By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Aug 05, 2020 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

Oggie’s, Downtown’s newest restaurant, made its official debut on Tuesday, Aug. 4 at Hotel Metro, 411 E. Mason St. with a menu of European-inspired New American cuisine rooted firmly in Midwestern charm.

The new restaurant concept is led by Chef Thomas Hauck, former owner of c.1880 and (more recently) culinary director for the Lowlands Restaurant Group, along with a team of industry veterans that includes veteran bartender and beverage manager Jeff Cleveland and dining room manager Gina Pastori.

Both the hotel and restaurant, owned by John Ogden and managed by Oklahoma-based Coury Hospitality has undergone a significant remodel in preparation for its debut in the coming months as a Marriott Autograph. The result is a remodeled space that simultaneously hearkens back to the past while showcasing a distinctly modern flair.

Distanced dining

The transformation begins with the bar, which sports a refurbished bar with a marble top, sleek white tile with gold accents and shelving accented by retro typewriters and greenery. 

Meanwhile, the accompanying lounge area is made for enjoying drinks or snacks, outfitted with comfortable new furnishings in turquoise, cream and black.

The dining room, which boasts a wealth of natural light softened by sheer window dressings, showcases a palette of neutral grey and black accented by deep turquoise accents. Tables have been arranged to accommodate generous social distancing, along with accommodations for about 32; meanwhile the glass-enclosed private dining area is available for small groups of up to 15.

The full-service outdoor patio seats up to 28 at well-spaced tables, offering a relaxed urban ambiance that lends itself to leisurely summer meals enjoyed alongside a bottle of rose wine.

In addition to an eye for social distancing, additional safety measures are also top of mind at Oggie's, which employs a variety of safe-guards including strict cleaning procedures, time limits for indoor dining, regular temperature and health checks for employees, online menus (accessible via QR code) and single use paper menus upon request.

On the menu

For those who enjoyed the fare at c.1880, the menu will resonate with familiar elements including artful presentation, modern technique and well balanced dishes that rely on simple, flavorful ingredients.

Classic cocktails rule the bar menu, along with local craft and international brews and a moderately priced wine list which favors selections from France and Italy. Accompanying snacks include selections like deviled eggs with smoked salmon and crisp capers ($8); Bavarian pretzel with obatzda and Dusseldorf mustard ($6); artichoke and smoke trout dip ($7); frites with Oggie's secret sauce ($6) and tempura caulilini with piri piri and lime crema (pictured, $8).

Lunch options overlap the dinner menu to great extent, but also include more casual fare including roast beef on a croissant with smoked onion, aged cheddar and horseradish (served with frites for $13); a fried chicken sandwich with red cabbage slaw and dijonaise (with frites, $13); and a double smash burger with aged cheddar, pickled peppers and onion marmalade (with frites, $14). 

The dinner menu includes starters like an elegant summer tomato tart featuring a base of Milwaukee Pretzel Company flatbread topped with raw, roasted and pickled tomatoes on a bed of charred eggplant flavored with elephant garlic ($12).

Meanwhile, tender pork belly embraces Asian-inspired flavor with X.O. sauce, crisp ginger and daikon, balanced with the acidic pop of pickled, smashed cucumber ($14).

Guests will also find steak tartare served on Breadsmith salted rye with Yuppie Hill egg yolk and Hauck's signature onion marmalade ($15); and Indian-inspired fresh corn soup flavored with tikka masala, cilantro and crab, along with tiny pops of texture from delicately seasoned boundi (pictured, $11).

More indulgent options include a classic foie torchon with seasonal strawberries, sweet peppers, pickled fennel and brioche ($18).

Entrees include lighter fare like mussels in vadouvan curry with frites ($21); and Ora King salmon served with elephant beans, summer squash and marjoram ($32); and summer-drenched ricotta gnocchi with summer squash, shiitake mushrooms, basil and bi-colored corn ($19). 

Meanwhile crisp seared scallops are served alongside charred broccoli rabe and fennel with roasted lemon yogurt and peanuts ($33).

Heavier options include duck with summer beans, charred cabbage, pistachio and cherry jus ($36); a braised Duroc pork chop with Kumato tomatoes, berbere seasoning and marinated white anchovies over polenta ($28); and prime ribeye with beets, smoked potatoes, horseradish and bordelaise ($39).

On the sweeter side are desserts (available all day) like a cherry tart with pistachio, tarragon and white chocolate ($9); glazed mini strawberry bundt cakes served with balsamic ice cream ($9); a trio of sorbets (coconut, passion fruit and strawberry, $7); and another Hauck classic, the Whatchamacallit, which captures the flavors and textures of the classic candy bar in the form of peanut butter rice crisps, crunchy Valrhona pearls and peanut brittle paired with chocolate mousse and both chocolate and browned butter ice cream ($10).

Oggie’s is currently open Tuesday through Saturday, with lunch service from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., lounge service from 2:30 p.m. to close and dinner beginning at 5 p.m. (last reservations available at 10 p.m.).

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.