The Harbor District’s New Bridgewater Is Making Waves

This ambitious restaurant is off to a fairly positive start, minus a few wrinkles.

There’s nothing subtle about The Bridgewater. Bookending the north side of the R1VER development’s luxury apartments, this stylish dining spot is all big, bright signage, floor-to-ceiling windows, staff-in-excess and a dining room with an energy that feels magnetic. Better still, this showpiece of the Marcus Investments-led hospitality group that operates AJ Bombers and Smoke Shack seems off to a fairly positive (read: a few wrinkles) start. 

At 11,000 square feet, seating for 165 diners inside and 200 outside, plus an open kitchen with a state-of-the-art oak-fed oven, The Bridgewater is an ambitious buildout. The sensible menu of trout, rotisserie chicken, gnocchi and more also looks good on paper, a moderately priced dish mix both familiar and a bit trendy (i.e., butter board with bread). The service is eager to please, but with high traffic and so much action, there are inevitable knots. Perfecting the dance will take time. But I’ll say this: I’m excited to come back and hopefully see food execution that continues to improve.  

U-10 Scallops at The Bridgewater; Photo by Tom Grimm

 

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From the list of small plates, I’ve enjoyed the tuna tartare topped with pickled veg, wasabi aioli, sesame seeds and cress sprouts and served with airy rice paper chips ($16). The single crab cake with a good, balanced celery root remoulade ($16) was golden and meaty – more crab than filler, which I like to see.  

During one of my meals, the server steered me away from the baby-back ribs – “They’re still working on them,” he said, and I appreciated his honesty. He was far more enthusiastic about the veal tenderloin in a respectable sherry reduction with wild mushrooms ($38). I shared his enthusiasm, but I would caution against ordering it any more done than medium-rare. Starches are an add-on – $8 for a shareable plate of smashed fingerlings with a delicious crisp crust of malt vinegar powder and a side of roasted garlic aioli. I liked the oak-fired carrots with herbed yogurt, crushed hazelnuts and plenty of fresh dill ($9) enough that I ordered them on another visit to compare. But the sweetness that came through the first time I ordered them was replaced by bitterness the second go around. Rich and gooey, the double smash Wagyu beef burger with Gruyere, roasted shallots and garlic aioli on a toasted bun hit the right buttons ($18) – I split it with my dining partner, whose ziti with yellow tomato sofrito, goat cheese and Swiss chard ($25) was the kind of gummy that comes from resting a little too long.  

All in all, The Bridgewater feels like a restaurant growing into itself – lots of promise, just needs some buffing. 

Oak-fired carrots at The Bridgewater; Photo by Tom Grimm

The Bridgewater Modern Grill 

2011 S. FIRST ST. | 414-299-6556

Hours: Sun-Thurs 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Prices: $18-$45

Service: Attentive, accommodating

Reservations: Recommended


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January 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.