Restaurant Review: Fool’s Errand Delivers a Taste of Nostalgia

The new Third Ward restaurant from the DanDan guys is deliciously nostalgic.

The look of the interior is streamlined compared to the space’s previous iteration, Fauntleroy; Photo by Chris Kessler

My mother wasn’t a rock star cook, but she had her repertoire of Americana dishes. When I have those specialties now, whether I’m in a restaurant or someone’s home, I’m filled with nostalgia so strong I’m transported to my childhood kitchen with its Formica table and avocado-colored refrigerator. My mom spent hours there making beef meatballs and sauce thickened with tomato paste. I loved to bury a little mountain of balls, sauce and spaghetti in Kraft grated Parmesan.

Nostalgic foods are what we often associate with comfort and love, and the new Fool’s Errand is banking that you’ll get those feel-good vibes from its menu. DanDan owners Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, along with chef de cuisine Blair Herridge, culled together their favorites, foods they grew up eating, and gave them a stamp of their own. They strove to make the fare “as delicious and as accessible as possible,” Jacobs says. They succeeded.

Fool’s Errand opened in the Third Ward’s former Coquette Café space in April, a change in concept from the fussier Fauntleroy that had occupied the space but closed during the pandemic. Jacobs and Van Rite streamlined the look of the restaurant just a bit, removing the curtains from the booths and replacing the ’70s rock-themed wall murals with images of mythical beings in a “snipe hunt” or fool’s errand – both terms to describe a needless effort.

Chicken-fried chicken, smoked Gouda mac and cheese and the 1971 cocktail; Photo by Chris Kessler
Deviled eggs and wedge salad; Photo by Chris Kessler
   

But the effort here pays off. A Fool’s Errand meal is meant for savoring every rich, heavenly calorie. The chicken-fried chicken ($18) is a great example of that. It reminds me of those yearned-for buckets of fried chicken we’d occasionally get from a local takeout place when I was a kid. Here, the four succulent thighs in my order are encased in a crisp-crunchy batter that’s just greasy enough. I dip each bite in the creamy gravy flecked with meaty sausage that comes with it.

The menu is tailored to jumping in anywhere. Every item can be mixed and matched, the sections divided into “small stuff,” “bigger stuff,” sandwiches and sides. If you want to eat light-ish, order some of the piquant, silky deviled eggs ($4 each), flaky, square-shaped biscuits with butter and jam ($5 for 3) and a wedge salad ($11) – cool, crunchy iceberg topped with pickled carrots, bacon, fresh dill, sunflower seed crumble and a thick, chunky blue cheese dressing. My only quibbles are the biscuits – a little too soft and not quite flaky enough – and a plea for more bacon on the wedge.

The bar; Photo by Chris Kessler

The aforementioned fried chicken goes great with several sides – delicately vinegary, celery salt-infused cabbage-carrot coleslaw ($3); the savory-sweet, tender- as-all-get-out hush puppies ($5 for 5 pups); and the very rich smoked-Gouda mac and cheese ($15). The radiatore (radiator-shaped) pasta soaks up the thick, decadent cheese sauce that is a meal in itself. If you go that route, partner it up with a plate of crispy charred snap peas with mild, sauce- like pea “butter” ($5). The bright crunch is a nice contrast. I’m not as wild about the broccoli salad with chewy wheat berries, cashews and golden raisins ($10), in a tahini dressing that skews too tangy.

The bone-in pork chop ($24) is tender, juicy and huge. It’s perfectly seasoned on its own, not needing the rhubarb-fennel pan sauce, which is just a little too sour. On the sandwich side, there’s a good, gooey old-school two-patty burger with American cheese, briny pickles and tart-spicy “truck sauce” ($10) and a very worthy Monte Cristo, which is a turkey-ham-Swiss-jam creation battered and deep-fried ($14). Not many places make it, and this one, with its thin, crunchy shell and sweet-savory flavors, is a humdinger.

Some of the Fool’s menu may ring familiar in a childhood nostalgia sort of way. With life returning to normal, I think we’re all still clinging to things that bring comfort. This menu does just that.


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s August issue.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.