For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."
So here we are again, round two of our food blog excursion. This time around we ventured to Walker's Point to check out The Noble. Again, I should point out, we didn't go together, so it will be interesting to compare our different experiences there.
SAVANAH: Let's start out by playing the word association game. The first word that comes to my mind when I think of The Noble is "cozy." What about you?
EVAN: Hmmmm ... I literally just walked in the door from dinner and my mind is still swimming a bit. Cozy, I think, is perfect. I'd also add "delicious," "inventive," "intimate," "adorable" and "mind-blowingly good." I'm not very good at this game.
It's a special experience when you bond instantly with something – like when you first listen to a new band and after the first few bars you just know – and that's what my meal at The Noble was like tonight.
I remember when they first opened and I didn't think much of it. It looked sort of like a little bohemian coffee shop, filled with random knickknacks and cute, hand-drawn signage. The menu, I assumed, would resemble something like Nessun Dorma – upscale casual that's heavy on soups and sandwiches. Good, but nothing special. I could not have been more wrong. This is gourmet dining in what feels like a tiny antique store. I can't believe I've been sleeping on The Noble for so long. I owe you big time for suggesting this place.
SAVANAH: I'm glad you liked it! I, too, had low expectations initially. I had visited The Noble once a few months ago for drinks with friends. I was impressed by the unique cocktail concoctions, but I remember feeling very trapped and secluded in the front corner, which barely fit two chairs and a small table. This time around, though, I was allowed a bit more space while seated in the main dining area.
I do have to say I was fairly confused by the actual menu. Maybe it's just me, but all of the dishes on the page seemed to be crammed together, making it difficult to comprehend. It also took me a while to grasp the whole "hunters," "gatherers" and "middle of the road" options.
EVAN: Yeah, the menu organization is probably a little too cute for its own good. At first I thought "hunters" were meat options, "gatherers" were vegetarian and "middle of the road" were, well, I wasn't exactly sure. Meat and veggies, perhaps?
It turns out "hunters" refers to the daily featured entree, "gatherers" is the daily featured vegetarian entree and "middle of the road" is the featured casual fare entree. It's really unnecessarily complicated. I should also point out that while the appetizers are standard (I tried the mushroom pate, which was wonderfully rich and creamy – you'd be hard-pressed to tell it was vegetarian), the entrees and desserts change daily.
What were the menu offerings when you went?
SAVANAH: We also ordered the mushroom pate, which was a nice change from the typical appetizers you encounter at restaurants. For his main course, my boyfriend selected the braised leg of lamb with mashed potatoes and carrots. I decided to try the vegetarian option and went with the barbecue tempeh. I hate to say it, but I was pretty disappointed. The barbecue sauce was great, but the tempeh was so thickly cut that I could barely taste any of the sauce, and I was left with a taste that resembled cardboard.
Luckily, the dessert more than made up for it. My boyfriend and I decided to split the Nutella brownie – I hope that was still an option when you went. The brownie came out still warm from the oven and was surrounded with thick whipped cream and topped with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and a cherry. I think we devoured the whole thing in under a minute.
EVAN: Yes! The Nutella brownie was a-ma-zing. It was thick and gooey but still had that slight crust on top from the oven. Ours came with cherry ice cream, though. And no cherry on top! I feel cheated. I will say I actually found the whipped cream to be thin. I got a Reddi-wip vibe from it, which is strangely what my wife prefers.
The leg of lamb sounds great. I wish I could have tried it – I guess that's the downside of the constantly changing menu. When I went the "hunters" was a grilled hangar steak (or bone-in pork chop) over risotto with a black bean salsa while the "middle of the road" was brisket over collard greens. The hangar steak was great, cooked to a perfectly pink medium with a delicious char. Though the brisket was a little on the fatty side, the barbecue sauce glaze – I assume it was the same sauce on your tempeh – was excellent. It had just the right amount of kick that hit you in the back of the throat.
I didn't try the "gatherers" option, which was spinach ravioli with a Gorgonzola cream sauce. The woman seated immediately to my right, however, did and gushed to me about how great it was. I really can't stress strongly enough how small this place is. I didn't mind it, but I can see how it'd be a turn off for some people.
SAVANAH: I did enjoy the food at The Noble, but being a slightly claustrophobic person, I had a little trouble with the lack of personal space. I could definitely see myself stopping by for happy hour drinks once in a while for a little change of scenery, though. Also, the service was excellent, and it felt good to support a place that isn't afraid to try something new.
What do you think? Plan on going back for more anytime soon?
EVAN: Yeah, it's not a place for the claustrophobic. There were times were I was worried our conversation was getting too loud for the neighboring tables. But generally I enjoyed the intimate atmosphere with the exposed beams and antique covered walls. It reminded me of the East Village.
I definitely plan on going back, sooner than later, and telling everyone I know to go too. Just like that favorite new band, I fully expect to go on an all-out Noble binge – until I inevitably get absolutely sick of it.
Evan Solochek was born and raised in Milwaukee, a lifelong East Sider
who loves nothing more than a good cheeseburger, a crisp slice of
watermelon and a generous slice of blueberry pie.
Though he works as a Communications Specialist at Columbia St. Mary's, his background is in journalism. He graduated from Boston University in 2005 with a degree in communication/print journalism. Upon returning home to be with his then-girlfriend/now-wife, Evan hooked up with Vital Source Magazine, where he learned the ins and outs of Milwaukee's fine arts scene.
After three years there, and rising to the role of Managing Editor, Evan moved on to Milwaukee Magazine. There he spent the next five years overseeing the insider section, helping maintain the website and dabbling in food writing, among other things. Working with one of the best in the business, Evan picked up the finer points of food criticism, discovered some hidden gems and even spent the better part of a year hunting for the city's best nachos. He applied these lessons to his own Cheap Eats food blog, which can still be found online if you look really hard.
Today, Evan has migrated to Bay View (like one does when they approach 30) and lives with his wife, Emily, and their two dogs, Jack and Penny.
Savanah Ladd hails from Hartland but has spent most of her adult years on the East Side. She spent five years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; her indecisive ways made selecting a major a difficult process, but she ultimately made her move and graduated with a degree in business administration.
Throughout college, Savanah worked at Alterra at the Lake, where she learned to handle large amounts of people with grace. After six years of making lattes, she decided to begin her career and moved on to an Internet marketing internship at ProHealth Care. Shortly after, she took a job as an Account Coordinator at Ascedia and still holds this position today.
In her spare time, Savanah devours any magazine or blog post that publishers are willing to print or post. She's even been known to steal her boyfriend's GQ magazine when he's not looking. Her other hobbies include fashion, food and watching the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl.