Fans of Bjonda and Gracious Catering were likely somewhat skeptical when Bjonda, the high-end Wauwatosa restaurant, morphed into Firefly Urban Bar and Grill, 7754 Harwood Ave.
Bjonda, which was known for its high-quality and high-priced cuisine and cocktails, seemed an unlikely candidate for successful transformation into a more casual sports bar meets upscale casual dining eatery. But as seems to be the trend in recent months, this unlikely marriage of flat screen televisions, chandeliers and moderately priced, solid fare and cocktails works well at Firefly.
Returning patrons will notice little change in the décor at Firefly, but new touches like red gingham napkins and a two-sided menu heavy with appetizers immediately bring you into the restaurant's updated theme. Firefly offers 12 "pre-fire" options with everything from tuna tartare ($13.25) to hummus ($8.25).
Two separate visits to Firefly were both outstanding, with every item we sampled excelling in both presentation and taste, and aside from a slight timing issue during a busy Thursday night dinner, the service at Firefly proved exceptional, also.
Nachos ($9.95) were plated on a large rectangular serving platter with each individual tortilla chip laden with roasted tomato salsa, a mild shredded chicken, refried beans and Monterey jack cheese. Beer crust pizza with lamb sausage ($11.50) featured a light, sweet and pleasantly yeast-heavy crust with tiny pieces of lamb sausage, pickled red onions and scamorza cheese (similar to a firm, somewhat salty mozzarella) for a wonderful flavor combination. Fondue ($7.75) was a creamy gruyere and white cheddar combination served with granny smith apples and slightly toasted dipping bread.
Micro Burgers ($12.95) from the sandwich selections featured a decadent trio of juicy mini burgers with mushroom boursin, gorgonzola and smoked onion mustard, and smoked bacon and white cheddar and came with choice of two sides; hand-cut, double-fried fries and simple slaw were good accompaniments.
The "fire" section of the menu offers chicken, pork, lamb, beef, shrimp, pasta and vegetables with various smoked or grilled presentations and a varied selection of sauces for sampling including chimichurri, mole, and feta cucumber to name a few. Beer braised beef brisket ($17.50) was wonderfully flavorful and well-complimented by smoked mustard, Caribbean jerk and poblano rioja sauces. A side of mustard leek potato salad was interesting and delicious.
A chili soy Mahi Mahi ($19.25) was also excellent, and sauces of Thai mango salsa, cilantro pineapple and gingered chutney all worked well with the dish. Creamy polenta and skin-on, chive mashed potatoes were also excellent.
Service at Firefly was prompt, and the servers were well-versed in the menu items. Unprompted, our server provided several recommendations, and aside from entrees appearing a bit too soon on one visit, timing was excellent. We were also pleased with the tag team service employed at Firefly. From entrance to exit, every associate made us feel welcomed and important, a rare service art these days.
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.