By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 28, 2019 at 10:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

It's time for Dining Month, presented by Deer District and its spooky Halloween-themed alter ego, Fear District. Throughout the month of October, we'll be serving up fun and fascinating content about all things food. The signature dish, however, is our 2019 Best of Dining poll, who's winners we will dish out all month long. Get hungry, Milwaukee! 

Walk into Ash, the newly reconcepted restaurant at the Iron Horse Hotel, 500 W. Florida St., and you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised.

The restaurant officially made its debut on Friday, Oct. 18; but finishing touches on the space are finally in place, including brand new chairs and small touches which enhance the already transformed venue.

If you were familiar with Smyth, you’ll note that Ash is brighter and warmer thanks to the exchange of red paint for natural cream tones and new lighting, which offers the room a gentle glow.

Seating is available at a mix of both high- and low-top tables, as well as cozy booths against the northern and eastern walls.

Cream and grey plaid upholstered chairs give the space a rustic-modern look with leather seats that tie in with the booths.

By day, succulents from Cora Flora Studio adorn the restaurant’s tables, replaced by the warming glow of candles during dinner service when diners can enjoy a custom playlist created for the restaurant by DJ Bizzon.

The focal point of the restaurant is, of course, the open hearth where chefs prepare a menu of simple, seasonal dishes over the open wood fire. A chef’s table offers diners a bird’s eye view of the process.

The glow of the fire brings warmth and ambiance to the entire restaurant, which is enhanced during the evening hours by artfully constructed reflective panels created by Scathain, a local firm which has crafted countless items for the hotel since its inception. 

Hearth fired fare

As for the menu, it’s created to be flexible. There’s a mix of large and small plates, which can be enjoyed solo or shared; and there’s a mix of both vegetable and meat options to accommodate a variety of diners.

Small plates, which can be consumed as appetizers or sides are priced $6-12 and include options like grilled edamame, cucumber salad and spaetzle with bone marrow, poached eggs and herbs. There’s also venison tartare with rye, horseradish and pickled mustard and beet tartare with seeded crackers and a tahini sumac vinaigrette.

(PHOTO: Plate Photography)

Vegetable plates include grilled eggplant, smoked cauliflower, grilled mushrooms and grilled broccoli served with tonnato sauce (priced $6-10).

(PHOTO: Plate Photography)

There are also starchy sides including hash browns, sour cream crushed potatoes, smashed fingerlings, potatoes au gratin and grits ($4-7).

Large format plates include marinated chicken with lemon and olive oil ($22); bacon wrapped rabbit loin with confit rabbit leg, mustard and cherries ($27); head on prawns with chili butter and toast ($26); scallops with miso brown butter ($30); and American Kobe steak with smoked beef fat ($55).

Platters for two include marinated pork shoulder ($40); whole Peking duck ($70) or grilled short ribs ($60) served with lettuce cups, sauces, fry bread, scallions, cucumbers and radishes.

(PHOTO: Plate Photography)

The bar features a curated wine list featuring a mix of both domestic and international sparkling, whites, roses and reds with a variety available by the glass. The beer list features a variety of styles from pale ales and lagers to sours, porters and stouts. There’s also a list of signature cocktails (from old fashioneds to seasonal cocktails) and a variety of mocktails using fresh fruit and herbs.

Ash also serves brunch on both Saturday and Sunday.

Ash is open Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Reservations are available through OpenTable.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

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.