As the density of dining choices in the city increases, from the East Side down to Bay View, it becomes crucial to have a vision strong enough to clear a path through the restaurant forest.
Executive chef/owner Chad Meier differentiates Meraki (939 S. Second St., 414-897-7230) from the crowd by offering a variety of dining styles. Don’t know what to have? In the mood to share? Prefer a more traditional experience? All of these are well within the Meraki realm of possibility. Here are the keystones of Meier’s approach:
1. Offer full-blown experiences.
Culinary Adventures tasting menus ($35, $50 and $65) provide diners with a full immersion. The base menu features five to seven courses from the Bar Bites, app and entrée menus. The highest level ($65) is a boundary-pushing mix of six to eight dishes, some created on the fly.
2. Mix it up.
The menu isn’t static and changes whenever Meier gets “bored” with it. But there are evergreen-ish dishes that need to be experienced. For examples: Korean smoked brisket with house kimchi slaw and black-and-white rice; one of the three Korean okonomiyaki pancakes; and the pot pie (recently with pheasant).
3. Avoid the formulaic.
Meier says the kitchen doesn’t stick to set recipes. It’s about “how do we make this [dish] better?” he says, explaining that he and his sous chef approach each dish with the question “what did we learn and how did we grow?”
4. Educate the public.
The evolving drinks menu is meant to do just that. Wines tend toward the unusual, and drink-food pairings aren’t limited to wines. They include beer, cocktails, sake, aperitifs and digestifs.
5. Two words: Secret menu.
That includes an outstanding burger (“the best burger we can make,” says Meier) with 5-year aged cheddar on a house-made bun.