White tablecloths out on the tables, but the atmosphere was casual at the Capital Grille, at North Fourth Street and West Wisconsin Avenue on Thursday – and not overwhelmed at all with the Downtown Dining Week rush. That might come Friday, when Downtown office workers like to go out for lunch, said my server, Anne.
The place is part of a national chain of 54 restaurants, owned by Darden Restaurants, which also operates the Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and several other casual dining chains. But chain outlet though it was, it was full of Milwaukee and Wisconsin decor – including big portraits of both Harley and Davidson, along with Georgia O’Keefe, Gen. Billy Mitchell and Vince Lombardi.
Being just one guy, I sat at the bar, where Anne was attentive but not intrusive. Of the three entrees available for Dining Week, she recommended the salmon, because she thought the other one I was considering, dry aged sirloin hash, was more of a breakfast-type dish. I got the hash to go for my colleague Dan Simmons, who says he would eat it for breakfast, lunch or any meal. “That was a religious experience,” he opined after devouring it, along with his salad and “classic crème brulee.” Dan’s Italian greyhound, Bruno, who was visiting the MilMag office Thursday, inhaled two pieces of steak and also loved it, Dan said.
My salmon and French green beans were not a religious experience – food is not my religion – but they were certainly delicious. As was the field greens salad they brought me to start, dressed with a tangy parmesan-vinaigrette and a couple turns of the cracked-pepper mill by Anne. There was also a basket with a nice roll and some tasty flatbread. The salmon, cooked just right, came with a citrus glaze and was surrounded by almonds (blanched? toasted?). Yummy. For dessert? A just-gooey-enough flourless chocolate espresso cake, with I think raspberry syrup, a couple raspberries, some whipped cream and a mint leaf for good measure. Excellent. Except for the mint leaf. Don’t eat that.