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I’m looking for bikers. Tattoos, mullets and heavy facial hair, leather jackets and chaps. Can’t forget the chaps. Because if you go to the new Harley-Davidson Museum and grab a meal at the restaurant, Motor, the place looks like a ZZ Top Convention. That statement above? It’s a complete fabrication. Although the decor taps into […]

I’m looking for bikers. Tattoos, mullets and heavy facial hair, leather jackets and chaps. Can’t forget the chaps. Because if you go to the new Harley-Davidson Museum and grab a meal at the restaurant, Motor, the place looks like a ZZ Top Convention.

That statement above? It’s a complete fabrication. Although the decor taps into the motorcycle mystique, the restaurant and its clientele seem to transcend stereotypes. On one visit, the diners seated near me ranged from a young couple with preschool-age kids to retirees snapping digital photos of their meatloaf to guys who looked like they walked out of a Dockers ad. For the record, I did see a fair amount of tattoos, H-D-emblazoned T-shirts and steel-toed boots. No mullets, though. Maybe I just wasnÕt there at the right time.

In keeping with the museum’s industrial look, the restaurant’s streamlined interior uses a copious amount of metal. The horseshoe-shaped bar area (with leather lounge chairs and communal tables) is separated from the main table seating by a welded “art wall” that fuses real Harley motor parts like gears and sparkplugs. Fifty or so paces to the west of the entrance, you can watch the occasional boat and kayak forging a slow path along the Menomonee River.

From a 10-buck sandwich to a $35, 22-ounce steak, the kitchen leans heavily toward hearty, American food. The biggest issues, though, are consistency with the food and wobbly service. The new-restaurant learning curve (its opening was in July) certainly takes time to climb. But with the high-destination status of the museum, getting Motor’s engine tuned should be top priority.

The Zen of the two-wheeler has a place on the menu, too. For example, “Spokes” is the name for a grilled chicken appetizer (served with a red pepper-peanut sauce that was just too thick for dipping, $8.95). In one of the salads, a skirt steak is curved in a wheel shape ($14.95). And the rumble of a Harley engine is exemplified in the Reuben “potato, potato, potato” pancakes ($10.95).

I ordered a rectangular flatbread pizza (its length meant to suggest a Harley skid mark) on two separate visits. The first time, the cheese, basil and tomato pie was pale and underbaked ($7.95). The second – topped with barbecued chicken, caramelized onions and cilantro – was better. A crisp, golden pizza topped with enough sweet barbecue sauce to enhance, but not overwhelm it ($9.95).

You may know of a delicacy folks from the northeastern part of this state call “booyah,” a meaty stew that probably has as many recipes as there are football fans in Wisconsin. Motor’s booyah includes beef, chicken, carrots, potatoes and peas in a thick, beefy gravy ($5.95).

It wasn’t clear from the menu that the “burger baskets” are mini trios of beef burgers and fish sandwiches. I saw a server delivering a plate of them to another table and inquired. The “classic” burger version I ordered featured the minis on a firm, chewy bun, but the beef patties were so dry I needed to dip every bite in ketchup ($7.95).

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Lured by the promise of a “Skirt Steak Wheel” (who wouldn’t be?), I ordered that salad. But instead of a wheel, the meat looked like a slightly curved stub. Tasty, nevertheless, with chopped Bibb lettuce, cherry tomatoes, onions and creamy buttermilk dressing ($14.95). And I couldn’t have asked for more lemon and garlic flavor from the brick-pressed chicken sandwich – a juicy bone-in, skin-on breast served on a thick slab of grilled ciabatta bread ($9.95). This is knife-and-fork food, to be sure – even the thick, firm, slightly crisp fries.

If you want a bowl of rich elbow mac and cheese, Motor has it. The mild Wisconsin cheddar cream sauce is even better with fried applewood bacon crumbled on top ($9.95, plus $2).

Overall, the space has the ambiance nailed. It’s the menu that needs the tuneup. But a company specializing in engines should know how to make that happen.

Motor at the Harley-Davidson Museum: 401 W. Canal St., 877-436-8738. Hours: Sun-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Prices: appetizers $6.95-$10.95; soups and salads $4.95-$6.95; sandwiches $7.95-$9.95; entrŽes $8.95-$34.95. Service: needs time and experience. Dress: Harley garb optional. Credit cards: M V A DS D. Smoke-free. Handicap access: Talk to the manager. Reservations: recommended for eight or more.


I’m looking for bikers. Tattoos, mullets and heavy facial hair, leather jackets and chaps. Can’t forget the chaps. Because if you go to the new Harley-Davidson Museum and grab a meal at the restaurant, Motor, the place looks like a ZZ Top Convention.

That statement above? It’s a complete fabrication. Although the decor taps into the motorcycle mystique, the restaurant and its clientele seem to transcend stereotypes. On one visit, the diners seated near me ranged from a young couple with preschool-age kids to retirees snapping digital photos of their meatloaf to guys who looked like they walked out of a Dockers ad. For the record, I did see a fair amount of tattoos, H-D-emblazoned T-shirts and steel-toed boots. No mullets, though. Maybe I just wasnÕt there at the right time.

In keeping with the museum’s industrial look, the restaurant’s streamlined interior uses a copious amount of metal. The horseshoe-shaped bar area (with leather lounge chairs and communal tables) is separated from the main table seating by a welded “art wall” that fuses real Harley motor parts like gears and sparkplugs. Fifty or so paces to the west of the entrance, you can watch the occasional boat and kayak forging a slow path along the Menomonee River.

From a 10-buck sandwich to a $35, 22-ounce steak, the kitchen leans heavily toward hearty, American food. The biggest issues, though, are consistency with the food and wobbly service. The new-restaurant learning curve (its opening was in July) certainly takes time to climb. But with the high-destination status of the museum, getting Motor’s engine tuned should be top priority.

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The Zen of the two-wheeler has a place on the menu, too. For example, “Spokes” is the name for a grilled chicken appetizer (served with a red pepper-peanut sauce that was just too thick for dipping, $8.95). In one of the salads, a skirt steak is curved in a wheel shape ($14.95). And the rumble of a Harley engine is exemplified in the Reuben “potato, potato, potato” pancakes ($10.95).

I ordered a rectangular flatbread pizza (its length meant to suggest a Harley skid mark) on two separate visits. The first time, the cheese, basil and tomato pie was pale and underbaked ($7.95). The second – topped with barbecued chicken, caramelized onions and cilantro – was better. A crisp, golden pizza topped with enough sweet barbecue sauce to enhance, but not overwhelm it ($9.95).

You may know of a delicacy folks from the northeastern part of this state call “booyah,” a meaty stew that probably has as many recipes as there are football fans in Wisconsin. Motor’s booyah includes beef, chicken, carrots, potatoes and peas in a thick, beefy gravy ($5.95).

It wasn’t clear from the menu that the “burger baskets” are mini trios of beef burgers and fish sandwiches. I saw a server delivering a plate of them to another table and inquired. The “classic” burger version I ordered featured the minis on a firm, chewy bun, but the beef patties were so dry I needed to dip every bite in ketchup ($7.95).

Lured by the promise of a “Skirt Steak Wheel” (who wouldn’t be?), I ordered that salad. But instead of a wheel, the meat looked like a slightly curved stub. Tasty, nevertheless, with chopped Bibb lettuce, cherry tomatoes, onions and creamy buttermilk dressing ($14.95). And I couldn’t have asked for more lemon and garlic flavor from the brick-pressed chicken sandwich – a juicy bone-in, skin-on breast served on a thick slab of grilled ciabatta bread ($9.95). This is knife-and-fork food, to be sure – even the thick, firm, slightly crisp fries.

If you want a bowl of rich elbow mac and cheese, Motor has it. The mild Wisconsin cheddar cream sauce is even better with fried applewood bacon crumbled on top ($9.95, plus $2).

Overall, the space has the ambiance nailed. It’s the menu that needs the tuneup. But a company specializing in engines should know how to make that happen.

Motor at the Harley-Davidson Museum: 401 W. Canal St., 877-436-8738. Hours: Sun-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Prices: appetizers $6.95-$10.95; soups and salads $4.95-$6.95; sandwiches $7.95-$9.95; entrŽes $8.95-$34.95. Service: needs time and experience. Dress: Harley garb optional. Credit cards: M V A DS D. Smoke-free. Handicap access: Talk to the manager. Reservations: recommended for eight or more.

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