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Great dining in Milwaukee, where?


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We are faithful visitors to the exquisite Milwaukee Art Museum, the white colored architectural masterpiece of Santiago Calatrava. Chicago should have hired Calatrava for it's modern art museum. Chicago failed us. Milwaukee did not. When we visit Milwaukee at least 3-4 times per year, we no longer have a restaurant that offers an exceptional dining experience.

Sanford fired their most creative chef! Sanford is no longer a culinary destination for us. We are ecstatic about our hotel--the Metro--and the museum! Is there a great, creative Milwaukee restaurant?? Our dining experience at Bacchus was decent but not memorable. Any suggestions for a unique dining experience and a creative chef? Judith Gebhart

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My brother moved to Milwaukee last year, and I had a chance to visit him a few months ago. On the Sunday morning that I was there we had brunch at Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro. I was very pleasantly surprised! One of the finest Bistro dining experiences I've had outside of Europe. Very old school and authentic, and just a stones throw from the art museum. Next time I go, I'm definatly making room in my schedule to have dinner there.

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I haven't been, but hear good things about ROOTS.  It's not "fine dining" like Sanford, but looks rather creative and serious about food.

Has anyone been?

Thanks for your response. Neither of us has any knowledge of Roots but we will explore it. Again, thanks for replying. Judith Gebhart
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Sanford fired their most creative chef!  Sanford is no longer a culinary destination for us.

Could you fill us in on that? Who is no longer there?

If we knew the chefs name, we could explore his whereabouts. Sanford returned to his kitchen maybe two or three years ago--my timetable may not be accurate. His hired chef who had introduced a Sanford menu revision was in place when we first visited the MAM maybe 4.5 years ago. We dined at Sanford about five times, always with great enthusiasm. The then chef in place allowed the diner to create their own menu from the exciting list of dishes he had created. It allowed the diner many choices; it was and is a marvelous dining concept.

We returned in early 2005, I recall, only to find that Sanford, the owner and chef himself had returned to the restaurant. Sanford had completly altered the menu; he reinstated some of his own original dishes and obliterated every menu item that could be identified with the prior chef.

We spoke with Sanford's wife (we believe, it was the chef's wife) to learn that the prior chefs departure was acrimonius. She reported that the prior chef failed to fulfill his obligation to uphold Sanford's reputation, failed to be fiscally responsible and failed to offer the quality of Sanford's culinary excellence. These details, however significant to the owner, were of no interest to us as the creative fervor of the now deposed chef were no longer available to us. We were crestfallen--our favorite dining experience had instantly ended.

We were dismayed that our favorite Milwaukee dining experience was now defunct, unavailable and his name and whereabouts was unknown. Wish I had more knowledge. Wish the chef had/has relocated to another venue in Milwaukee, as we would search him out. That is it. Judith Gebhart

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My brother moved to Milwaukee last year, and I had a chance to visit him a few months ago.  On the Sunday morning that I was there we had brunch at Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro.  I was very pleasantly surprised!  One of the finest Bistro dining experiences I've had outside of Europe.  Very old school and authentic, and just a stones throw from the art museum.  Next time I go, I'm definatly making room in my schedule to have dinner there.

We agree that Paul Bartoletta's talent is exceptional; Paul's talent is no longer available in Milwaukee. His cooking skills are now focused in Las Vegas market, not in Milwaukee. He and his brother have created 4 Bartoletta restaurants in the Milwaukee environs. These restaurants are good but not great, at least in our opinion. It seems that Milwaukee doesn't demand the same culinary excellence that was in evidence in the creation of the Calatrava materpiece at the MAM. We would welcome a fine dining destination. If anyone has such knowledge or plans for such a dining establishment, we are all ears. Judith Gebhart
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There's a blurb elsewhere on that site that says the restaurant hasn't found a location yet:

OMC has now learned that negotiations for the lease of the space have broken down and that Swanson is close to selecting another location for his restaurant that will serve simple, locally grown food. Once Swanson signs a new lease, we will update this continuing story.

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I live between Milwaukee and Chicago. For fine dining we go to Carlos as the closest venue. For ethnic dining we go to Chicago spots as the Milwaukee ethnic restaurants dumb down their food for cost control and generally have higher prices. Example: Dancing Ganesha's has excellent Indian food but each entre is pricey and normal condiments that come gratis with a meal on Devon st cost extra at Dancing Ganesh's. Milwaukee is also much smaller than Chicago and does not support fine dining due to both cost restraint, population and culinary education. -Dick

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There's a blurb elsewhere on that site that says the restaurant hasn't found a location yet:
OMC has now learned that negotiations for the lease of the space have broken down and that Swanson is close to selecting another location for his restaurant that will serve simple, locally grown food. Once Swanson signs a new lease, we will update this continuing story.

We are ecstatic that David Swanson is still active in the Milwaukee area. His new restuarant concept Braise is wonderful. His artful cuisine and locally grown ingredients are very exicitng to the serious diner. Thanks for the update about this chef which we know to be exceptional and very important.. His Milwaukee restaurant, Braise will be one of our preferred destinations. Judith Gebhart
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I would say that Lake Park Bistro is great and is definitely worth a try. Sanford D’Amato’s other restaurant Coquette Café is an inexpensive French Bistro in the 3rd Ward. Another fun place to try is The Social which probably has one of the more adventurous menus in Milwaukee (how many other places in the City offer veal sweetbreads and rabbit?). I do think they have “borrowed” some of their dishes from Lola Bistro and Wine Bar in Cleveland, but they are still really good. Give them a try. Their other restaurant, Sol Fire is also very tasty. For a unique twist on a sushi restaurant try Sake Tumi on Milwaukee Street.

I really want to try Bacchus and Dream Dance. However I hear that Bacchus has toned down their menu to accommodate the restrained palates of meat and potatoes Milwaukeeans.

Explore the food, beverages, and people of Wisconsin EatWisconsin.com

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I'm wondering if you didn't enjoy the meal you had when Sanford D'Amato was back in the kitchen? We were there recently and had a truly exceptional experience, from service to the food. When we ate there a few years ago, it was different, but the current dining experience was memorable.

In a nutshell, I'm asking if you are looking for more adventurous food styling, or was there something about the experience that didn't work for you?

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  • 1 month later...

Just booked dinner at Bacchus and stay at Hotel Metro for our 1st wedding anniversary... Thumbs up? Down? Should we make a change?

Food is a convenient way for ordinary people to experience extraordinary pleasure, to live it up a bit.

-- William Grimes

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Just booked dinner at Bacchus and stay at Hotel Metro for our 1st wedding anniversary... Thumbs up? Down? Should we make a change?

Can't comment about Bacchus, sorry. But I know a number of people who have stayed at Hotel Metro and very much like it.

Congratulations on your anniversary.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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I'm headed to Milwaukee next weekend with another couple and they all want a traditional German restaurant - pork, dumplings, that sort of thing.  Not my personal favorite but I'm dragging them to the museum sooo any suggestions? 

jb

Of the two mentioned, my opinion is that Ratzch's is by far the better choice. Mader's is far more popular and that may be part of the problem...they have changed their menu enough to appeal to a wide audience and lost their soul.

Ratzch's is a beautiful space. Worthy of a visit to imagine what it must have been like for the wealthy in Milwaukee in the first half of the 20th Century.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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It isn't great dining as the thread requests, but I think this is a good time to remind visitors to Milwaukee of the spectacular wine service offered by Pizza Man (corner of North Ave and Oakland). Yep, it's true, a pizza place has the fine dining and drinking establishments beaten by a country mile: great wines by the glass from their cellar that rotate nearly daily; knowledgeable staff behind the bad (Pizza Man, whose name I have forgotten, is there often in the early evenings and very easy to talk to); and Reidel stemware. For the most part, they will open just about anything from their cellar to serve by the glass if you order a minimum of two glasses.

The pizza is eclisped by the wine but is still decent if you are looking for something less than fine dining.

If you can stand their fairly irritating website it tells about their Wine Spectator awards and whatnot.

When I lived in Milwaukee this little gem was a great place to stop and enjoy a glass on the way to dinner.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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  • 4 months later...

Not fine dining, but historic - I had a great, old-fashioned meal a couple of weeks ago at Jack Pandl's - I had the Friday night fish fry (my choice was broiled perch) and my partner had the braised lamb shank. Low expectations exceeded. The experience really was a blast from the past. Even at my age, I probably lowered the average age of the crowd by several years, but it was worth it.

Jack Pandl's Whitefish Bay

1319 East Henry Clay Street

(at the corner of Lake Drive)

Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin 53217

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