For the ninth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2015."
221 N. Water St.
New contemporary Asian restaurant, Lucky Ginger, opened its doors a few months back, in the space formerly occupied by Cynthia's in the Historic Third Ward. The bright restaurant offers a hybrid of classic Asian cuisine and contemporary fusion.
Hours: Lucky Ginger is open Tuesday through Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m., for lunch and dinner.
Atmosphere: The space is clean and minimalistic, warmed by cream city brick and huge windows overlooking the Milwaukee River. A small bar is situated at the front of the space and offers stools for patrons wanting to dine near the compact open kitchen.
Drinks: Beverages include cocktails such as a cucumber basil gimlet ($10), beer and soft drinks, including Thai iced tea ($3).
Food highlights: Lucky Ginger offers up lunch specials between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and include a cup of tom yum, tom kha or egg roll, all of which were nicely executed and flavorful. The tom yum could be a new favorite to kick that cold or sinus issue with the slow heat that pleasantly builds up from its broth.
The house-made pork dumplings – which we ordered immediately upon sitting down as the menu noted they take 25 minutes – featured a thick, chewy dough and were a highlight of the meal with their delectable gingery sauce.
Two fried rice options are offered daily on the lunch menu. We sampled the Thai basil ($7.95) and added shrimp for an extra $3. The rice was flavorful and the bowl of rice, eggs, bell peppers and basil was served piping hot.
Noodles are plentiful on the menu and you can't go wrong with pad kee mao (drunken noodles). Wide rice noodles are stir fried with bell peppers, baby corn, carrot and Thai basil ($7.95) and the noodles held their shape quite well. No gummy bowl of noodles here – the dish brought both the flavor and texture one would expect from the dish.
Lucky Ginger has four options for pho (if you don't know how to pronounce it by now please go read this by our Lori Fredrich) on the menu that include choices for both meat lovers and vegetarians alike. We sampled the special ($11) which included rice noodle, steak, flank, brisket, tendon and meatball, all in a delicate but flavorful star anise-forward broth. While the pho was quite good – and I will be back for it again – we wished that the Sriracha and hoisin sauce would be offered automatically. I really enjoyed the meatballs, made with the same pork used for the dumplings.
Service: While we were greeted and seated promptly, a relatively full lunch crowd and light staffing left us wanting refills on water and drinks. Had they inquired, we would have told them the food we ordered was tasty.
Price: Noodle dishes include pad Thai ($10-$12), a ginger noodle bowl ($11) and pad kee mao (drunken noodles) ($10-$12). The menu is rounded out with two versions of fried rice ($8-$12), a red curry ($10-$12), massaman curry ($10-$12), and entrees that range from Korean short ribs ($14) to ginger steak ($18.50). Lunch specials are available daily.
Misses: We didn't have misses, culinary-wise, during our visit. In fact, service was the only deficit in our otherwise solid experience. The food and drink were on point and we will be back soon.
Carolynn Buser is one of Milwaukee's loudest and most adamant cheerleaders (don't dare try to disagree). She's the primary voice behind much of OnMilwaukee's social media and content direction, and apologizes in advance if she can be too sarcastic at times.
What else? She's a wine lover, closet trashy novel reader, beauty supplies addict and devourer of cheese (shocker for a Wisconsin born and bred girl, right?). She's also a bit of a foodie, which is a word most of you hate, we know. She works as hard as she plays - and that includes in the gym! So, you've probably seen her at one of the area's newest restaurant openings (and yes, she will share her opinions good or bad) or enjoying a cold one at a local pub.
All in all, Carolynn's a believer in positive thinking and will do her best to smack down your negative ones while writing about her city, her loves, quests and more.