Labor Day has signaled a sea change in Milwaukee weather, with cooler mornings and nights, but Athena and Bacchus willing, there will be more opportunities to enjoy al fresco dining in Brew City before winter descends.
Look at the photo above to see why I'm about to sing the praises of the patio at Milwaukee Sail Loft, located along the confluence of the rivers and the lake, in the shadow of the Hoan Bridge at 649 E. Erie St.
We visited in mid-September, when it was cool enough to wear a light jacket, but the Sail Loft patio, with its plexiglass protection keeping the wind at bay, was perfectly comfortable for a couple drinks and dinner, even as the sun set.
The space is a sprawling one, with a large bar and indoor dining area, augmented by a patio that wraps around the south and west sides of the building, running along the water. Sail Loft is open year-'round.
Boats pulled up and disgorged hungry passengers, a party was in full swing on the south patio and charter boats went back and forth past the restaurant, their passengers often sharing a far-off salute with Sail Loft diners.
Though Sail Loft can seem a bit off the beaten path – you've got to go looking for it, as you won't likely stumble upon it unless you're looking to park for a lakefront festival – when it's rocking, it feels like the heart of the city.
The food at Sail Loft was good and though our server was a bit stone-faced, he performed just fine, taking our orders promptly and returning with drinks and dishes in due time.
We started with a basket of sweet potato fries for an appetizer and the thin-cut fries arrived hot and crisp in no time at all.
My companion ordered the pecan crusted scallops, which arrived on a bed of pasta tossed with steamed spinach and pancetta cubes in a garlicky cream sauce. The scallops were tender, with a nice crunch from the pecan crust, but they weren't especially large and there were just two atop a really, really copious heaping of pasta.
It was a satisfying entree though one that we felt was a little overpriced at $22.
For just slightly more than half that, I got the grilled fish street tacos ($13). Three tacos were filled with perfectly grilled mahi mahi, sliced cabbage, pico de gallo and aioli. Though the small side of cajun rice didn't pack much flavor, the tacos sure did.
The menu at Sail Loft is large, with more than a dozen small plates, nearly as many entrees, eight salad options, soups, sandwiches, burgers and a la carte sides like roasted shallot mashed potatoes, pancetta brussels sprouts and fresh fruit.
The menu leans heavily toward seafood, as you'd expect, but there are some chicken and beef and other options, too.
We enjoyed our meal at Sail Loft, but as in real estate, the three key words at Sail Loft are location, location, location (or you could substitute patio, patio, patio).
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.