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Last September, we brought you the news that Dino’s, a longtime Riverwest staple at 808 E. Chambers St., would be reopening under new ownership after closing its doors in 2018.
And the popular neighborhood bar did, in fact, reopen last December, thanks to hard work on the part of new owners Dan Budziszewski and Mike Brumm, who put a great deal of thought into creating a modern bar that was warm, welcoming – and most importantly – inclusive for folks from Riverwest and beyond.
In an effort to offer the best possible service, Budziszewski says they have been very intentional about the re-opening, first opening as a bar-only establishment and then adding live music and entertainment to the mix.
At the bar, guests can choose from over 40 craft brews, seasonal cocktails and an impressive selection of mocktails including a lemon basil spritzer, an apple pie Moscow mule, virgin margaritas and bloody marys and drinks like The Hiccups (club soda, angostura and lime) or The Cinderella (lemon, pineapple, grenadine, seltzer). Non-alcoholic brews, including Lagunitas NIPA and their Hop Water, Heinekin 0.0. and (fittingly) Riverwest Stein N/A, an homage to the brewery which got its start right next door to Dino’s.
Just three weeks ago, they also opened up their kitchen, launching a menu of basic bar bites, sandwiches and a Friday night fish fry. But Budziszewski says that the current offerings are just the beginning, though they are taking care to dial in each dish before adding new offerings.
“We started out with some really basic bar food,” he says. “And we just added fish fry. The plan moving forward will be to add a few vegetarian options, and then – when it gets warmer – we plan to add brunch on Sundays… And we’re currently developing our sauce and dough so that we can add pizza to the menu. Eventually we’ll also open up later on Sunday nights for a service industry night.”
But guests needn’t wait to sample the new Dino’s menu, which is already filled with a slate of satisfying scratch-made staples.
From famous wings to fish fry
When Brumm and Budziszewski purchased the bar, they not only acquired a friendly neighborhood watering hole, but also the recipe for a popular staple: Dino’s wings.
The flavorful wings, which are baked, flash fried for crispness and then flame-grilled, are back on the menu, served up by the pound with celery and a choice of ranch or blue cheese dressing ($13).
But guests will also find a number of other snackable items, including bowls of hand cut fries, which have been rinsed and double fried so they are crispy on the exterior, creamy in the middle and nicely seasoned ($5).
House-breaded chicken “Tendies” are also on offer for $8 with guests’ choice of house-made ranch, blue cheese dressing, hatch chili aioli, pomodoro or barbeque sauce.
And since no self-respecting Wisconsin bar would be caught without fried cheese curds, they’ve got those too. The hand-battered Ellsworth white cheddar curds are served with a side of house pomodoro sauce ($9).
The same might be said of a good bar burger, which Dino’s seems to have mastered. Their double cheeseburger comes with two thin smash patties (complete with the requisitely crispy edges), American cheese, house pickles and shaved red onion, all piled on a Breadsmith bun ($14).
Guests can also order their choice of chicken sandwiches, either grilled chicken breast (with tomato and Romaine lettuce, $11) or buttermilk fried chicken thigh with house pickles and sambal aioli ($12). And, for the kid inside all of us, there’s even a grilled cheese sandwich featuring grilled sourdough bread stuffed with a combination of American, muenster and cheddar cheeses ($10).
Even the salads are far more than an afterthought. Spinach salad features pickled apples, shaved red onion, candied pecans, bacon and gorgonzola cheese with a lemon-honey vinaigrette ($13), while their kale salad features maple roasted carrots, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, shredded parmesan and a creamy lemon-maple dressing ($11).
Missing Dino's Italian fare? Order the pork meatballs en brodo served with charred leeks, sauteed spinach, parmesan broda and Breadsmith baguette ($14).
On Fridays, guests can also enjoy Dino’s fish fry which features a choice of battered cod or perch served with crisp house-made coleslaw, grilled Breadsmith rye bread, lemon and your choice of traditional or jalapeno tartar sauce ($13/$14).
Not in the mood for fried fish? Opt for pan-seared cod served on a bed of cauliflower puree with capers, lemon and dill ($17).
Dino’s even has dessert covered. They’re serving bourbon cream puffs featuring house-made pate choux pastry filled with bourbon whipped cream and drizzled with maple creme anglaise ($8).
Dino’s is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. (the kitchen closes nightly at 10 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.