By Amy L. Carlson   Published Apr 04, 2005 at 5:39 AM Photography: Eron Laber

{image1} When I walked out of the meticulously clean bathroom at Coquette Café, 316 N. Milwaukee St., something interesting caught my eye. Every single water glass on the tables in this French bistro-esque Third Ward restaurant was perfectly aligned with the glasses on the tables preceding them, and the ones on the tables that followed. The effect, with the sunlight streaming in Coquette's large picture windows, was both stunning and symbolic, for this type of painstaking attention to detail makes Coquette Café a must-try for lunch, dinner, dessert or all of the above.

Angie and Sanford D'Amato opened Coquette in the historic landmark building in February 1999, and in doing so, truly created one of Milwaukee's best dining establishments. Coquette's menu rotates in "Travels" and as a result, carries some fine specialties from all over the world.

On two recent visits, we found service at Coquette to be outstanding. The waitstaff was able to hold a professional, yet friendly decorum without the sterile feel found at some high-end Milwaukee eateries. Seating was prompt, and although lunch service was a little too spaced out between entrées and desserts, we were pleased with the punctual and considerate attention we received.


Meals at Coquette begin with a warm, crusty baguette, which we enjoyed best ripped apart and covered with the soft butter. Soupe à l'Oignon (French onion soup, $4.75) was a bit rich for our tastes and had a heavy burgundy wine undertone but was still good. The tuna sandwich ($9.95) arrived grilled perfectly rare, as tuna should be, with cucumbers and a light remoulade and a side dish of Coquette's signature slaw. A croque monsieur (an open-faced grilled ham sandwich with Dijon and melted gruyere, $6.95) was a delectable treat and was served with a side of fresh mixed apples and pears.

A dinner visit focusing on the travels of Degas (in alignment with the Degas exhibit at the museum) yielded a beautifully presented appetizer of sweetbread saltimbocca (veal thymus gland and pancreas, $8.95), which were tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a few thin slices of prosciutto and a delicious drizzle of a spicy sage sauce. Coq au vin (red wine braised chicken, $15.95) was tender and flavorful, and came with a side of creamy mashed potatoes. Halibut ($18.95) was good but not exceptional. The grapefruit beurre blanc wasn't savory enough to make the dish something special.

Desserts at Coquette Café are a definite necessity. Crème brulee ($5.95) was the best we've tried in town, with a lovely poppy seed and light lemon custard. The cafe offers a homemade sorbet ($5.95) daily, and the apricot was luscious and creamy. Citron meringue ($5.95) melded the perfect blend of lemony tartness and sweetness, and the meringue melted in our mouths. But, the to-die-for dessert at Coquette was by far the warm chocolate cake ($5.95), a heavenly treat of rich, moist chocolate cake with a gooey chocolate center. Top it off with a Coquette Café (coffee infused with Godiva dark, Godiva white and Grand Marnier and topped with fresh whipping cream, $6) for the perfect end to a perfect meal.

Coquette Café is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. The restaurant features smoke-free dining and vegetarian options. For more information, call (414) 291-2655. Their Web site is