - close to the size of a hamburger - and quite good. I also had a salad ($7-$8 range) that included mixed greens, deep fried shoestring sweet potatoes and dried cranberries. An interesting combination with a light dressing. The texture combination was great. I ate the whole thing. Between the two, I was really stuffed.
My dining companion had the soup sampler, which included three kinds of soup, all of which I tasted. From memory, I think there was a creamy squash soup, some sort of chicken chili and clam chowder. I'm not a chowder fan, but it was really good, not at all thick and floury tasting. The other two were on par with the chowder. The squash soup was sprinkled with pumpkin seeds.
She also had the deep fried crawfish and calamari, nicely fried and not greasy with two homemade dipping sauces. Of note: The calamari was not in rings - the server called it "steaklike" and they were about the size of a carrot stick. I don't really like calamari, but I tried it. Calamari eaters would have to judge, but I thought it wasn't bad.
I was also told that they have a nice American wine list, though I had water with lunch. They also have specialty martinis and homemade sangria.
The crowd for lunch was nicely sized for only being open a few weeks and mostly tourists. This would be a great place for a business lunch or special occasion, particulary if you scored one of the circular booths that face the lake.
And as an added bonus, they validated my parking.
Anyone else been there?