Once known for hearty German fare and blue-collar beer, today Milwaukee is a melting pot of cuisine. At restaurants throughout the city, chefs are elevating classic cuisines to all new levels.
Case in point is Bacchus, part of the city’s formidable Bartolotta restaurant group. Chef Adam Siegel is taking American cuisine to new heights. Housed in the exclusive Cudahy Tower just off the shores of Lake Michigan, Bacchus is an elegant space featuring dark woods, crisp white linens and the most attentive service of any restaurant I visited during my stay.
As one would expect from a restaurant named Bacchus, the wine list is formidable. Over 700 different wines are available by the bottle. The menu is divided into a long small plate section featuring dishes like Wisconsin Rarebit featuring Widmer’s cheddar, toasted brioche and maple glazed pork belly or Veal Ravioli with spinach, toasted pine nuts in a beurre fondue sauce.. Entrees are pretty focused on fish and meat.
I started with the scallop entree cut down to a small plate appetizer. To me, it’s a good test of the kitchen. Scallops can be a finicky dish that can easily be cooked wrong. Bacchus flexes its culinary muscle with the perfectly cooked and seasoned shellfish. For the main course I was drawn to the Scottish Salmon because of the advertised red beet sauce (I’m a sucker for beets) and couscous. Again, the fish was perfectly prepared and the beet sauce gave a fish that is on every restaurant menu a much more creative take.
Charro, located on Milwaukee Street, home to many of the city’s best new dining establishments, offers a new spin on Mexican cuisine. And you’ll know it the second you step into the restaurant. Done in deep dark woods, black and red, Charro is a feast for the designer as well as the gourmand. Lyrics from Elvis Presley’s film, Charro are written all over the walls, though it will be hard to make them out because cut-outs of wood crosses sit in front of the walls. The manager explains that the crosses are a nod to Spanish culture and the menu clearly draws inspiration from Spain, Latin America and Mexico.
Begin your meal with shrimp or halibut ceviche or some made-to-order guacamole with chips. My dining companion and I tried two of the most popular dishes; the seafood enchilada stuffed with lobster, crab, shrimp, goat cheese and roasted peppers topped with a crustacean mole sauce complimented with coconut Spanish rice and the Mole de Pepita, free-range chicken featuring a regional Jalisco mole sauce with toasted pumpkin seeds, Serrano peppers and a hint of honey . I’ve never been a fan of Mexican cuisine because I don’t like things smothered in orange cheese, but Charro proves that Mexican and Latin food can be done in a non-typical way. If you have room, round-out the meal with the pink guava cheesecake.