Not long after our office moved Downtown, I visited Port of Call for lunch and had a good experience. Fast forward a couple years, after interviewing Chef Adam Pawlak, I headed back over to try some items on the new menu. (In related news, Port of Call will begin serving Sunday brunch in May.)
While the dinner menu has been almost entirely overhauled, retaining just a couple perennial favorites, the lunch menu has gotten a lighter makeover, with mostly some new appetizers and a couple salad, sandwich and burger updates.
Because Andy Tarnoff enjoyed his burger last time, and because I was in the mood for one, I had a Wisconsin Burger, which is new to the menu. It’s pretty simple, but hearty.
A half-pound burger on a pretzel bun with bacon, white and mild cheddar, and lettuce, sliced red onion and tomato, served with fries and a pickle for $12. I decided to dig further into the changes by replacing the standard fries with the new truffle fries from the appetizer menu, which you can do for an upcharge.
The burger was more than I could finish, which is saying something, and the blend of cheeses gave it a nice flavor profile. The pretzel bun was a real deal sweetener.
I enjoyed the truffle fries, too. They’re parmesan crusted and doused with truffle oil. But, beware, they’re super pungent. If you like truffle flavor and scent, as I do, you’ll be thrilled. But a truffle-wary dining companion may not be as thrilled. They're served with an herbed cream dip, but I liked them better plain.
Part-way through my meal, Pawlak – knowing I’m a fan of seafood – took it upon himself to whip up some seared scallops for me. This three-sea scallop platter is listed as an appetizer for $13, but it’s quite filling, so you could easily order it with a side salad and be more than satisfied at lunch.
The scallops were perfectly seared and topped with crumbled bacon and microgreens and served atop a spicy horseradish peppercorn sauce.
If you’ve ever tried to get the bacon and the scallops just right when making bacon-wrapped scallops, take a cue from Pawlak, who cooks the bacon separately and piles it on top at plating.
Any fat remaining on the bacon melts into the scallops, he says, making them even more sinfully rich. Hey, it’s not like you’re eating them every day ... though I know I sure could.
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.