Last Tuesday, SONIC Drive-In’s Milwaukee location (2080 Miller Park Way, 414-384-8844) became 100-percent official. Locals are apparently so anxious to get carhop service and Coney Island hot dogs that there’s a two-hour wait. Make sure you have enough gas in your car. It’s still too cold to sit there with the heat off – in my opinion, anyway. The menu is pretty much what you’d expect at a drive-in: burgers, fries and onion rings, malts and shakes. They also serve burgers and clubs on Texas Toast (calling them Toasters) and Coneys – these hot dogs topped with chili and (upon request) mustard and onions). Check out the Web site – sonicdrivein.com – if you want a SONIC primer. The Milwaukee location is open daily 6 a.m.-midnight.
Date for Dinner
A faithful reader of this column sent me a tip about the weekday specials at the Lake Geneva restaurant Gilbert’s (327 Wrigley Drive, 262-248-6680). For instance, if you dine there on a Tuesday night and order two entrées, the second entrée is half-price. Chef Ken Hnilo updates the menu everyday, and favors natural, organic (when possible) ingredients. The menu could feature organic Amish chicken or Hawaiian red snapper. I like the sound of Friday’s special, “Date Night.” It’s a Chef’s Choice, three-course dinner-for-two for $50 (beverages not included). Looking for plans for Friday night? This week’s special Date Night menu features two first-course choices (French onion soup with roasted fennel; Romaine salad with crispy garbanzo beans, white anchovies and poached egg), two entrée choices (roasted chicken with potatoes Anna; monkfish with applewood smoked bacon and braised kohlrabi) and one dessert – the chocolate trio of crème brûlée, mousse gâteau and milk chocolate malt. Hours: 5-9 p.m.
“Barista.” It’s one of my favorite words to say. Alterra Coffee Roasters must have some affection for it, too. Last weekend, Scott Lucey, Alterra’s barista trainer, won the 2009 Great Lakes Regional Barista Competition, held in Chicago. Baristas (the coffeehouse equivalent of a bartender or mixologist) from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio took part. Competitors had to serve 12 drinks – four espressos, four cappuccinos and four drinks they’ve created on their own – in a 15-minute period before a seven-judge panel. Lucey will now head to the United States Barista Competition in Portland, Oregon, this March to compete for a more prestigious title. You can sample his signature drink at Alterra’s Prospect Avenue location this Saturday, Feb. 28th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. That drink, “Liquid Swords,” includes espresso (from a Colombian farm), cream, honey and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.
Did you hear about the “balsamic bandit”? It’s a story I ran across on the Internet today. A store in Bend, Oregon, called Newport Avenue Market has repeatedly been the victim of a burglar of balsamic vinegar – the good stuff, bottles in the $30-$40 range. That sounds like a connoisseur. The store caught on to the thefts when an order writer discovered he’d been buying more balsamic vinegar – quite a bit more, the story asserts – than the market was selling. Employees thought they fingered the thief a few months ago, and reacted by banning that person from the store. They think it had been going on for a year. Now there’s a sign in the balsamic vinegar section that warns people they are being watched. Frankly, I’m not sure what to think. Has the economy brought people to such lows that they’ve resorted to acts of thievery to support their balsamic vinegar habit?
Can’t get enough dining? I chat about restaurants every week with Jane Matenaer and Kidd O’Shea on “The Mix.” Listen at 6:10 a.m. – a new time! – on Friday, February 27th. That’s 99.1 WMYX-FM.