Each week we are featuring a new restaurant as part of “Cash Mob MKE,” an initiative created to give Milwaukee restaurants a boost during these tough times. Click here for a delectable repast of everything we’ve ordered (maybe inspiration for your next carry-out meal)
O'Lydia's Bar & Grill
338 S. 1st St., (414) 271-7546
It’s been over a decade since O’Lydia’s opened its doors in Walker’s Point. But – If you didn’t know better – you might think the bar had been there forever. That’s because it has the sort of warm, friendly vibe you get from spots that are both comfortable and firmly planted in their digs. In O’Lydia’s case, the digs are a building with over 100 years of history, first as a Pabst tide house and later as a string of bars including Smuggler’s and Slim McGinn’s. That history is still intact in the form of original hardwood floors, a tin ceiling and a classic old school bar.
You’ll also find a menu filled with scratch made bar staples, from excellent wings and appetizers to Reuben sandwiches and entrees like housemade meatloaf. Today, you’ll also find a half-pound burger topped with smoked gouda, grilled onions and spicy Asian mayo on special for $8.95 (served on a pretzel roll with a choice of one side).
On my recent trip to O’Lydia’s, I ordered up a mix of tried-and-true staples, along with a few items I’ve never tried before.
We passed up our usual wings in favor of a combo plate of must-try Reuben rolls (house corned beef, kraut and Swiss cheese) and mozzarella sticks, both hand-rolled in wonton wrappers and fried until crisp (four for $9; six for $12 or eight for $16).
The Reuben rolls come with tangy Thousand Island dressing, while the mozzarella is accompanied by a tasty marinara sauce for dipping. Order a few extras if you like; they reheat well in the oven. Both were great paired up with the Murphy's Stout ($5 for a 12-ounce can).
If you’re feeling virtuous, O’Lydia’s offers a number of tasty salads (I'm partial to the Cobb). I’d never seen the kale and roasted butternut salad on the menu before, so I decided to give it a try; it made for a great vegetable side, boasting tender roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries and goat cheese with a maple vinaigrette that added a sweet, and almost smokey flavor to the winter salad ($12).
Among the new-to-us items was their Nashville hot chicken sandwich which featured a panko-breaded chicken breast topped with creamy coleslaw (served with house chips for $12).
The breading was ultra crisp (and remained so via carry-out). I was hoping for a more distinctive kick, overall; but this is a Nashville chicken sandwich that’s built for… let’s just call it a more Midwestern palate. It had a bit of pleasant heat, but it wasn’t enough to require a glass of milk to squelch the fire.
We also tried the Irish Beef sandwich featuring shredded pot roast in Guinness gravy, served on your choice of rolls (we got ours on a French roll with mashed potatoes on the side, $12).
The beef was comfortingly tender, as good pot roast tends to be, and it carried out well, thanks to the nicely toasted bun. The rustic skin-on red potatoes were garlicky with a homestyle texture thanks to a rough mash.
You’ll also find the Irish beef in O’Lydia’s shepherd’s pie, dapple with peas and covered in mashed potatoes and shredded cheddar (served with garlic bread for $11).
All told, the meal brought back fond memories of hanging out at local bars with friends, nibbling appetizers and engaging in good old fashioned face-to-face conversation. At the time, it was a blessing I took for granted. These days, it's something more.
Ah, well. As the old saying goes: "If you can’t go out to the bar, just bring the bar home with you."
How to order
O'Lydia's offers onsite pick-up or limited dine-in service. Just call (414) 271-7546 to place an order. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If you choose to participate in our restaurant love bomb, bolster your support by sharing photos of your meal on social media using #CashMobMKE.
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.