The final stretch of winter in Wisconsin might be the toughest time of year. And if you’re not in a position to take a sun-drenched vacation, enjoying a meal that summons warmer climes might be just the antidote.
And you can find that escape at Adriatic Fresh Seafood & Steaks, 11200 W. Burleigh St., which – after an extended soft opening – is officially welcoming diners into its well-appointed space to enjoy fresh modern dishes showcasing seafood, pasta and steak.
The restaurant is operated by brothers and business partners Kika and Ben Saliu, seasoned industry professionals who also own Golden Nest Pancakes & Cafe as well as Sunview Restaurant in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
“We travel a lot,” says Kika Saliu, whose family roots lie in Albania, a country along the Adriatic coast. “And for years, we’ve wanted to bring something like this to Wisconsin. It’s food we enjoy ourselves and we wanted to share it with others.”
Modern casual fine dining
Although clear signage for the restaurant faces Burleigh, first time guests should note that the entrance to Adriatic Fresh Seafood & Steaks is located on the west side of the building, facing Golden Nest. Once inside, guests will find a bright modern restaurant featuring a neutral color palette of grays and cream and subtle nautical-themed decor.
Guests can enjoy drinks, appetizers or a full meal at the marble-topped main bar or at a nearby high-top table located just to the right of the hostess station. In fact, Saliu says that guests can look forward to the introduction of happy hour drink specials in the next few weeks.
The full bar offers a variety of options, from fine Scotch and bourbon to a selection of both domestic and imported brews (including a few local craft beers from spots like Good City Brewing and Milwaukee Brewing Co.). But guests will also find distinctive offerings like rakija, Croatian plum brandy, Greek ouzo and a variety of unique liqueurs and dessert wines.
But the highlight at Adriatic might be its collection of over 100 wines, many of which are displayed on divider-style shelving between the bar and dining room. Selections include a signifcant showing from regions like Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Greece and Italy, along with selections from California’s Napa Valley.
Head to the dining room and you’ll find a mix of booths and four-top tables accompanied by velveteen chairs in vibrant aqua and yellow.
Meanwhile, the restaurant’s private dining area, which accommodates 50-60 guests, features large-scale photos of the seaside in Albania and Montenegro.
Guests can also look forward to summer dining on the restaurant's spacious western-facing patio.
On the menu
As for the menu, it takes inspiration from the Adriatic, a region located between the Balkans and the Italian peninsula, where the cuisine melds the best of the Mediterranean with nods to continental Europe. And it’s enacted by a full kitchen team, all of whom approach their work with a deep knowledge and appreciation for the fresh, simple flavors of the region.
Appetizers include Adriatic staples like mussels steamed in white wine, tomatoes and herbs ($14); fried saganaki, the classic Greek dish featuring kasseri cheese flamed with brandy and served with crostini ($19); and oysters (currently Raspberry Point from the East Coast), available on the half-shell with Adriatic oil, mignonette, horseradish and lemon (six for $13 or a dozen for $24).
But guests can also opt for choices like crab cakes with lemon saffron aioli ($25); shrimp cocktail served with house pita and cocktail sauce ($12) or a fresh, delicious take on steak tartare featuring minced filet flavored with capers, feta cheese, pickled onion, mint oil and quail egg (served with crostini, $22).
Salads include Caesar, Mediterranean style garden and village salads, available in small, medium and large sizes for $6-$24, plus soup options including housemade clam chowder (available daily for $8) and lobster bisque (Friday and Saturday only, $12).
Pastas including linguine (with chicken, shrimp, artichokes and cherry tomatoes) or rigatoni (with squid, mussels, mushrooms and zucchini) with a choice of Adriatic vodka sauce, alfredo or garlic olive oil and parmesan ($26-$28). Proteins, including chicken, steak, salmon, halibut or scallops can be added to any pasta dish for an upcharge.
Guests can also watch for specials like this flavor-packed housemade ravioli stuffed with crab, goat cheese, spinach and shallots, served with lobster cheese sauce and balsamic glaze.
From there, guests can choose from a fairly wide variety of seafood, including grilled red snapper, sauteed halibut, grilled Atlantic salmon, steamed lobster tails and king crab, sauteed scallops or grilled whole branzino, all served with Adriatic rice pilaf, roasted vegetables and light, flavorful Adriatic sauce (pricing for fish entrees is $29-40).
For those who’d prefer, there are also grilled wet-aged steaks sourced from Ney’s Premium Meats, including New York strip ($49), bone-in ribeye ($64) and filet mignon ($52) served with roasted Yukon gold potatoes, roasted vegetables and Adriatic compound butter.
Chef’s specials include options like risotto with scallops ($36); pan seared halibut with celery root puree and roasted fennel ($42); stuffed red snapper with pesto, potatoes and asparagus ($40) or Italian-inspired paella featuring richly saffron-scented arborio rice cooked with chicken, shrimp, chorizo, mussels, peppers, peas and onion ($35).
On the sweeter side, guests will find an ever-changing selection of beautiful desserts made by Adriatic’s in-house pastry chef. Currently on the menu: pistachio creme brulee; blood orange paradise (frangipane discs, citrus meringue, blood orange gel, orange mascarpone mousse and orange segments); and raspberry chocolate soiree featuring dark chocolate mousse encased in a dark chocolate shell with raspberry chocolate almond “rocks”, raspberry meringue, chocolate lattice and raspberry sauce.
Adriatic Fresh Seafood and Steak is open Monday through Thursday 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 4 to 10 p.m. The bar is open later, as demand warrants.
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.