Summer Review Schedule

Happy Summer! 

It's the beginning of the summer: Memorial Day weekend. Bring on the summer sun and warmer temperatures!  During the summer, I will only be posting two reviews a month.However, don't let this stop you from exploring the city's brunch options!

Would you like to contribute to MilwaukeeBrunchReviews.com during the summer? I am looking for guest writers for the summer. If you are interested in eating, drinks, taking some photos and writing about it, leave a comment below.

Have a great holiday weekend, and enjoy the weather!
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County Clare - A Different Take on Brunch

A hidden jewel of Milwaukee, County Clare is one of my favorite restaurants in this city. Coming from an Irish background, the menu items remind me of family gatherings, holiday meals and home-cooked dinners. This hotel restaurant has close ties with the Emerald Isle with Irish movie night, live-bands and offering week-long tours of Ireland at various times of the year. And who better than to come with me for this brunch review than my friend, Liz, who grew up in Ireland for a part of her childhood, and her husband Paul. We were looking forward to this brunch for a long time. It was on my list of brunch spots to check out since I started this blog. However, since it is right in my neighborhood, I wanted to get a good bearing of what the rest of the city had to offer before I registered my review.

Sitting in the neighborhood just west of Juneau Park and north of the beginning of Kilbourn Avenue in Easttown, County Clare sits nestled into a historic neighborhood. This quaint hotel sits on the corners of Astor and Knapp streets and has at least one sister hotel in Green Bay. The pub takes up half of the first floor. The bar is made of gorgeous wood and has several import beers on tap (Guinness, of course). The restaurant section has a sweeping wall of windows which are sometimes decorated for the different times of the year. Even some common Irish family names can be found above these windows. My favorite part of the pub is the Saint's snug—a small seating area around the woo burning fireplace. If you just want to sit with some friends and tip back a few pints, or have a quick bite to eat, think about sitting here.

I made plans with Paul and Liz to meet them around 11 a.m. at the County Clare. Since it's just a short walk for me, I left right at 11 to meet them. I walked into the restaurant and was quickly seated to a table by the hostess/server of the morning, Keely. Paul and Liz arrived a short time later, and we looked over the menu. To our amazement, there was no brunch menu. We asked Keely when she came to take our drink order if the County Clare offered brunch. She told us that it was not a formal brunch menu, but they did have an Irish breakfast special that was not on the menu. Also, they did offer blood marys and mimosas. We asked for a couple more minutes, and Paul, Liz and I decided we were going to still make this a brunch experience. Because what is brunch really? As Paul put it, "brunch is simply a state of mind. Relax and just enjoy the meal."

This was our thinking, so I ordered my usual (coffee, mimosa ($6.50) and water). Paul ordered a bloody mary ($7), while Liz also ordered a mimosa. Paul said that his bloody mary was delicious. He could not figure out if it was from a mix or if it was made from scratch. Either way it had an amazing blend of flavor, spice and heat. My mimosa was also very good—not too sweet nor pulpy.

We looked over the menu and decided on what to order. Liz ordered, after much deliberation, the shepherd's pie ($12.95). This hearty meal in a bowl was delivered with the potatoes piped on top looking like whipped cream. Under the mashed potatoes was seasoned shredded beef that is described to be slow-cooked with peas, carrots,
and onions. Liz let me try some of this delectable treat. With the small bite I took, it took me back to my childhood of family meals around the table and warm happy memories. When it is said that good food warms the soul, it must be referencing this dish.

Paul had decided to the try the Bunratty burger ($11.95). This massive half pound burger sits on a Sciortino's hard roll, and that's just the beginning. Upon the burger is placed a slice of provolone and cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato, a crispy onion ring and a slice of Irish rasher (or Irish bacon). The inside of the bun is smeared with a garlic-basil aioli that just adds more complexity to the flavor of the burger. This large sandwich was so large that Paul had to flatten it down just to be able to take a bite. Severed with a side of fries and his bloody mary, needless to say, Paul left feeling stuffed.

I wanted to check out the Irish breakfast special ($10.95). I was in for a real treat, because most everything that was on my plate was authentically Irish, even down to the side of brown bread. The scrabbled eggs were fluffy and went well with the roasted tomatoes and mushrooms. Sitting to the side of the eggs was a piece of Irish rashers (Irish bacon), and hidden beneath that was Irish sausage. I knew it was something different, because the flavor and texture are completely different than what I know of as breakfast sausage. Rather than dense, anise-flavored sticks, these were meatier and had a slight sweetness to them. Along side of those were two pieces of black and white pudding, to which Liz exclaimed, "Don't eat those." I took her advice after hearing her explanation. The only disappointment to the plate was the three potato hash browns that looked processed and deep-fried. I only wished for this plate to have authentic potatoes to make it truly remarkable.

If you are looking for a brunch, lunch or dinner spot, definitely think about stopping buy County Clare. Located in Easttown, be prepared for street parking, and weekend nights are a busy time for the pub. For this brunch experience it was about $18 per person. But, as said before, we wanted an just take some time to have a great meal at the County Clare and were able to make it into a brunch with great friends, food and atmosphere.

Until next weekend, I hope you take any dining experience and make it to what you want. Happy brunching!

What have been your experiences at County Clare? What are some other good entrees? Respond below in the comments!

All the details you want to know: (on a five star rating)

County Clare (****)
1234 North Astor St
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 272-5273

County Clare on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Saturday and Sunday: Beginning at 11 a.m.

Atmosphere: ***** (awesome)
Authentic Irish pub with nice restaurant seating, bar and snug

Food: **** (very good)
Great Irish food like grandma used to make


Service: *** (pretty good)
A little rough in the beginning, but overall friendly and knowledgeable about the menu

Drinks: ****
Mimosa - **** (very good)
Bloody Mary - **** (very good)

Price: **** (pretty good)
A little more than $15 per person with no one leaving hungry

Saz's State House - Bring on the Buffet

On a dull and dreary game day morning think about heading to Saz's State House to get your fill before heading to Miller Park. I recently made a trip to this Milwaukee favorite to see what people have been enjoying since 1976.  Along for this review was my friend, Adam, who is always up for checking out something new, and a buffet was right up our alley this Sunday morning.

Heading west on State street, Saz's is just west of the Miller brewery underneath the Hawley bridge. This restaurant, although tucked away, has a devoted crowd and even more so on Brewers game days. Walking into the restaurant is like walking back in time. The circular bar was packed with patrons. The Schlitz pilsner glasses and wood paneling made me think I was walking into a supper club in the Northwoods. The main seating area is behind a wooden partisan on one side of the bar with the buffet line on the other side. Navigating around the bar patrons, servers and other diners can be challenging.

Adam and I walked into the packed bar/waiting area for a table for almost 25 minutes. (The "Immediate Seating" sign must have been left on by mistake.) There was a shuttle that went from the restaurant to Miller park. It took sometime to fill the bus with all the fans, as they were finishing their beers and talking about the Brewers and Cubs game. Once the shuttle departed, the restaurant cleared out of a good portion of guests and we were able to get a table in the bar area.

Our server came up to the table and asked us if we wanted something to drink. I ordered my usual (coffee, water and mimosa) while Adam ordered a coffee. Then, our server looked at us and said, "You're here for the buffet? You can start whenever." Adam and I looked at each other with disbelief and got up to start at the buffet.

We squeezed by some servers and other diners to make our way into the room filled with the buffet. There were two sections to the buffet line: one with breakfast-style food and the other with more of a traditional dinner fare. Another section of the buffet had a salad bar, smoked salmon, assorted pastries, a tub of ice cream. Additionally, there was a ham and beef carving station and made-to-order omelette station, although the cook looked like he had a rough night before and was propped up against the well.

Adam and I surveyed over the grand display of food, devised our strategy and dug in. We took many of the same items, so for this review, I focused on my plates. My first plate I chose to take an Egg Benedict, corned-beef hash, chicken cordon bleu, bacon and a cup of Italian tortellini soup. With all the selection, I was really looking forward to everything I had placed on my plate. Unfortunately, I was not impressed. The benedict was over-cooked on the bottom with a cold sauce. The chicken cordon bleu was a pre-prepared and processed version of the same super market entree. Redeeming the plate, the corned-beef hash was delicious with the side of bacon. However, the soup was too salty for my taste with large chunks of celery, carrots, tomatoes and tortellini. Half way through this plate, Adam and my coffees arrived. My mimosa had not. In asking the server if I could have my drink, she replied, "Oh yeah, it's coming," and quickly ran off to another table. Once the drink did arrive at the table, it was terrible. The bitter drink was not sweet or smooth like others I had tasted. It was watery and bitter, as if the drink was only cheap champagne and a splash of orange juice on top.

Sipping my piping hot coffee, Adam and I decided to take a second-try at the buffet. This time I wanted to focus more on the second half of the buffet: dinner items with one exception a waffle. The tray of chicken tenders looked too good to pass up, so with that, I took one tender and a large potato pankcake. I also fished out some mixed vegetables out of a sea of butter and added them to my plate. Walking back to the table, I passed the dessert section and grabbed a chocolate-chip cookie bar. The waffle was soggy, even before the addition of the maple syrup, and the potato pancake was burnt on one side. I missed that when making my selection. The chicken tender was nice and juicy and although they were probably loaded with butter, so were the veggies. The dessert bar didn't last too much longer after the photo was taken.
 
Adam also agreed with the food. Although the selection looked and smelled delicious, the plates were not that appetizing. Coupled with poor and inattentive service, my experience at Saz's State House was not the best. Although the crowds loved loading up on the food before heading to the ball park, I would love to see some improvements to the service and food before I would plan a return trip. At $15.95 per person including all drinks, this reasonably priced buffet is designed for those that love those four little words, "all-you-can-eat."

What have been your experiences at Saz's State House? What are some other good items to get from the buffet? Respond below in the comments!

All the details you want to know: (on a five star rating)

Saz's State House (**)
5539 W State St
Milwaukee, WI 53208

(414) 453-2410
sazs.com
Saz's State House on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Sunday: 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Atmosphere: ** (ok)
A hodgepodge building of many add-ons with a feeling of being stuck in 1965.

Food: ** (ok)
A barrage of traditional breakfast and dinner items along with a carving station, omelettes to order, salad and dessert bars.

Service: * (poor)
Never caught our server's name, but she never stood still when checking with us. It was almost "drive-by" service.

Drinks: *
Mimosa - * (poor)
Bloody Mary - n/a (didn't try)

Price: ** (ok)
Little more than $15 a person with drinks included in the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Where is Milwaukee's Best Bloody Mary?

One  of the highlights of any brunch, as any good citizen of Milwaukee will attest to, is the  quality of the restaurant's bloody mary or mimosa. Let’s be honest, this is mainly  the point of brunch in this city. What better way to shake off the baggage  (or hangover) from the night before than to have one of these great morning  drinks? A follower on Twitter once told me, “If there is no booze, it’s just breakfast.” Personally, as you know, I must have a glass of water, a cup of coffee  and a mimosa in front of me before I even think about ordering. However, several of my  friends will only frequent certain restaurants only because they love the "bloodies."


On to this Friday's Question: Where is Milwaukee's Best Bloody Mary? Where do you go to get your fix on Saturday or Sunday morning?

Other, more prominent websites have created their own lists, namely OnMilwaukee.com or JSOnline, but I wanted to see what you, my readers felt.

Let me know which is the best based on spice, heat and flavor in the comments below. Have a great weekend, enjoy the weather and happy brunching!

Thanks to @P_Fred for helping me come up with today's question. You should follow him on Twitter, if you aren't already.
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Kil@wat - A Luxurious Brunch Experience

Mother's Day is always a special weekend for my family and I. Since I am the only one that lives in the great city of Milwaukee, my family tries to travel here to visit. We have a great time exploring the many things this city has to offer: museums, tours, restaurants, etc. Mostly, it's fun for me to plan things and surprise my mom with experiences she cannot have living in the Northwoods. This Mother's Day the fine folks at Kil@wat in the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown helped me show my mom how special she is to my family.

After Sunday mass at the Cathedral, my parents and I made our way to the Intercontinental Hotel. Parking in the structure underneath the Milwaukee Center, we walked into the hotel from the Center's shared atrium with the Pabst and Rep theaters. Instantly walking into the lobby of the hotel, we felt that we were being wrapped in a warm, luxurious embrace. The dark wood walled hallways with accents of orange and green in the stripped carpet led to a waiting area with large, plush leather chairs and suede-covered walls. We took the elevator to the second floor and walked into Kil@wat. I had made reservations in advance, so as we walked in, we were immediately lead to our table by the kind hostess.

We were seated at a large booth next to a window that looked out over the intersection of Kilbourn Avenue and Water Street. Our server, Andrew, approached the table and set down a small plate of assorted pastries. He explained to us that they were offering the normal brunch menu along with a special three-course Mother's Day Brunch special ($32). He then took our drink order. My mom was offered a bottomless glass of sparkling wine, mimosa or bloody mary, which was offered to all moms dining at Kil@wat that morning. She chose to have a glass of sparkling wine ($7). I had my usual coffee, water and mimosa ($7), while my dad just enjoyed his coffee. Andrew came back and delivered our drinks and gave us an amuse bouche (not pictured) of house smoked trout, poached potato, and pickled radish. This delectable treat was a wake up to our palettes, preparing us for the wealth of flavors to come.

We looked over the menu and my mom and I decided to go with the special menu, while my dad chose from the regular brunch menu. For our first course, my mom chose the sunflower salad. This fresh sea of green and red was a bed of sunflower sprouts sprinkled with sunflower seeds. Adding a nice creamy and pungent flavor were bits of fresh goat cheese. To balance the cheese large pieces of strawberries were mixed in to the salad. The strawberry balsamic dressing helped mix all the flavors together and was the perfect addition.


My dad ordered the roasted red pepper and fennel soup ($6). This brightly colored soup was a hit at our table. The creamy, yet light soup was heavenly. There was a slight warmth and spice to the soup, but only at the end of tasting it. Filled with some bits of cheese, my dad asked if Andrew could get the recipe from the chef, so that he could try to recreate it at home. I have to admit, I only finished half of my salad, just so I could switch with my dad and enjoy this soup as much as he did.


I had ordered the organic local green salad as my first course. The various greens were drizzled with a dijon-verjus vinaigrette. There were also halves of red and green cherry tomatoes and hearty croutons. It was light and a great start to the meal, but I was eying up my dad's soup to finish for him.


Once our first courses were finished, we had some time to sit, talk and watch the comings and goings of the traffic and people on the street corners. It was a beautiful day, and we talked about all the fun things we had done the day before. 


For her main course, my mom had ordered the crab cake from the special menu. This large crab cake was made with real crabmeat that flaked off with ever bite. Always a fan of seafood, my mom was ecstatic. The avocado-coriander puree that was painted on the base of the plate was just enough to give a creamy element to each bite. The sweet corn relish was a refreshing addition to the plate. We tried to pinpoint the extra spice in the relish and decided it had to be mint (or something from that family), because it was cool and invigorating. My mom was thoroughly pleased with her choice of the crab cake, and later asked when the next time we were going back to that restaurant for more.


I had ordered the grilled hanger steak prepared rare. Served with black truffle scrambled eggs and potato hash, the steak was smothered with bearnaise and topped with sprouts. Each bite was a luxurious combination of earthy steak, fresh sprouts and creamy bearnaise. I gave a couple bites to my parents, but secretly I wanted to keep it all to myself. I finished the steak before moving on to my moist and fluffy eggs and hash browns. The eggs were full of flavor with the black truffles and needed no other seasoning. The potatoes were also prepared perfectly without any need for salt or pepper.


My dad ordered the hot smoked salmon hash ($12). This entree came out with all the ingredients nicely stacked upon each other. The base of roasted Yukon gold potatoes had the salmon and asparagus mixed together next. Topped with a poached egg and finished off with a dill hollandaise sauce, my dad chose rye toast from his choice of sides. My mom reminded me that my dad does not really care for salmon, to which he commented, "I am trying something new." He must have liked it, because while I still had a couple pieces of steak left, he was using a slice of rye bread to wipe up any reminisce from his plate. He said the egg was cooked perfectly, and the asparagus was sliced in such a way that made it easy to pick up with the fish and potato for a richly flavored bite each time.


My mom and I had the choice of our dessert to conclude our meal. She chose the crème brulee, while I had the dessert simply titled, "chocolate." Each was a decedent finish to the meal. My mom loves crème brulee, and it was even a treat to have it garnished with seasonal berried. My chocolate dessert was simply heavenly. The chocolate mouse was topped with chocolate gelato and with an amazing chocolate sauce on the plate. Each were amazing in their own way, and a very nice way to wrap up our dining experience.


If you are looking for an amazing, luxurious brunch locale to take that special someone or simply make someone feel extraordinary, then you must make your reservations for Kil@wat in the Intercontinental Hotel. For around $25 per person for a two-course brunch, Kil@wat has the entrees and service that will have you planning your next trip before you leave the table. Located in the Milwaukee Center, parking is available for a fee, however you can receive a discount by dining in the restaurant (simply speak with someone at the host stand). Also, I want to thank the staff at the restaurant for making my mom feel so welcomed and special during out visit. It was a pleasure my dad and I to see her so happy enjoying the special day.

Until next time, hope you have a great week and look forward to seeing you next weekend morning!

Full Disclosure:  Although we received our meals free of charge (many thanks to Tim Smith, General Manager and Stephan Fitz, Director of Food and Beverage), I was not paid to advertise for Kil@wat or the Intercontinental Hotel.  All opinions expressed in this blog entry are our own and are reflective of our experience.

What have been your experiences at Kil@wat? What are some other good entrees? Respond below in the comments!

All the details you want to know: (on a five star rating)

Kil@wat (*****)
139 East Kilbourn Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 291-4793
kilawatcuisine.com
Kil@Wat on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Atmosphere: ***** (awesome)
Modern and luxurious, warm lighting with rich woods, colors, fabrics and decor.

Food: ***** (awesome)
Excellent combinations of flavors, spices and textures

Service: ***** (awesome)
Friendly, honest, attentive and knowledgeable of menu items

Drinks: ***** (awesome)
Mimosa - ***** (awesome)
Bloody Mary - n/a (didn't try)

Price: ***** (awesome)
Around $25 a person, but well worth the price.

Fast Food Brunch?

Browsing around the internet, looking for links to share on Twitter, I came across an interesting story on CNN.com. It talked about how Burger King is testing out brunch in select markets on the East Cost. (Read the full story) I thought to myself, "Really? Burger King has the ability to sell mimosas and bloody marys in their burger joints?" Diving in a bit deeper into the story...
The fast-food chain is testing brunch fare in Massachusetts and Florida, and depending on its success there, it may be rolled out nationally.

The menu is set to feature a breakfast sandwich of eggs, cheese, tomato, ham, bacon and smoky tomato sauce served on Ciabatta bread, Whoppers (which are not usually available in the morning) and the BK Mimosa—a nonalcoholic version of the classic cocktail with Sprite standing in for the traditional champagne.
What is happening to the food in our country? Are the big burger chains really hurting in this economy where they need to take over, yet another one of our meals?

On to this Friday's question: If Burger King (or any other fast food chain) would start offering brunch in the Milwaukee area, would you check it out? And could it replace the ritual Sunday morning affairs that our city loves?

Respond below in the comments to voice your opinion. Have a great, yet rainy, Friday, and happy brunching with mom this weekend!
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Il Mito - An Upscale Brunch Outing

I have been having some great conversations with different people on Twitter, and so I took some advice and took a short trip west to Wauwatosa for brunch this Sunday morning. I made plans my friend, Lisa, and we chose to check out Il Mito for brunch. I have been there for dinner before, but we wanted to see what the brunch would be like at this classic, rustic Italian restaurant.

Driving west on North Avenue through East Tosa, Il Mito sits on the south side of the street. The restaurant takes up three storefronts and is easily recognizable by the large vertical sign on top of the entrance. Walking in, the guest feels they are instantly setting foot in a Tuscan trattoria: the warm colors, linen tablecloths and dark woodwork. The host stand is the first thing a guest sees upon entering and luckily for me, there was a open table.

I sat at a table next to the window and waited for Lisa to arrive. The sun was out and so I had no issue with doing some people watching while I waited. Our server took my drink order (my usual: water, mimosa ($6.95) and coffee), and soon thereafter, Lisa entered the door looking chilled to the bone. She had walked to the restaurant, since she lives in the neighborhood. The attentive server approached the table and took Lisa's drink order as well. She ordered a bloody mary ($8.95) with no shrimp garnish.  Our drinks were delivered to the table, and we were both really surprised! My mimosa is made with fresh-squeezed orange juice and the champagne is poured in the glass table side. There was even enough champagne left over for a refill and a half. Lisa's bloody mary was made with three different vodkas: normal Absolut, a cucumber-infused vodka and a pepper-infused vodka. Lisa was very happy with the flavor and amount of heat and spice. The drink was garnished with olives, a mushroom and slices of lemon and lime. As a chaser, there was a small bottle of Miller High Life. This was one of the most intricate drink combinations I have seen for a brunch. We looked over the menu and decided what we wanted to try on this outing.

We ordered and waited for the food to be delivered. A couple minutes later our server brought out a small basket of bread and a plate of butter. But this was not just a brick of yellow paste on a plate. This was cinnamon butter with strawberry syrup drizzled over it. The bread triangles were the perfect size for smearing some of this "dessert butter" on and taking two or three bites before needing more. Lisa and I agreed: this small treat before brunch was an exciting way to get our interest perked about our entrees if this was the starter plate.

A short time later, when the cinnamon butter plate was thoroughly cleaned of any reminisce of the tasty treat, our server arrived with our food. Lisa decided on the Bacon Pizza ($9.95). This twelve-inch pizza took up the entire plate (and frame as you can see). A traditional pizza in the sense of a thin crust with tomato sauce, the toppings were those of a great Florentine breakfast: roasted peppers, scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and Fontana cheese. The crust was a little too crunchy for my taste, but the sauce was spectacular—slightly sweet and the roasted peppers helped bring it out even more. The thinly sliced potatoes did add a nice earthy taste to the smokey bacon flavor. The eggs were nicely cooked as well: not too soggy, but not too dry. This was a great suggestion by our server, and even though Lisa was a little skeptical after order it, she definitely wanted to save some to take home for later.

I had chosen the Smoked Chicken Frittata ($10.95). This dish is heads and shoulders above a traditional scrambled eggs dish. The fresh asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes were mouth-watering additions to the eggs. It tasted as if they had been picked out of the garden and thrown into this dish. Great flavors. The goat cheese also provided surprising punches of flavors with each bite. Topped with roasted potatoes and bacon and served with a side of fruit (not pictured) this frittata is a must-try if you visit Il Mito for brunch.

If you are looking for a great brunch outside of downtown, you must have Il Mito on your list. For a little more than $20 per person, this restaurant is a great place to visit after Sunday services or with your family. Located on North Avenue in Wauwatosa, there is plenty of street parking or even a city parking lot across the block. So, don't pack your bags for Italy for a Sunday brunch, visit Il Mito and be prepared for a delicious meal.

Until next weekend, have a great week and happy brunching!

What have been your experiences at Il Mito? What are some other good entrees? Respond below in the comments!

All the details you want to know: (on a five star rating)

Il Mito (***½)
6917 West North Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53213
(414) 443-1414

Il Mito on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Atmosphere: *** (pretty good)
High-end Italian restaurant feel without being stuffy and snobby

Food: **** (very good)
A rustic Italian take on brunch

Service: *** (pretty good)
Friendly and knowledgeable about the menu

Drinks: ****½
Mimosa - **** (very good)
Bloody Mary - ****½ (very good)

Price: *** (pretty good)
A little more than $20 per person with some leftovers.