Restaurant Review: Wonderland in Riverwest Is Some Kind of Wonderful

Restaurant Review: Wonderland in Riverwest Is Some Kind of Wonderful

The new Wonderland diner completes a charming little dining and imbibing block of Riverwest.

Photo by Tom Grimm
My first time at Wonderland was  during Art Bar’s annual Mini Art Show before the 2019 winter holidays. Paintings, watercolors, collages smaller than a cake plate: these works hung on most every open spot of wall in the bar. It was a fitting time to be there since Wonderland – just like its brother Art Bar next door – is an atmospheric kick.

Owner Don Krause took his time (four years!) renovating the now-forgotten West Bank Cafe and created a bold, charming diner that has a bit of the bohemian nonconformity that defines Riverwest whipped into a modern-meets-vintage body. Krause has a funky aesthetic and loves to mix motifs and patterns in bold ways. His use of wood, terrazzo tile and vivid art is upbeat and fun.

Wonderland picked up its chef, Matt Mudler, after his stints at Comet Cafe and Fuel Cafe on Fifth, and the menu has a Comet-similar sense of inclusiveness (think soy chorizo and vegan loaf). But it’s plenty hearty for meat eaters. And being a diner, breakfast is served through mid-day – super-tasty things like biscuit-a-go-go ($6), a robust breakfast sandwich, and fried chicken and waffles ($13), a tender thigh meat with a nice crackly crust paired with good, not-too-salty sausage gravy over crisp cornbread waffles. You could stay savory and eat this creation as is, but a healthy glob of maple syrup lends sweet balance. Part of the all-day menu are “munchies” like deep-fried cauliflower with blue cheese, Nashville hot sauce and aioli ($8) that feels like a healthier buffalo chicken; and seafood cakes, a mild blend of chunky shrimp and pollock ($10). The cakes make a super light entrée or shareable starter.

Photo by Tom Grimm

Wonderland adds its skinny patty to the local burger world. Skinny is not a knock. Even as a single, this patty is hot – tender, meaty, served on a gently toasted bun ($9-$14). Definitely spring for bacon ($3), and indulge in the very crisp, thin, seasoned fries, which are some of the better I’ve had recently.

The dome-shaped biscuit-topped turkey pot pie ($13) feels homey and seasonally appropriate. I like the rich béchamel sauce’s tarragon flavor (a little goes a long way), and there will be plenty of food left to take home. If I were to play favorites, it’d be the Wally Bowl ($11), a grain-based veggie bowl with lots of contrasting textures – chewy wild rice and quinoa, creamy avocado, firm chickpeas.

A, well, wonderful tip on how to end the night is to step into Wonderland’s other brother, the bar called Two (located on the other side of Art Bar), a romantic watering hole with curtained booths and a 1960s beat vibe. This is, after all, the month of the heart.


Details

Wonderland 
732 E. Burleigh St., 414-372-7880

Hours: Daily B, L, D
Prices: $6-$15
Service: Casual, helpful, quick
Reservations: No


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s February 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.