What's in a restaurant? In this series, we ask chefs around the city to describe their restaurants in their own words and recommend three dishes that embody the best of what they offer. In this edition, we talk with Chef Josh Peterson of Motor Bar & Restaurant.
"The Motor experience is part of the Harley experience, but it also stands well on its own." says Executive Chef Josh Peterson of Motor Bar & Restaurant. "The idea is to give people a place that has a really cool, laid back vibe. Everybody’s welcome, from Harley riders to families. We try to accommodate anyone who comes through the doors, whether they’re local or a tourist who came from across the world."
"We describe the menu as a "road map of America." We have cheese curds from Clock Shadow Creamery. Memphis style ribs. Louisiana jambalaya. Georgia peach cobbler. And then there are Midwestern favorites like burgers and macaroni and cheese with a variety of toppings."
"I was born and raised here, so some of these dishes are things that I grew up eating. And I wanted to do those dishes, but do them way better than what I grew up on. It’s good food done right. We take the extra time to make our food stand out. For instance, we’re smoking all of our own meats. And that’s very hands on; have people constantly watching it so that it’s cooked exactly the way we want it. The goal here isn’t to blow you away with our creativity, but we want to make you some of the best food you’ve ever had."
"Our new menu is taking some of the things we’ve done in the past and doing it even better. We’ve pulled out some of peoples’ favorite things and taken them in a different direction based on customer feedback."
1. Grilled chicken tacos
Cajun marinated grilled chicken thighs topped with chipotle slaw, avocado crema and fresh cilantro ($9.95).
"This is one of my favorite dishes on the menu," notes Peterson. "It’s a prime example of taking what we have and tweaking it to make it better. We’ve substituted chicken thighs for chicken breast. The thighs stay a lot more tender, they grill up better, and you can really taste the difference. We’ve also made them a bit spicier by adding a chipotle coleslaw. And then we balanced the flavors out with a bit of avocado cream."
2. All-day steak & eggs
A cast iron skillet loaded with breakfast potatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tender sirloin steak and a fried egg. Served with our house steak sauce ($13.95).
"These were a bit of an experiment for us," Peterson explains. "We’ve never really done any sort of breakfast dishes since I’ve been here. We’ve had steak dishes on past menus that were good, but never really best sellers. So, we really went back and reinvented the wheel. The goal was to create a skillet where every single bite was as good as the last. The potatoes are roasted, then smashed and fried, so you get the creamy potato with really crisp edges. And then there’s the steak, which is marinated in herb oil and then grilled. When you break the egg on top, the yolk drips down onto the steak and mushrooms and the juices from the steak drip down into the potatoes. It really makes the dish."
3. Brisket mac & cheese
14-hour slow-smoked beef brisket sliced thick atop your mac with house BBQ sauce and crispy fried onions ($13.95).
"This is one example of how we took the mac & cheese on the menu and really made it customizable for guests. We start with our classic macaroni and cheese, which is creamy and unique. We use sauteed vegetables that get blended into the cheese sauce, giving it a really delicious unique flavor. Then we top it with our house-smoked brisket. We’ve spent a lot of time with our brisket to really make it into a great product. In a sense, this is putting two of our best products together in the same dish. And then you top it all off with from-scratch onion rings, which add texture and bring it all together."
Winter hours at Motor are Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.