Until recent years, the small pocket of the Third Ward once known as "Commission Row" which includes Broadway from Buffalo to St. Paul, had few dining options save a small bakery and deli across the street called La Boulangerie. Wholesale produce vendors lined the near north end of the street -- giving the site its name -- and restaurateurs could easily purchase boxes of some of the best, freshest produce in town.
More recently, with the arrival of Sauce in 2000 and a following of other restaurants including The Palms and Wicked Hop, Broadway has become more of what a layman would think of as a restaurant row; quite literally, there is now a row of restaurants to choose from on this strip.
So, when "La Bou," as patrons affectionately deemed it, vacated their basement level space after over 20 years of business, the area was quickly snatched up and replaced with Broadway Bistro and the Broadway Bakery and Café, 241 N. Broadway.
Much of the bakery business has been preserved, and has even expanded to some degree; this little bakery supplies many of the wholesome homemade breads you find in other eateries around town.
Dinner patrons of the Bistro are welcomed with a round of lovely, light, delicious bread fresh from their bakery and a garlic olive oil that will make your heart stop. But, the bakery here is the true find.
We found both lunch and dinner to be below par for the price and the variety of options nearby. Broadway Bistro has suffered the undertow of rotating in and out several chefs since opening, and while the location and bakery are both ideal, this is not yet a destination stop for a fabulous lunch or dinner.
Lunch outside on the sidewalk seemed perfect for a recent sunny visit, but we were chagrined with the BYO (Build Your Own) burger, which, at the hefty price of $9.95, left my dining companion with a residual charred taste, and there is little worse than the flavor of burnt ground beef.
The grilled tuna sandwich ($11.75) was a little better. I chose the sesame ginger option, which appeared on a large focaccia roll with a lemon and tarragon mayonnaise, which was delicious, but the 2-oz. tuna steak, although tender and flavorful, was dwarfed by the bread.
Dinner below street level in the bistro was peaceful, as it does not draw a large crowd weeknights according to our server. But, sometimes having only one table of diners in an establishment can work against the kitchen for timing purposes, and it did in our case.
The bleu cheese tenderloin bacon wraps ($10.95) seemed promising at the first few bites, but the steak was not properly trimmed, and combined with the fatty bacon, it made the dish too gristly for our tastes.
A mahi mahi special ($18.95) was sold as appearing atop a fruit risotto, but the rice that came with the fish steak was merely fruited rice, without the creamy texture and flavors of a traditional risotto. A mango scallop entrée ($23.95) did not fare much better, with the scallops overseared to a rubbery texture within.
Broadway Bistro is open for breakfasts daily, and with stellar bakery, it is likely a great stop in the early mornings for something to start your work or play day off either within the café itself, or as a grab and go. But, for lunch or dinner, there are many more restaurants to choose from on Broadway with better results. Hopefully with time Broadway Bistro can begin to cook up some dishes that meet or exceed the quality of their baked goods.
Broadway Bistro is open Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. through 3 p.m. Catering is available.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.