Morel, a restaurant we previewed in June and one of Walker’s Point’s most anticipated new venues, debuted its contemporary American menu this past week at 430 S. 2nd St.
Chef-owner Jonathan Manyo, whose experience includes work at The Immigrant in Kohler and – most recently -- at Lincoln Restaurant in Portland, Ore., returned to Milwaukee two years ago with the goal of creating a restaurant that paid homage to local growers and producers.
"It was amazing seeing the first person walk in the door for our soft opening, and getting into the kitchen and cooking," Manyo says, noting that things have gone quite well with the opening.
"We're still working on getting the front of the house up to speed, but the food is really already up to par; we haven't really had many hiccups," he notes.
And his inaugural menu, which includes the traditional starters and main courses along with charcuterie and cheese boards, showcases a nice variety of local, seasonal fare.
Pricing for starter courses runs from $8 to $12. Selections change daily, but feature salads and flatbread using ingredients like summer squash, beets, cherries and baby greens.
A popular starter features fresh beets with cream and nutmeg served with grilled sourdough for $8, while a grilled herb flat bread showcases burrata, currant preserves and baby kale for $12.
"We're really excited about the growing season picking up," Manyo remarks. "We'll be starting to see some new items like tomatoes -- probably later this week -- so we'll be replacing the beet dish with something similar made with tomatoes, and then bring the beet dish back in the fall."
A cheese board for $15 features Pleasant Ridge, Dunbarton Blue, Hook's 10-year cheddar and Petite Nuage, while a charcuterie board for $16 showcases coppa, rillettes, a pheasant terrine and smoked trout.
Main courses, priced between $16 and $24 feature traditional proteins such as beef, lamb, and pork along with items like crisp-skinned pheasant breast ($22) and whole grilled trout with herb butter, potato and rainbow chard ($20). Vegetarian options like farrotto (risotto made with farro) with kale and egg ($16) round out the options.
Derek DuCharme of National Bakery is handling pastry work for the restaurant, and is currently showcasing inventive items like goat cheesecake with currants and currant sauce ($8), Door County cherry tamales with cherry sauce and tequila sabayon ($8) and raspberry rhubarb clafoutis with rhubarb sauce ($8).
The bar is offering updated takes on classic cocktails like a Rhum Old Fashioned with whiskey bitters, the Hemingway daiquiri made with rum, grapefruit and lime, the classic gin-based Aviation, and a KK Smash featuring Great Lakes whiskey, lemon, mint, ginger ale and bitters.
"Today we infused bourbon with Door County cherries, and that will be rolling out in drinks -- probably later this week," Manyo says.
Morel also offers a selection of bottled and tap beer, along with a wine list that errs on the side of affordability with most bottles under the $50 price point.
Morel will be open for dinner service Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations can be made by calling (414) 897-0747.
Read more about the philosophy behind Manyo's farm-to-table concept.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.