Five years ago, Lagniappe Brasserie opened its doors in a former New Berlin residence that once housed the famous Steven Wade's Café, to serve up French influenced cuisine.
The restaurant is cute, and not surprisingly, given the building's original intent, homey. Teal blues flood the walls and white-tableclothed tables fill three separate rooms. The dinner menu changes daily and offers choice of soup or salad with most of their moderately priced entrees.
We missed the lettering on the front sign advertising half-priced bottles of wine, so we were doubly pleased to see that our purchase of what we thought was a $28 bottle of wine was adjusted to $14 on our tab.
And while the food at Lagniappe may not be as impressive as at other French restaurants in the area, these types of inclusions and promotions make it a more affordable option for diners who want to dabble in French cuisine.
On a recent scouting visit, our lagniappe arrived in the form of a small square of buffalo quiche, and the soup selections were cream of asparagus or lentil. Priced a la carte, you can sample the soups and salads for $4 to $5, and no appetizer, even if it's escargot en croute or Scottish highland steer carpaccio, runs more than $10.
Main courses on the rotating menu run the gamut from Costa Rican swordfish steak to Amish chicken and osso buco made with beef and buffalo to wild gulf shrimp in crab butter, and most fall in the $16-$25 range, with some more elite nightly selections hovering closer to $30.
For the top tier price, you can expect to see featured items like Kobe beef ribeye or broiled lobster tails. On my visit, Lagniappe also offered an off the menu special of pan fried grouper which quickly sold out on a Wednesday evening before 7 p.m.
Lunches at Lagniappe offer something different with homemade soups, freshly squeezed juices, salads, quiches and "fine dining sandwiches."
The sandwiches showcase out-of-the-ordinary lunch options like a free-range beefalo burger, a handmade frankfurter and California style pulled lamb, all served with choice of tabouleh salad, cottage cheese or gaufrette chips (waffle cut potato chips).
Desserts come with a cake option, homemade sorbet or custard, and a rotating pie, again, all reasonably priced at an average of $5. Notably, Lagniappe also offers an imported and domestic cheese ensemble ($10) for those who care to end their meals with a traditional cheese course rather than something sweet.
Lagniappe is literally translated as "a small gift given a customer by a merchant at purchase," and is oft used in the restaurant industry to denote superb service, or the act of going above and beyond.
At Lagniappe Brasserie, the lagniappe, or as our server said, is "a little something extra" in the form of an amuse bouche (a tiny, bite sized appetizer to awaken the taste buds) for dinner and as something sweet for lunch.
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.