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Think Small
In a move away from all-you-can-eat dining, a wealth of metro Milwaukee restaurants put quality over quantity.

Euphemisms for “small” range from petite to diminutive. The implication being that small is less desirable than large, and less of a bargain. That’s the stereotype of Milwaukee’s relationship with portion sizes. What to make of the small-plate movement that’s taken hold in our super-size-me city?

Although it might seem counterintuitive, small plates inspire sharing. Envision a group of maybe three to five diners sitting around a table, passing plates of various edibles between them, their conversation voluble and tinged with alcohol. This interactive form of dining also encourages a courageous appetite. Never had sweetbreads, always wanted to, but afraid of commitment? Easy solution: Enlist the group so that the investment for one is, well, small.

Who really likes small plates the most? Chefs. Not only do many of them like the freedom they have in the kitchen – diners “expect you to change the menu” often, says one chef – but it’s the way they like to eat.

“I won’t go out with people who don’t share.” That’s Dan Jacobs, the kitchen master at Wolf Peach, talking. Rather than effecting a change in dining habits, Jacobs says the small-plates craze is “the way people are eating now.”

Critics say these menus gouge diners with stingy plates priced as high as entrées (see “Save vs. Splurge,” Page 40), but small enthusiasts claim the plates allow chefs to unleash their inner Matisse and provide an avenue for using limited quantities of seasonal ingredients. But knowing how to order small plates is something else entirely. 

If diners are eating more diminutively now, they’re also drinking more craft cocktails – potent concoctions that incorporate local spirits and house-made syrups and sodas. It’s in the spirit of being progressive but not intimidating. A new slogan for MKE?

Pick up a December 2013 issue for the full list.


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