By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Nov 20, 2007 at 12:57 PM

For my weekly "try someplace new" lunch, my wife and I checked out Karma Bar & Grill today, the space formerly housing Vivo, and before that, John Ernst. The food was OK, but with lousy service and above average prices, this restaurant will have to step it up to compete in the increasingly crowded Milwaukee dining scene.

There's definitely a sports bar theme at Karma, 600 E. Ogden Ave., that looks different than its predecessor. And downstairs, Sutra, seems like it could be a fun bar at night. In fact, I'd like to check out both upstairs (for a Packers game) and downstairs (on a weekend), since I probably won't be back for the food.

We ordered an appetizer of pretzels and melted cheddar cheese for $8, and it was good and delivered quickly. I could've used more pretzels, but unfortunately, our server never returned between the time she put our entrees awkwardly on the side of the table and when she cleared our plates 20 minutes later.

My entrée was the French onion "crock," also for $8. I thought it tasted average or slightly above average. My wife's black bean veggie burger (again, $8) was bland and dry, falling apart before she lifted it off the plate. It came topped with just a little bit of goat cheese, tomato and guac, and a side of wilted and flavorless Asian slaw.

The waitress didn't even check on us once, and when she finally arrived, looking at our empty glasses, she uttered one word: "Finished?"

There was nothing really wrong with my lunch (though my wife's was markedly subpar), but for a $26 lunch, I expect a little more.

I know Karma is new, and I'll try it again after dark. But after a handful of new lunches in as many weeks, this place sadly comes in last place.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.