Other than a brief tasting at a media preview on opening weekend and a quick lunch, I realized recently, I'd never properly dined at Millioke before. Last weekend, I rectified that.
Part of what spurred me on was news that the menu has changed to reflect the changing ingredients available to Chef Patrick Taylor, who told me last summer:
"The quest never ends. Every day I find a new ingredient, cheese or beer that blows me away. The menu is constantly evolving to highlight what myself, or Sous Chef Brian Atkinson finds."
So, we visited and took advantage of a quiet table in a private dining area that afforded us a great view of the dining room and the comings and goings of guests.
And we started by sampling a pair of cocktails – including a super-strong riff on the classic old fashioned – off a recently revamped drinks menu, and a cheese and charcuterie board that set the evening off on a serious high point.
The snap and light singe of Usinger's spice Linguica was joined by a maple brown sugar-laced Big Fork bacon sausage, Bolzano's delish figgy pudding and a summer sausage from Nueske's.
There were also some incredible cheeses from Widmer in Theresa (a rich, complex six-year cheddar!), Pleasant Ridge in Dodgeville (the firm, nutty white Reserve), Sartori in Plymouth (the award-winning Bellavitano Gold) and Montchevre's sweet, ripened goat brie from Belmont.
The board, which also included cups of two kinds of mustard, cornichons and other nibbles, was a pretty major highlight, though a pair of appetizers was no less satisfying, especially when paired with a flight of Millioke beers brewed specially for the restaurant by Lakefront.
My companion preferred the spicy shrimp, but I devoured the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly cubes, served atop a bed of cheese-laden grits that were sweet and creamy. Sinful but oh so good (in moderation).
My trout entree – an off-menu special with lentils and grilled asparagus – was based around flaky, flavorful fish sourced from Palmyra's Rushing Waters and we also enjoyed the tender tallow-brushed New York Strip and a perfectly grilled bone-in pork chop that is a feature of the new menu (as is the pork belly app).
Because you'll eat so heartily at the Wisconsin-themed and -sourced Millioke, dessert can be pleasingly rich and modest at the same time thanks to the restaurant's mini-sized options that run $3 each. You can order multiples and get a rack holding double-shot-sized glasses of Door County cherry cobbler, German chocolate cake, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate mousse, vanilla custard or Purple Door ice cream.
Most everything we enjoyed during our meal – the Illinois-made Big Fork sausage was an exception – was made in Wisconsin, including our friendly and knowledgeable server, who, like the Pleasant Ridge cheese, hails from Dodgeville.
With all the local ingredients, dining at Millioke feels sort of like eating at home ... a home with a good chef in the kitchen.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.