By Amy L. Schubert Food Writer Published Feb 23, 2009 at 8:07 AM Photography: Whitney Teska

If Milwaukeeans have one constant (and highly generalized) passion, besides our hometown beers, bratwurst and sports, it has to be Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Sleek, sexy and fast, the top of the line bikes roar with delight every time the Milwaukee sun shines down on us, with orange and black blazing. So, putting a restaurant within the Harley-Davidson Museum called Motor, 401 W. Canal St., was not only fitting, it was ingenious.

Motor draws on masculinity, playfulness and industrial sophistication in its décor, and a menu that brags "famed" Milwaukee dishes. Local flavors -- Usinger's Sausages, Nueske's Bacon and Carr Valley cheeses -- make regular appearances in the dishes, none of which is extravagant. The kitchen at Motor cranks out good, heavy, bar-style food, with some surprisingly great entrées, too.

Appetizers at Motor mix home-style basics like onion strings ($6.95) and fried cheese curds ($8) with more adventurous selections like Reuben "potato, potato, potato" pancakes ($10.95) and wood-grilled sausage cuts ($9.95). Grilled knockwurst, bratwurst and bologna are paired with sauerkraut and apple relish and finished with a jumbo pretzel. This dish was a great winter appetizer and could easily do double duty as an entrée. The sausages were perfectly grilled and the relish and sauerkraut added a savory, acidic tang to the dish for good results.

The loaded cheddar burger at Motor ($9.95) is an easy favorite, topped with slices of pickles, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise on a sesame seed bun. The "secret sauce" here is not dissimilar to the ketchup and mayonnaise combination of the classic Burger King Whopper, but tastes a thousand times better when replicated in a non-fast food environment. More and more restaurants are now recreating this fast food phenomena and doing so with great results -- as evidenced here.

A barbecue pork sandwich ($9.95), didn't fare as well, since the pork was dry enough to undermine the flavors of the barbecue, making the sandwich somewhat unpleasant.

But entrées at Motor were, admittedly, better than expected. Ma's Meatloaf ($14.95) provided a large slab of gravy-covered, tender meatloaf, flavored with onions and carrots minced within the loaf. Mashed potatoes were buttery beneath the massive serving and flavorful. The only missing element was vegetables -- only one of Motor's entrées automatically come with the green stuff -- and we found this to be a downfall.

We ordered grilled vegetables on the side ($3), which weren't on the menu, and found this to be a must. Grilled eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, red onions, yellow squash and mushrooms were enough for two to share and perfectly seasoned.

Chicken schnitzel ($12.95) was also very good in a rich lemony butter sauce which complemented the outside crunch of the chicken and more of the mashed potatoes.

Service on both visits to Motor was fun, friendly and technically flawless. On our first server's recommendation, we ended our dinner with the cookie sundae skillet ($6.95), which he described as "just stupidly good," and he was right. The chocolate chip cookie had been baked in a mini cast iron skillet, and topped with ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce for an almost childlike addictive delight. It's that balance between fun and good quality that should keep this Motor running for years to come.

Motor is open daily at 11 a.m. Breakfast is served all day, and Friday's feature an all you can eat fish fry for $12.95.

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