Destination dining in the northern suburbs? A trip to Cedarburg’s Brandywine is indubitably in order.

Pulling into downtown Cedarburg one Saturday night, I see what appears to be a very lively crowd in one of the first buildings you hit on Washington Avenue. This kind of bonhomie is not what one expects in this historic, quaint-but-sleepy burg. But at Brandywine, the summer 2018 opener helmed by Andrew Wilson (who previously worked at Bacchus), patrons seem to have a pent-up well of conviviality. 

Filled wall to wall with chatty, drink-swilling patrons and servers jamming to get fried cheese curds and homemade pastas from the kitchen window behind the bar out to diners, this cool little spot occupies an 1862 Victorian that’s about as old a building as you can find out there. It has restored tin walls and ceiling, hardwood floors and a sweet bar. But it’s also cacophonic when busy. That adds to the fun, but makes talking a challenge.

Brandywine Burger topped with bacon and duck egg

And yet, you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying to score a sweet two-top and settle in for some stylish comfort food drizzled with a Wisconsin vinaigrette. Wilson is keen on the menu philosophy of keeping seasonal/using local farms when possible. (Brandywine refers to a type of heirloom tomato.) And he’s made additions since I visited, including sweet potato agnolotti (a kind of ravioli), and grilled trumpet mushrooms with caramelized onion farro.

Pastas are definitely something you should try here. Wilson’s noodles hit the high bar established by Sheboygan’s Trattoria Stefano, where he started his restaurant career as a teenage busboy. But first things first. From the concise menu, dig into a nest of breaded, fried cheese curds and cauliflower, served with chile aioli and buttermilk ranch ($8).

Move on to the braised pork/mascarpone-stuffed half-moon mezzaluna pasta sprinkled with garlic bread crumbs and served with an out-of-sight spicy tomato sauce with giardiniera ($17).

Other highlights include the flake-tender beef short ribs in a pool of creamy wild mushroom risotto ($26), a wonderful skin-on roast chicken with sage honey glaze, roasted carrots, white cheddar polenta and Calabrian chiles ($19) or almost-creamy pan-seared whitefish whose sides – roasted Brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes – are made for sopping up a very good, tangy dill pickle remoulade ($20).

If the butterscotch budino (an Italian pudding) with salted caramel and rosemary cookies ($7) is available, keep your seats warm a bit longer. The beauty of Cedarburg is its leisurely pace. Between bites of budino, settle in and ponder the disparate feet that have trod through this building since the 1860s. Quite a thought.

Fried cheese curds with cauliflower


“Bangin’ Burg” appears in the March 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning Feb. 25, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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