Just Desserts- Bartolotta Does Barbecue

What remained of a double helping of chicken. The Bartolotta restaurant group’s attempt at capturing the musky spirit of a Kansas City (or North Carolina or Texas) in sunny Greendale, Wis. – Miss Beverly’s Deluxe Barbeque Est. 2014 – opens officially on Friday, but the midscale BBQ joint permitted a quick perusal by local media and other invitees on Wednesday. As with the Joey Girard’s locations, Bartolotta is endeavoring to bring up-market flair to a down-market genre, so we gave Senior Editor and Dining Critic Ann Christenson the night off and charged our two associate editors, Claire Hanan and Matt…



What remained of a double helping of chicken.


The Bartolotta
restaurant group’s
attempt at capturing the musky spirit of a Kansas City (or North
Carolina or Texas) in sunny Greendale, Wis. –
Miss Beverly’s Deluxe Barbeque Est. 2014 – opens officially
on Friday, but the midscale BBQ joint permitted a quick perusal by local media
and other invitees on Wednesday. As with the Joey Girard’s locations,
Bartolotta is endeavoring to bring up-market flair to a down-market genre, so we
gave Senior Editor and Dining Critic Ann Christenson the night off and charged
our two associate editors, Claire Hanan and Matt Hrodey, with investigating.




CH:
Please describe the scene on Broad Street in Greendale at
5:30 p.m. on the eve of July 9.

MH:
I remember arriving at about 5:25 p.m., and it was sunny
out. The signage for the restaurant was prominently displayed. I remember this
clearly because we were later asked to rate it.

CH:
Birds were chirping. We admired the quaint surroundings of
the Greenbelt town better known as Greendale.

MH:
There were also many trees, and a statue of a man painting.
I wondered if he was painting the future or the past. The “downtown” district was
in what I would otherwise consider a secluded residential area. All in all, a
surreal location for eating barbecue.

CH:
It was very Pleasantville.

MH:
So what did you think of the entrance-way? I rated it a 5 out
of 5 on my evaluation form. I suppose we should explain that this was a test
run for Miss Beverly.

CH:
I gave the entryway a 5 on my scorecard (correlates to:
Great!) because it was so pleasant that I hardly remembered it, like a fleeting
nap-time dream. We were given scorecards in exchange for a free media dinner,
which probably served as a test-run for the restaurant’s staff.

MH:
How about the lighting? You noticed that there were
some old-fashioned light bulbs, otherwise it wasn’t so moody that you would
have trouble tying your shoes. I rated 4 out of 5.

CH:
I admired the lighting. Large, retro but totally en vogue
pendant lamps with Edison bulbs illuminated the room, which was painted a
chalkboard-like blackish gray. Kitschy music posters grouped in clusters covered
the walls. I was staring past you at them for much of our meal. Let’s get to
the meat of this. What did you order to eat?

MH:
Let me just say that I noticed a Leadbelly poster and
felt it was a conscious attempt at sophistication. For food, I ordered the
two-meat combo ($18.95), but with two helpings of chicken, cornbread and corn pudding. I
bring no prior experience as a dining critic to this job.

CH:
Like you, I have no experience with food reviewing,
except for a love of meat. I ordered the brisket sandwich with a side of mac ‘n’
cheese ($12.95). It came with a delicious little cup of coleslaw and a square of
cornbread. I remember asking you what the corn pudding looked like, but you had
already eaten it like a famished Labrador retriever.

MH:
For me, it was the highlight, moist yet substantial. I
thought the coleslaw was trying a bit too hard. It was more like a condiment
than a slaw.

CH:
I liked the coleslaw because it was thoroughly savory – but
not overly salty – instead of being tangy. I hate that tangy slaw. Did you like
your two servings of chicken?

MH:
They were quite moist. The skin could have been more crisp.
As a dedicated baker and consumer of dark-meat chicken, I have high standards,
and I generally associate barbecued chicken with barbecued grilled chicken, which is a whole other species. How was the
brisket?

CH:
The brisket, the five or so pieces of which lay cuddled by a
piece of white bread, was similarly moist. It was lightly covered with some
sauce, but I’m not sure what kind. It didn’t taste like any of the four sauces
we taste-tested with our fingers. (Each table has four varieties, ranging from
light and peppery to thick and sweet.) My one complaint with the brisket was
the fat. It had tons of gelatinous fat.

MH:
You gave an estimate of about 40 percent fat.

CH:
It had hella fat.

MH:
Our proper dining critic is already questioning why we
didn’t order ribs.

CH:
This is why we don’t have her job.

MH:
I’ll just say that I think the strength of a menu is
in its margins.

CH:
My mac ‘n’ cheese was excellent. I would have licked
the bowl, but while the decor is supposed to be down-homey, I wasn’t about to
in a Bartolotta restaurant.

MH:
I wouldn’t have complained. I would have looked at the music
posters behind you. Portion-wise, how did you feel?

CH:
Very full. I didn’t eat the bread on my brisket “sandwich”
(I personally don’t consider open-face sandwiches real sandwiches) as I wanted
to reserve as much stomach real estate as possible for the meat and mac.

MH:
The single slice of white bread was both an
affectation and sort of delicious-looking.

CH:
It looked like it was missing its mate.

MH:
I suppose. But this is barbecue joint paraphernalia, the
sauce-mopper.

CH:
I prefer to call it a Meat Distraction. What did you pour
down your gullet, to wash all of this down?

MH:
Tea, all tea.

CH:
Sweet tea or, as they call it, Yankee tea?

MH:
Yankee tea ($2.49), to my mother’s horror. I’m the son of a
Georgia girl, you know. Sauce-wise, Miss Beverly’s was well above average for
Milwaukee, but we’re not a town known for BBQ.

CH:
Agreed. My biggest lament was the beer selection.

MH: You had composed a western ballad to that effect by
the time we left. As for the sauce, it was mostly Kansas City style, extra
sweet.

CH:
Interestingly, on the menu they note that a full bar
is available next door at Joey Gerard’s.

MH:
I’m surprised they want the hoi polloi from the barbecue
joint wandering over there.

CH:
It’s like they’ve already braced themselves for the beer-
and Old Fashioned-lovers among us.

MH:
I
saw some people wearing shorts.
I’m going
to provide a recipe for savory barbecue sauce: buncha rice vinegar, buncha
molasses, some white sugar, tomato paste, black pepper, salt, chili powder. Mix
vigorously.

CH:
We go to one restaurant, and you think you’re an expert
chef, eh?

MH:
You can throw in a bit of tomato sauce and boil in
some corn starch for better consistency. And I consider myself an expert in the
preparation of pork, yes. Yes I do. The wait staff was solid; we can dispense
with that, can’t we?

CH:
They were attentive and chipper.

MH:
Is this a place you would return to, even without my
incandescent companionship?

CH:
I would return, and I would order the mac n’ cheese and the
ribs; and I wouldn’t wear nothin’ fancy because I’d know that I’d become one
saucy, stomach-happy mess. Would you go back?

MH:
It’s priced beyond something I’d consider in a regular
rotation, and since you’re talking put-the-little-number-on-your-table service,
it doesn’t meet my qualifications for fine dining, not that I actually have
those. But I might apply for a part time job.

CH:
Close enough, I guess.

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Claire Hanan worked at the magazine as an editor from 2012-2017. She edited the Culture section and wrote stories about all sorts of topics, including the arts, fashion, politics and more. In 2016, she was a finalist for best profile writing at the City and Regional Magazine Awards for her story "In A Flash." In 2014, she won the the Milwaukee Press gold award for best public service story for editing "Handle With Care," a service package about aging in Milwaukee. Before all this, she attended the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and New York University's Summer Publishing Institute.