The other day, as I was fumbling through the latest Facebook redesign feeling how my dad must feel every time he logs on (just kidding, dad, love you!), a status update from my friend Milan (you probably know him as Dwellephant; if you don’t, he’s amazing) caught my eye. “Milwaukee people: Ever been to that […]
The other day, as I was fumbling through the latest Facebook redesign feeling how my dad must feel every time he logs on (just kidding, dad, love you!), a status update from my friend Milan (you probably know him as Dwellephant; if you don’t, he’s amazing) caught my eye.
“Milwaukee people: Ever been to that bar called “My Office” downtown on Milwaukee Street? Dori Zori and I went there FOR LUNCH today. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to go there. I’ll now be conducting as many downtown meetings there as humanly possible.”
Seven “likes” and 22 supportive comments later, I was convinced.
The next day as I wandered throughout the office to round people up – as I do when it’s Cheap Eats time – everyone I approached responded with some variation of “Whaaaa? They serve food?” Yeah, they do. Really cheap food, too. Let’s go!
The six of us arrived and sat down in the dimly lit bar not knowing what to expect. The walls were wood paneled and covered with the most random assortment of stuff this side of Cracker Barrel. We’re talking a small, dusty globe; a corner filled with old trophies and Brewers pennants; a stuffed, life-sized Dracula hanging from the ceiling; and a framed certificate of membership from the Wisconsin Society of Certified Public Accountants. Suffice it to say, we didn’t have high hopes. “Hey, if it sucks, blame Milan,” I thought.
Then we met Bob. Bob wears many hats at My Office. He’s the bartender, the waiter and the husband of the chef, Debbie. Friendly in that loveable curmudgeon sort of way (“I don’t have my looks, so all I have left is my personality.”), he seemed to be on a first-name basis with everyone in the bar who wasn’t sitting at our table. He ran through the specials (pork tenderloin, meatloaf, meatloaf sandwich hot, meatloaf sandwich cold, turkey quiche, etc.), and then asked what we wanted. Confused, as we had not been given menus, Kathryn asked for one. Bob winked at her. Um, OK. Bob later explained that the menus, both online and in print, are so wildly out of date that he has instead moved to a completely verbal menu. Tell him what you want, and they’ll do the best they can.
And their best is pretty damn good. All made from scratch by Debbie, the food trends toward classic pub comforts (as much as the food can trend in a particular direction without a standard menu). We went around the table and ordered (using the menu we had previously seen online as a cheat sheet). Cheeseburger? Sure. With, uh, fries? Yep. Umm, grilled cheese? Ok. Club sandwich? Got it. Bob repeated the orders as to commit them to memory (no pen and paper for this pro), and off he went. (Please note, these photos really don’t do the food justice. As I said, it was dim, and I’m no professional photographer.)
Erin ordered the turkey quiche special ($8) and – shocker – it was the highlight of the meal. The egg custard was light and silky and perfectly balanced by the buttery crust. Quiche at a dive bar, who knew? The dish comes with hash browns and a toasted English muffin as they also serve breakfast daily. Bob said that people come in specifically for Debbie’s homemade biscuits and gravy – you can be sure to look for that in an upcoming column.
The cheeseburger ($6) Anne ordered came in close second. Thick and juicy with a thick, bready bun (that Bob says they get fresh every morning from Piggly Wiggly), this burger easily cracks my Top 10 in the city. The fries were thick and sturdy with a creamy center (almost as if they had been battered, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t), and they also offer tater tots. Why more places don’t offer tots, I’ll never understand. Tater tots are almost impossible to screw up. Fries, not so much.
I went with the meatloaf hot (also $8; all specials are $8), which came with corn on the cob, rice pilaf and a big, buttery hunk of cornbread (sorry, Mr. Perkins, but this is what cornbread should be like). The meatloaf was bacon-wrapped and juicy (the thick, brown gravy was maybe a tad salty) while the tender rice was studded with big chunks of mushrooms. The club sandwich ($7.50) was nice, with thick-cut pieces of turkey (you can get ham, if you prefer) while the grilled cheese ($5.50) was, well, a grilled cheese. Good, but nothing special. They do offer all their sandwiches on whole grain bread, though, which is a nice touch.
My Office is perhaps the quintessential Cheap Eats restaurant – dingy and dirty with great food. And it’s no accident. “This place looks like a garbage can, but then the food comes out,” Bob says. They pride themselves on that dichotomy, and while I can respect that, it’s hard to ignore the fact that My Office has been serving food since the day they opened in 1975 (“36 years with the same owner … and the same carpet,” Bob joked, only it’s also true), and no one seems to know about it. We all love the allure of having that one special place to call your own, but the food at My Office is just too good to be kept under wraps.