On Friday, we gave you a preview of the shiny new digs at Centraal Grand Cafe & Tappery, which will officially open its doors to the public on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Today, we’ll look deeper, this time at the restaurant’s new menu, which reflects a broad swath of cuisines inspired by cultures around the globe.
"The menu here is really based on the cacophony of global flavors evident at Centraal Station in Amsterdam," notes Lowlands’ director of brand and marketing, Dan Herwig, adding that the train station, which sees 240,000 passengers daily, is located at the "crossroads of Europe," where trade and immigration has created a hub for global flavors.
Regulars who’ve grown fond of numerous dishes at Centraal will be comforted knowing that some things haven’t changed. It's still serving a variety of housemade aiolis for its friets, the Dutch word for French fries. And brunch-goers will still find favorites like the cinnamon streusel French toast.
However, the new menu created by Lowlands Group’s culinary director Thomas Hauck and Centraal’s chef, Nathan Owley offers an infinitely flexible menu featuring snackable and shareable items, as well as a brand new beverage menu featuring more than 70 beverages on tap.
Guests at Centraal have no reason to leave dehydrated. After all, the new drink menu boasts a plethora of options including over 70 taps featuring options from tap cocktails, wine and cold brew coffee to Rishi craft brew tea, sparkling sodas, cider and beer.
Of course 45 of those tap lines are dedicated to a rotating selection of bier including selections eight curated collections of five beers each, grouped by theme.
Current themes include:
- Lowlands Brewing Collaborative: includes Tandem Dubbel and Centraal Quadder
- West Coast Hop Bombs: think Elysian Space Dust and Lagunitas Super Cluster
- East Coast Hazies: featuring taps like Cigar City Jai Alai, Untitled Art New England IPA
- Aged Before Beauty: barrel aged selections like New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk Reserve Banana Coconut and Karben4 Tequila Barrel Idiot Farm
- Spittin’ Distance: featuring five local brews procured within 5 miles of the restaurant; includes Good City Motto and Third Space Upward Spiral
- Craft Flagships: including selections like Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue and Boulevard Tank 7
- Scandinavian Suds: selections of Danish, Norwegian and Swedish brews
- Heritage Pilsners: think Pilsner Urquell and Bofferding Pils
One of the themed curations (currently Scandinavian Suds) will also have its own accompanying menu of food specials (a snack, starter, main course and brunch special) which pair well with the selections.
On the cocktail side, there’s a collection of tap cocktails (priced $7.50-$9) created with assistance from Bittercube’s On the Fly elixir program. Selections include a Winter’s Spice Lemonade, Sin & Stone Margarita and a fantastic winter-inspired KK Old Fashioned featuring Rehorst KK Whiskey, black cardamom molasses syrup, orange peel, Bittercube Bolivar bitters, cherries and cinnamon (pictured).
A nicely curated whiskey selection features Tennessee whiskey, bourbon, Scotch, Irish and rye along with about six sipping tequilas. Brunch-goers will find an impressive selection of Bloody Marys including options like The Cucumber (Twisted Path gin, cucumber juice, bloody mix, pickle, carrot, cucumber, $9) and mimosas including the Violet Rose (violet liqueur, sparkling rose, lemon juice and simple syrup, $8).
There’s also a whimsical house cocktail menu featuring slightly more mysterious concoctions described using travel-based stories from the staff’s last trip to Europe. Take for instance the cocktail The Where’s Dave, described this way:
"We all have a Dave in our lives – he’s that one travel companion who seems to dodge the headcount and finds himself navigating the narrow, foreign streets alone, only to pop up hours later unscathed, no worse for the wear. A true individualist, like this unique concoction that is at once elusive and approachable. It plays well with others because it wants to – not because it has to. Sweet smoke, bright, comforting, ‘a buzz.’"
Lunch & dinner
The food menu is similarly comprehensive, embracing flavors from locales including Mexico, Jamaica, Asia and the Middle East. It’s largely reflective, Hauck says, of the street food available in Amsterdam and the surrounding cities.
For guests pressing through the door after a long day looking for nothing more than a great beer and snacks, there are options like fennel lemon olives, spiced cashews or chili lime boondi with peanuts ($4 each or three for $10).
Meanwhile, appetizers come in all colors, shapes and sizes from an Ahi poke bowl ($13.95) to shiitake potstickers ($9.95), bacon chive pierogies ($9.95) and baba ghanoush ($8.95). Those accompany a menu of friets which can be enjoyed plain or with a choice of two dipping sauces for $5.95. Upgrades include sweet potato fries or the "speciaal" (curry ketchup, mayo and raw onion), both just $1 extra.
Of course, you can also get your fries loaded up. Options include Kapsalon, a combination of beef kebab meat, dressed greens, garlic sauce and melted Gouda ($11.95) which is said to have originated in Rotterdam in the early 1990s when women from a beauty parlor requested the combination from a nearby shawarma stand.
If you’d prefer something even messier, go with the Patatje Oorlog with peanut sauce, mayo, onions and cilantro. It’s a selection Hauck calls "orlog war fries" because by the time you get done eating them "you may just look as if you’ve been in a war."
Entrees include options like an Asian inspired chicken bowl with rice, bok choy, sugar snap peas, fried garlic and cashews ($14.95), red curry trout featuring jasmine rice and red coconut curry with roasted eggplant and lime-roasted peanuts ($17.95) and comforting dishes like rosemary goat cheese mac ($13.95). There’s also mildly spiced bone-in jerk chicken served with plantains, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and a spicy pineapple relish ($17.95).
Guests with a keen eye might also recognize a redux of a dish served at Chef Hauck’s c.1880: the roasted Vidalia onion filled with a risotto made with wild mushrooms, butternut squash and creme de brie ($14.95).
There are also plenty of salads (from Noord shrimp salad to a wild rice and broccoli bowl), priced $10.95 to $14.95, and handhelds including a Carolina fried chicken sandwich (pictured below), black bean taquitos, braised pork tacos, a doner kebab and falafel ($10.95-$12.95).
For those who love gathering with a group and sharing, there’s a section of large format plates which are well-equipped to feed two or more people (they’re very generous for two).
Options include a kebab platter with beef, chicken and vegetables served with couscous and na’an ($38.95); red snapper with picholine olives, pickled fennel, roasted onion, herbed picada and couscous with cauliflower and broccoli ($39.95); and pork mole with black beans, jicama slaw, annato seed rice and corn tortillas ($36.95).
"Tapas are great," says Herwig. "But you only get three bites. These are like the ‘anti-tapas’"
If you love brunch, you’ll be delighted to note that it’s available every day at Centraal from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. During that time, you can get loaded friets, select salads and sandwiches and a variety of dishes from classic breakfast staples to international bites.
Selections include shareable sweets like ollieballen, Dutch doughnut holes served with warm berry jam and apple cinnamon sugar ($6.95) and strooopwafel, thin crisp waffles filled with chocolate and served with maple brown sugar syrup and nuts ($6.95).
There’s also koffie cake, based on a recipe from Chef Nathan Owley’s grandmother. It features cinnamon streusel and buttercream icing ($6.95).
Other starters include arepas filled with braised pork, sweet pepper relish, lime chervil cream and cotija ($12.95), sausage biscuit sliders ($12.95), a dragon fruit parfait ($8.95) and salmon toast with smoked salmon, red onion, capers and dill on rye toast ($12.95).
The remainder of the menu showcases classics like baked oatmeal with cinnamon, almonds and dried fruit ($9.95); a jalapeno cheddar biscuit with buttermilk fried chicken, chorizo, fried egg and country gravy ($12.95); an ancient grain bowl with dried cherries, sunflower seeds, fresno peppers, kale, butternut squash, roasted red pepper vinaigrette and sunny-side-up eggs ($11.95) and a bibimbap bowl with crispy rice, pork belly, Korean bbq, squash, mushrooms and egg ($15.95).
Of course, there’s also the "Cheesy Gooey Spicy Mess" featuring chorizo, bacon, Hungarian sausage and over-medium eggs with white cheddar, sweet pepper relish and corn tortilla crisps ($14.95).
And yes, there are sweets including cinnamon roll pancakes ($10.95), berry basil French toast ($11.95) and The Stack, featuring six fluffy pancakes with whipped butter and syrup ($9.95).
Egg plates include standards like eggs Benedict (standard or cajun style with fried green tomatoes and cajun hollandaise, $12.95); the green thumb omelette with kale, basil, arugula, green pepper, chervil and herbed cheese ($11.95) and the Americana with two eggs, rosemary potatoes, toast and a choice of meat ($9.95).
Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 13, Centraal Grand Cafe & Tappery is open Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.