Blue Jacket is scheduled to open in Walker’s Point at 135 E. National Ave. on Thursday.
The restaurant, which takes the place of Triangle Bar, is described as "a celebration of the Third Coast," according to co-owner Laura van Heijningen. The extensively remodeled space seats 80 total – 40 indoors and another 40 on the patio.
Chef Chad Meier is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who has returned to Milwaukee after training under Justin Wills, a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef Northwest, at Restaurant Beck in Depoe Bay, Ore. Meier’s philosophy is to work with quality local products creating classic cuisine with modern techniques.
He will execute the menu, designed by Chef Karen Bell of Bavette butcher shop in the Third Ward, which features rotating seasonal items from the Great Lakes region.
"Not only are ingredients and inspiration coming from Wisconsin, but all the area surrounding the great lakes," explains Bell. "For example, there is a roasted vegetable poutine on the menu, which is inspired from the other side of the Great Lakes in Canada."
Snacks include popcorn flavored with white cheddar and black truffle ($4) and fried Clock Shadow Creamery cheese curds served with horseradish sauce ($9), along with house pickled vegetables and deviled eggs ($9).
The "Planks" section of the menu offers diners selections of nibbles, including artisan cheeses and meats, including the Wisconsin Old School featuring beef and buffalo summer sausage, braunschweiger, beef jerky and a cheddar ball served with crackers and bread ($12).
The remainder of the menu is fun and accessible, composed of mostly small plates with a strong seafood presence.
Intriguing vegetarian items include aforementioned roasted vegetable poutine ($14) as well as wild rice gnudi with broccoli rabe, chile, charred lemon fondue and ricotta ($12). Fish plates include kettle chip fried smelt served with orange, harissa aioli ($9), steamed mussels with Vadouvan curry and fennel ($12), and cedar planked walleye ($13).
Carnivores might consider trying the pork striploin with charred peach salsa, browned butter jus, wilted mustard greens and spiced pecans ($9) or sauerkraut, Pecorino and ricotta pancakes served with smoked sausage, apple sauce and chive sour cream ($9).
The cocktail program, which features a nautical theme, was designed by Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz of Bittercube. Drinks will reflects the spirit of the maritime history and the beer list includes draft offerings from Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania and an impressive selection of bottled brews including Hinterland Amber (WI), Ommegang Three Philosophers (NY), Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA (PA), and 3 Floyds Robert the Bruce (IN). The wine list will be similarly varied.
"We’re going to focus on coastal wines – wines made within 30 miles of the coast.It’s sorta kitsch, but I think it will work really well," Koplowitz says. "It also helps to give focus to the wine list, instead of being completely random."
Selections include whites, reds and roses from Spain, France, Italy and Washington State, as well as "Wines of the Sea" – Port, Madeira and Sherry.
"It’s a maritime theme," Koplowitz goes on. "We’re pulling that into all elements of the cocktail menu."
That means a focus on gin- and rum-forward cocktails like the London Fog with smoked tea-infused gin, lemon, grapefruit and chartreuse with sparkling wine ($9), Of the Older Bumbo featuring 12-year Flor de Cana rum, nutmeg and sorghum syrup, and Bittercube's Mahalo bitters ($10), and a daily "Navy Grog" for $6.
In addition to great cocktail offerings, the team plans to implement a high-end coffee program with to-order coffee.
"We’ll be using a new machine that does a chemex," Koplowitz elaborates. "We’ll have three or four different coffees from Alterra, with a focus on seasonal varieties. The idea is to have really good coffee, so Alterra will be training all the bartenders in the craft."
According to van Heigningen, Blue Jacket will open at 4 p.m. daily to start, with the kitchen open until midnight and the bar open later. In a few weeks, they add Saturday and Sunday brunch, beginning at 10 a.m. Parking is available in a lot across from the restaurant on Barclay Street.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.