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Keep up with the local food trucks and carts with our Twitter list. Ofelia’s Mexican food Cart @waterfrontdeli ➸ This pop of color, stationed weekdays at Water and Mason, doesn’t travel far. It’s run by the Milwaukee Waterfront Deli people just up the block on Water Street, kitty-corner from City Hall. Deli owner Jere Pandl […]

Keep up with the local food trucks and carts with our Twitter list.

Ofelia’s Mexican food Cart
@waterfrontdeli

➸ This pop of color, stationed weekdays at Water and Mason, doesn’t travel far. It’s run by the Milwaukee Waterfront Deli people just up the block on Water Street, kitty-corner from City Hall. Deli owner Jere Pandl was inspired by a vibrant food cart he and his wife saw on a trip years ago to Santa Fe, N.M. Here, Ofelia’s has become a Downtown summer staple, staking its ground Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., weather permitting. The menu is Mexican basic – tacos and tortas, tamales and burritos, and daily specials like beef barbacoa. $2-$7.

The Hard Wood Cafe
@thehardwoodcafe

➸ Debbie and Craig Mengeling’s hand-built, wooden gypsy wagon draws attention with its unconventionality. Debbie smiles out through the order window and answers questions about this apparent vision from Romania. But the “street faire” menu doesn’t have the flavor of Eastern Europe. The focus is decidedly swine-ish. Examples: pork nachos, the porky burger and the deluxe pulled pork sandwich. The Mengelings pull their wagon to lunchtime events like Take Out Tuesdays in Schlitz Park and Food Truck Thursdays at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Their new gig is at the 1865 Farmhouse, on the corner of Morgan and Forest Home avenues. There, they plan to serve three evenings a week, 4-8 p.m. $5-$6.

Hattie’s Truck
@HattiesTruck

➸ Teaching English as a second language keeps Heatherlee Muehlius busy nine months of the year. Once school is out for the summer, Muehlius moves full throttle into food truckery. Her cheerful pastel-hued Hattie’s truck doesn’t just dole out sliders – jerk chicken with mango slaw, barbecued pork, Italian beef, meatball and the new Philly cheesesteak. The business is also a vehicle for Muehlius’ sweets-making. Her specialties are cheesecake lollipops and cupcakes, red velvet to chocolate peanut butter. Look for the truck beginning the third week of June on the familiar food truck lunch rotation: Take Out Tuesdays at Schlitz Park, Thursdays at Milwaukee County Courthouse and Fridays at Red Arrow Park. Sliders $3.50 each or two for $6; desserts $2. hattiestruck.com.

Bun Me
@bunmemke

➸ Matt Bettine studied painting. His business partner, Alex Palm, has worked in local restaurants. While researching sandwiches in Chicago, they found their muse – the Vietnamese banh mi. Now in their second year of Bun business, the two have staked ground in the Third Ward – the corner of Broadway and Buffalo on Mondays and Fridays. They also plant their sandwich cart in front of the U.S. Bank Center and on the UW-Milwaukee campus. Not being confined inside a truck has its upside. “We get to hang out, serve food we like, talk to people,” Bettine says. The sandwich choices are simple – caramelized pork belly or chicken or soy “meat” in lemongrass and sweet chile peanut sauce, with optional toppings like cilantro, carrot-daikon hash and jalapenos. $5-$6.

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Street-Za
@streetzapizza

➸ This mobile pizzeria was a novelty in 2009, the year owners Scott Baitinger and Steve Mai first took to the streets, a late-night beacon for Water Street imbibers. Using Twitter and Facebook to announce the truck’s whereabouts, they made street food feel like a cause célèbre. In November 2012, the truck even made The Daily Meal’s list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America. Today, Street-za follows a consistent schedule, counting as regular gigs Take Out Tuesdays, Food Truck Thursdays and the Westown Farmers Market in Zeidler Union Square on Wednesdays. The truck serves six kinds of pizza – cheese, sausage, pepperoni, veggie, the multitopping Slice of Milwaukee and a wild-card flavor of the day, ranging from crab legs to the Jones Island (topped with Ma Baensch herring). $4 per slice. streetza.com.

The Gouda Girls
@chubbycheesetrk

➸ Confusion with the name of another local business (Chubbys Cheesesteaks) forced the ladies of this cheese sandwich rig to change their name from The Chubby Cheese Truck to The Gouda Girls, which does have a certain ring to it. In winter, Katherine and Tina Tonn focus on their corporate accounts; in summer, they burn rubber, hitting the weekly mobile food events at Schlitz Park and the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Gouda’s website is broader than the name suggests. Beyond American cheese on Wonder bread, they do a grilled mac and cheese, Wisconsin cheesesteak on a hoagie roll, turkey burger and, yes, Campbell’s tomato soup. $2.50-$7.25. chubbycheese.com.

Simmer
@SimmerMKE

➸ A fundraising project on Kickstarter helped get the new Simmer Truck into its bubbling state. Owners Steve Perlstein and Jennifer Block center their menu around soups (which is understandable, given the name) as well as salads and panini. The opening menu featured curried lentil with sweet potato soup, Caesar and chopped salads, and Muffaletta panini ($4-$10). Plus homemade potato chips and chocolate chip cookies. The couple plans for mucho visibility this summer. Saved on their GPS: Food Truck Fridays at Downtown’s Red Arrow Park and the East Side Green Market (Saturdays, from June 15) at Beans & Barley. simmermilwaukee.com.

Cold Spoons Gelato
@coldspoons

➸ Brett Swider, co-owner of the Vliet Street shop also called Cold Spoons, built the little cart himself. It holds only six flavors, one-quarter of the varieties offered on a given day in the Washington Heights store. In the past, Swider has set up shop in Cathedral Square, and pushed the cart up and down Broadway in the Third Ward. “All I need is an organ grinder and a monkey,” Swider jokes. His summer 2013 appearances are event-based, including Brady Street Festival in July and Fish Fry & A Flick (Friday nights in late summer). coldspoonsgelato.com.

American Euros
@AmericanEuros

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➸ That would be American “gyros.” In December 2012, the Euros boys went beyond the steel cart with a gray and white umbrella to opening a full-fledged restaurant (3133 N. Oakland Ave.). But they’re still keeping the cart active at sidewalk spots like the Water and Wisconsin intersection on weekdays. The chameleon-like pita is dressed in a multitude of ways – gyros made with lamb, steak or Athenian chicken; specialty pita sandwiches like Thai chicken; and Turkish doners (kebab sandwiches), topped with onions, slaw and a creamy sauce like tzatziki. $3-$6. american-euros.com.

Pita Brothers
@PitaBros

➸ For four years, sandwich-slinging brothers Vijay and Manoj Swearingen have been tooling around the city in their battery-powered electric truck, which functions as a mobile kitchen complete with gas grill and refrigeration units. Their shtick is doing nine kinds of sandwich options using a Lebanese flatbread as the base. Among them: steak bacon ranch, Caesar chicken, falafel and BLT, $5.50-$6. The brothers are regulars on the Marquette University grounds and at spots like Catalano Square in the Third Ward. As of press time, the duo was still pondering a deal that would launch a commercial space and put the truck to bed. Until then, soak up those mobile meals, and get the locational 411 at pitabrothers.com.

Fivestar Nacho
@fivestarnacho

➸ Nachos are not a one-trick pony, and Nichole Gonzalez makes that clear with her Fivestar Nacho truck. Gonzalez christened her truck this year and has been perfecting her nacho fillings. Take the shredded pork. It’s available over tortilla chips or plantains with house beans, queso, tomatillo salsa, lettuce, tomatoes and cream. If you’re not into pork, she offers ground beef, spicy chicken and grilled vegetables as filling options as well. Daily specials? Could be lamb or duck. Gonzalez plans to hit the weekly trucking events like Fridays at Red Arrow Park. Nachos $5; nacho dinner $6.75 (includes rice). 

Jeppa Joes
@jeppajoes

 

➸ The Vietnamese banh mi took a little more time to make a cilantro-laced foothold in Milwaukee than major banh-loving cities like New York. That’s OK, though. It’s making up for lost time. The sandwich – a flavor factory on a baguette – has a “cult following” at Jeppas, says owner Jeff Steckel. His braised pork shoulder banh mi (topped with oven-roasted tomato, red onion and Sriracha mayo) is part of the reason the cart made our 2012 Best of Milwaukee feature at the end of its first season in business. The core menu is simple, sweet and all sandwiches – Korean barbecued beef, jerk chicken, and grilled portobello mushroom with feta and roasted garlic ($7 each). Steckel’s hookup for beef, chicken and pork is Milwaukee’s Braise RSA. Track his whereabouts at  jeppajoes.com.

This article appears in the City Guide 2013 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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                                                    Photo by Jessica Kaminski The Power of Six Happy Hour is forever a welcome thing, but one or two hours are gone in a flash. Enter the six-hour Happy Hour. It’s just once a month, but it’s new, and it’s at Bosley on Brady. Owner Michele Green tried this out on the first Friday of […]

                                                    Photo by Jessica Kaminski


The Power of Six
Happy Hour is forever a welcome thing, but one or two hours are gone in a flash. Enter the six-hour Happy Hour. It’s just once a month, but it’s new, and it’s at Bosley on Brady. Owner Michele Green tried this out on the first Friday of February, and it went over like 25-cent jalapeno poppers. Fortunately, she is not offering jalapeno poppers. The next First Friday will be here before you know it – March 2. The Happy Hours on that day are 12-6 p.m. Green is offering a range of $4, $5, $6 and $7 HH appetizers, plus $4 “tropical concoctions” and $6 martinis. Your tantalizing food choices include scallop and shrimp ceviche, fish tacos (steak tacos, too), pistachio scallops over angel hair pasta, coconut fried shrimp, and blackened, seared ahi tuna. Again, the next First Friday is March 2. (815 E. Brady St., 414-727-7975)

Mardi Gregarious
Next week will be the time for ash-smeared foreheads, paczki (a Polish doughnut) and general drunken frivolity. Fat Tuesday is coming, and before Lent puts the brakes on self-indulgences, you can get your Milwaukee dose of Mardi Gras-themed consumption. Most restaurants are offering deals next Tuesday. Why wait until then? Stubby’s Pub & Grub is throwing a Fat Friday party this week, complete with Mardi Gras menu specials. Such as: seafood gumbo ($4.95 and $6.95); oysters Rockefeller ($4 per piece) and on the half-shell ($2 per piece); blackened catfish with a savory crepe and Creole sauce ($8.95); grilled rib eye Diane ($22.95); chicken jambalaya ($12.95); and shrimp and crawfish etouffée ($17.95). Music will come courtesy of the Extra Crispy Brass Band. Sounds tasty. Friday Feb. 17. Event starts at 4 p.m.; menu available at 6 p.m. (2060 N. Humboldt Ave., 414-763-6324)

In this Thursday’s Dish, there will be a lot more Mardi Gregariousness in preparation for next Tuesday. As an addendum – because Mardi Gras should not be an end, but rather, a beginning – Hi Hat Lounge is doing cocktail dinner later this month that uses Mardi Gras as inspiration. If you like what you read here, make your reservation without delay. The menu features three courses, with cocktail pairings. The menu, created by Hi Hat chef Rebecca Berkshire, includes house-cured duck pastrami with sharp cheddar crackers and onion marmalade, and bell peppers stuffed with rabbit sausage and served with Creole spinach cakes and crawfish choron sauce. Cost: $50 per person. To make a reservation, call Hi Hat (414-225-9330) or send an email to ddufek@gmail.com.

Look for Dish on Dining on Tuesdays and Thursdays!

Wait! Don’t stop reading. I’m on Twitter! Follow me @ann_christenson

If you spot a restaurant opening or closing, post it on the comments section of my column, or e-mail me directly: ann.christenson@milwaukeemagazine.com

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“Scribbles”  By Jennifer L. Tomaloff of Racine. bendinglightintoverse.com Congratulations, Jennifer. And be sure to check out our Photo Contest Page on Monday for the February contest theme. Comments commentsRELATED  Is the Tide Turning for Women in Business in Milwaukee?


“Scribbles”
 

By Jennifer L. Tomaloff of Racine.
bendinglightintoverse.com


Congratulations, Jennifer.

And be sure to check out our Photo Contest Page on Monday for the February contest theme.

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When talks started a few years ago between restaurateur/hotelier Andy Ruggeri and his friend, advertising executive Drew Vallozzi, about opening a hotel in downtown Waukesha, the economy was far more robust. The pair was able to secure $1.5 million from the city of Waukesha to help renovate a decayed 19th-century building at the high-traffic Five […]

When talks started a few years ago between restaurateur/hotelier Andy Ruggeri and his friend, advertising executive Drew Vallozzi, about opening a hotel in downtown Waukesha, the economy was far more robust.


The pair was able to secure $1.5 million from the city of Waukesha to help renovate a decayed 19th-century building at the high-traffic Five Corners intersection. The result – the new Clarke Hotel and its fine dining restaurant, The Black Trumpet – opened in December, with the hope this would help invigorate the city’s shopping district.


The economy now being what it is, that proposition looks more iffy. It’s not going to be an easy journey for Ruggeri, owner of both the 20-room boutique hotel and the restaurant. Yet The Black Trumpet offers charm, intelligence and good taste.

Ruggeri has been in the hotel business since the late ’90s, when he managed Milwaukee’s Hotel Metro. After that came the Delafield Hotel – a partnership with developer Bob Lang that ended when the Clarke Hotel project came along.


Ruggeri’s chef in Delafield, Dean Schmitz, followed him to Waukesha, and the combination of Ruggeri’s classic training – as an apprentice with the late Madame Liane Kuony – and Schmitz’s yen for modern culinary twists is a virtually seamless fit. And their menu reflects that.


The dining room is on the hotel’s ground level and juts out on the east side in a kind of trapezoid, the furthest point punctuated by the round, eight-seat Five Points table. To get there, diners walk through the bar, its glowing fireplace and wingback chairs so appealing that it’s tempting to stop and watch the minutes pass by through a glass of bourbon. But the dining room, too, has appeal – walls of warm gold, brown leather chairs, chandeliers and a sound system heavy on Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.


Dinner entrées are $23 on the low end, $41 on the high. After all, this is fine dining. And to mirror that, the food is well-executed and alluringly presented.


The menu feels classically French in instances, modern in others. Schmitz makes a caviar flight as an appetizer, a striking combo of three kinds of roe (best are the tiny green beads of wasabi caviar) with mini blinis, crème fraîche and a shot of ice-cold vodka ($12). It’s a powerful dose of the sea, but Ruggeri says Schmitz plans to tweak it. On the classic side is the Chartreuse of Larson Farms rabbit – a succulent, rich production of rabbit confit (the meat cooked in its own fat), foie gras and braised Napa cabbage on brioche toast ($9). Perhaps my favorite, from a textural context, is the fricassee of escargot, a creamy stew of tender snails spooned inside sheets of flaky puff pastry ($8).

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The salad of note here is the shredded beet root – the French call it salade composée because it’s “arranged,” not tossed – with red cabbage, red onion and capers in a smoky, chunky bacon vinaigrette ($7). A dollop of crème fraîche gives it a pleasing tang and extra richness.


Schmitz likes to cull from local sources when possible (he frequents the Waukesha farmer’s market in summer and fall), and has a wonderful touch with fowl. At Andrew’s Restaurant (in the Delafield Hotel), I remember his roast duck, moist under the crisp, crackly skin. It just needed a dab of the cherry compote for a sweet/tart finish. In Waukesha, he pairs his Black Trumpet duck with a blood turnip compote, wild red rice and currant porter (a dark beer) demi-glace ($29). Altogether a richer, mellower dish.


Paellas I’ve eaten in Spain have been heavy, bold, serious meals. Schmitz’s Basque paella is much lighter – a medley of melding flavors (thick Spanish pork sofrito sauce, firm clams and shrimp, and veggie-studded saffron rice) for $32. It’s a subtle dish, but offers more flavor than the sturgeon and shrimp entrée, with its promising sounding barigoule (stew) of artichokes, leeks and carrots in a bratwurst-infused broth ($30).


At its best, the rib eye can be cut with a butter knife. The center of The Black Trumpet’s bone-in steak soaks up the topping of horseradish-bacon compound butter ($38). But around the perimeter, the steak (ordered medium) is cooked too well. At the same time, I do love getting lost in the golden, gossamer-thin layers of the potato galette side dish.

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Ruggeri was looking for a strong lemon finale to anchor his dessert menu. He’s got it in the caterpillar-shaped lemon-coconut tart – all things a lemon tart should be ($9). Sweet-yet-puckery curd filling, billowy clouds of meringue. The coconut crust – and shoots of toasted coconut – is a bonus on this beauty.


Ruggeri says he works the line in the kitchen alongside Schmitz. He stresses the importance of booking parties in the private dining rooms, and luring in business travelers working with nearby companies like GE Medical. “We just have to make it through the next four months,” he told me in January. Spring’s arrival may spark more life in downtown Waukesha.


That said, there are already the makings of a comeback. All around the hotel are these cute-as-a-bug’s-ear storefronts. The Nice Ash cigar bar, Steaming Cup café, Black Dragon tattoo parlor (an exception to “cute”), a shop specializing in wind chimes, and a dance studio where we watched middle-agers do the Samba from our table inside The Black Trumpet.


There’s a Japanese restaurant on Broadway called Sakura. Also Ray’s on South, Taylor’s People’s Park and Generations at the Five Points. Anything that brings people downtown is going to be key to this “renaissance.”


I wonder if from here on out, restaurants will need to be different – more conscious than ever of value and prices. Will it get more difficult to justify a $35 entrée?


Time will tell. I want to believe that 2009 can still be a year of possibility. And that there’s still a place in Waukesha for a restaurant like The Black Trumpet.


The Black Trumpet,Clarke Hotel, 314 W. Main St., Waukesha, 262-549-3800. Hours: L Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-2 p.m. D Mon-Sun 5-10 p.m. Brunch Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Prices: appetizers $7-$12; soups/salads $4-$8; entrées $23-$41; desserts $8-$10. Service: slow when only one server was working. Dress: better casual. Smoke-free. Handicap access: yes. Credit cards: M V A DS. Reservations: accepted.


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