The tuna harissa sounded too good to pass up.
The tuna harissa sounded too good to pass up.
The chicken panini.
The chicken panini.
Buckley's makes a solid corned beef sandwich.
Buckley's makes a solid corned beef sandwich.

A bite at Buckley's

Milwaukee is one of those cities with amazing restaurants at every turn. It doesn't matter if you're Downtown, on the South Side, in the 'burbs, wherever – there's great food all around us. I've been trying to eat at new places rather than my favorite standbys every weekend. Favorite places are usually reliable, comfortable, good places to take out-of-towners, but it's too easy to get stuck in a restaurant rut and miss out on something new and incredible.

I'd been to Buckley's, located at 801 N. Cass St., just once before for brunch, so I figured it didn't really count as a repeat if I was going for dinner. With a different meal you get a new atmosphere, crowd and most importantly, menu options.

By the way, if you stop in for brunch, I highly recommend the habanero Bloody Mary. It's the first Bloody I've had that I didn't feel needed any Tabasco or black pepper added. It's got great spicy flavor without the eye watering and sweating of a truly over-the-top hot Bloody.

For dinner, the four of us shared the parmesan artichoke dip – artichokes with lemon mayonnaise topped with a parmesan breadcrumb accompanied with toasted Italian bread. Despite the mayonnaise, it was rich but not overly heavy. I didn't feel the need to take a nap afterwards – just eat more.

Now, I don't usually share this, but there is something about really rare tuna that I have a hard time saying no to. I don't eat meat and I know a lot of people don't count fish as meat, but it's not a vegetable or a mineral, so what else could it be?

It pained my heart a little to do it, but I ordered the tuna harissa – harissa-rubbed tuna with green beans, fava beans, mesclun greens, eight-minute egg, roma tomatoes, red onions, capers and balsamic vinaigrette. The tuna and the egg were filling enough that I wasn't hungry afterward, but it was nice and light without a lot of dressing clouding up the flavor. I added a little fresh pepper and yum, it was gone.

My meat-eating dinner companion, Brian, chose the corned beef sandwich – Guinness-braised brisket served on marble rye with Russian dressing and gruyere cheese. "It was awesome. Not the best I've ever had but d*mn close," he said.

My friend Kristin had the chicken panini – grilled chicken breast, tomato jam, prosciutto, fontina cheese and pesto mayonnaise on pressed Vienna bread. Reviews said it was a little dry, but good. Her date, Matt, had the Friday fish fry, which he classified as "average," but of course, in Milwaukee, you've got to be exceptional to stand out because there are literally plenty of fish (fries) in the sea (or in this case, city).

The drinks went down easy, the crowd was pleasantly boisterous and the small restaurant was cozy. I imagine on the cold winter nights ahead of us it will make it even cozier. Give it a try when you're in the neighborhood and looking for something new.


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