For the 10th straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2016."
When our readers go all-out for special occasion dining, they've got definite preferences for where they dine. And this year, Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro pushed up through the ranks and edged out Sanford (2015's winner) by a fairly hefty margin.
That said, if you're yearning for French fare with a view, there's no doubt you'll satiate your craving at this Milwaukee restaurant, which opened in 1994. Long revered as one of Milwaukee's best restaurants, Lake Park Bistro is also the restaurant where Bartolotta's Corporate Executive Chef Adam Siegel won his James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest in 2008 .
While you're there, you can can indulge in classic French fare like escargot, foie gras and duck confit, while enjoying a breathtaking bluff-side view of Lake Michigan.
Top competitors for the splurge spot include last year's winning restaurant, Sanford, along with long-time favorite, Eddie Martini's.
Lori Fredrich's pick: Ardent
If you’re splurging, my advice is to go absolutely all the way. Make your reservations, dress up to the nines, and then order up the tasting menu at Ardent. Better yet, buy tickets to one of their fantasti collaborative chef dinners. I dug deep and attended a dinner this past July featuring Chef James Knappett of Kitchen Table and Bubbledogs in London, and it was the sort of experience that you simply can't put a price tag on. Not only was the food innovative and delicious, it challenged me to look at ingredients in an entirely new way. It was intimate and personal. As a diner, I was privileged to be able to interact directly with Knappett, a chef I'd never ordinarily come in contact with (in a place he'd never ordinarily be found). And that alone made it an experience that could never be duplicated. Simply worth every pretty penny I paid. Incidentally, it's also a helluva lot cheaper than flying to London to eat at Kitchen Table!
This year we also asked a variety of prominent Milwaukeeans to weigh in on their pick for specific categories. For this category, we consulted Chris Stolarski, senior communication strategist at Marquette University and MKE foodie.
Stolarski's pick: Ardent
If I’m going to spend – really spend – some money on dinner, I want three things:
1) Amazing food. The menu, smartly selected and brought together in a cohesive way, should feature fresh ingredients, cooked masterfully to create dishes that—above everything else—taste really damn good.
2) A challenge. If I can get the dish somewhere else, I’m not interested. Show me something new, tell me a story and push the boundaries of what I think I know about food.
3) Joy. I want to have fun from the moment I sit and then well past the time I leave.
Justin Carlisle’s Ardent does all of these things, superbly, every time. After a few hours perched at the counter with my wife, Erica, working our way through a thoughtful tasting menu and wine pairings, with the ever-entertaining antics of Justin [Carlisle], Matt [Haase] and the whole crew, the check is trivial.