At this time of the year, if you’re looking for food on-a-stick, you normally have one choice: the Wisconsin State Fair.
But all of that has changed thanks to Iron Grate’s residency at Lost Whale, 2151 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., which is in full effect between now and October (and maybe longer, if all goes well).
Those in-the-know have likely already tried the live fire restaurant’s delicious yakitori-style offerings. But for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, let me lay it all out for you.
First, saunter through Lost Whale’s well appointed digs, admiring that beautiful pearlescent paint gracing the walls. That’s the work of Colleen Drew of Drew Arts, and it’s beautiful. Be sure to stop off at the bar to grab one of their refreshing and whimsically-named cocktails. Despite their crafty nature, all the time-consuming labor has been accomplished in advance, so they can pour one up for you in a jiffy.
Drink in hand, take a seat on the bar’s lovely patio, where you can peruse the Iron Grate truck’s menu (it will be printed on butcher paper and hanging from the side of the truck). Try not to get too overwhelmed. There are quite a few choices, some reminiscent of traditional barbecue and others Latin- or Asian-inspired, and all priced between $4 and $6 per skewer. And I have to say, they’re all pretty delicious.
All items are made to order by Abby Kazal-Thresher (that nice lady in the truck), so your food is going to take a bit of time. But that’s just fine. After all, you’ve got your delicious cocktail, a glorious seat in the sunshine (or shade), and the knowledge that something delicious is coming your way.
If you’re with a group who doesn’t mind sharing, just order the entire menu. It is likely to cost you about $50 or so, but it will provide a good amount of food for about four people. If you’re just ordering for yourself, ordering two or three skewers is a good place to start for a meal. One lone skewer (although that’s such a shame) makes a great bar snack if you’re not quite ready for the full commitment.
Among the choices on our visit were head-on shrimp with a sambal dressing; chicken with a barbeque glaze and mustard remoulade; smoked pork loin with barbeque sauce and scallions; soy-hondashi glazed pork belly with sambal and Sriracha mayo; and a snappily-cased smoked sausage served with a liberal drizzle of mustard remoulade.
Vegetable options include "harpooned" corn on the cob with "Grandpa Spice," cotija cheese and jalapeno crema; and mushrooms and scallions marinated in sambal dressing and served with Sriracha mayo.
The corn screams of summer picnics. And the unctuous pork belly is as indulgent as a pork product can be. They’ve also recently upgraded their shrimp offering to an Argentinian red shrimp that possesses an ultra sweet flesh that’s reminiscent of lobster.
There’s also often (but not always) a special or two. During our trip that was a jalapeno cheddar dog (not skewered) served on a bun with pickled red onions and jalapeno crema ($6). There was also a special kebab featuring grilled ham and peaches with honey butter (amazing).
Catch Iron Grate at Lost Whale Thursday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight and Sundays from 3 to 8 p.m. Service is weather dependent, so keep that in mind. When in doubt, call before you visit.
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.