Mi-key's, 811 N. Jefferson St., has been relatively quiet in the marketplace since it opened just over a year ago, but perhaps that is by design. The restaurant's home hasn't been the most successful of locations in the past, with Zyng Asian Grill and Monsoon making brief appearances before Mi-keys opened its doors last spring.
The restaurant is owned by Michael Polaski of the Brookfield Monsoon, who recently introduced Umami Moto (now with two locations) and his new venue, Charro.
Polaski is a partner in the more recent venues with Milwaukee Street's Tom Wachman and Omar Shaikh, but Mi-key's is more tranquil than what one would find on Milwaukee Street, and the dining and service here are comfortable and good. The restaurant's catchphrase, "diversity in dining" holds true here, where clientele ranges from young and trendy in the bar area to a more mature crowd in the back, now non-smoking, dining area.
The menu at Mi-keys is extensive, and from our experiences, everything here is well-prepared. If you're looking for a delicious and expertly prepared meal, don't be deterred by the stale smoke in the bar area near the entry, which tends to linger after busy social evenings. The short walk to the back room is well worth it.
Sliders ($8.95) at Mi-keys, are easily some of the better ones in town, with a trio of black angus, ground turkey and a Strauss veal and pork burger, juicy and served on lovely buttered tiny buns.
Mi-key's features Strauss, Nueske's and other local purveyors, and they use their products well. The veal and pork burger was a quick favorite, although all three were delightful, and the healthy serving of Vidalia onion strings made this an option for an entrée, too. Those onion strings also appear with several entrees and are not to be missed. Perfectly seasoned and with a slight sweetness from the Vidalias, they give onion strings a whole new depth.
There are two soups of the day at Mi-key's ($4.50) and a cream cheese potato was rich, creamy and well-seasoned. A roasted vegetable salad ($7.95) was also good, with roasted eggplant, peppers and portobello mushrooms on a hearty salad plated topped with fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette.
Shareable portions at Mi-keys are really shareable -- for multiple people. On one visit, a dining companion ordered the baby back trio ($18.95) for his entrée and received a full rack of ribs with three different preparations and a host of onion strings, mashed potatoes and cabbage slaw that could have easily fed three people, if not four.
All three rib preparations were unique, and our favorite was the sesame glazed. But Polynesian barbeque carried an intriguing sweetness, and the New Glarus beer-braised ribs were flavorful with a dry rub seasoning. The meet was tender and well-presented, making Mi-key's a great destination for good ribs -- something hard to find Downtown.
A special -- roasted Cornish hen with gnocchi in a mushroom cream sauce ($17.95) -- mirrored many of the elements of Mi-key's comfort with a twist section of the menu. Mi-key's carries a lot of poultry items, which is not common in restaurants lately, and it does the poultry well. The hen was roasted to a tender and juicy perfect temperature, and the gnocchi was a great complement with its rich cream and mushroom pieces.
Overall, dining at Mi-key's was one of our more enjoyable Downtown dining experiences on both occasions. Service is prompt, but not pushy, and the food is good, solid and consistent.
If you haven't visited yet, put this restaurant on your short list. The recent back room renovations and the revised menu make Mi-key's pop, which will hopefully also make it a permanent resident on Cathedral Square.
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.