Cafe Benelux - Food and Patio Paradise

It seems to me that summer in Milwaukee is really when the city comes alive. Downtown starts to crawl with people on the weekends. And the past couple of years have seen several new attractions, businesses and restaurants open downtown. One such new place is Cafe Benelux in the Third Ward. Part of the Lowlands Group of restaurants, Cafe Benelux is bringing something new and something old to this historic part of the city.

Situated on the corners of Broadway and St. Paul, Cafe Benelux takes the place of the old Good Harvest grocery store. Right across the street from one of Milwaukee's best bloody mary spots, this restaurant is building upon the strong following the other Lowland Group restaurants: Cafe Centraal, Cafe Hollander and Trocadero. The most prominent thing that sets this restaurant apart is the roof-top patio. Once I saw this, I knew that I really wanted to get to this new brunch spot and check it out.

My friend Sara organized a brunch outing with some friends, and I asked if Andrew and I could tag along to make it a review. She said sure, and the plans were set. We wanted to meet at noon, and calling ahead on Saturday, one friend, Amy, found out that the restaurant does not take reservations. Since she lived right in the neighborhood, she went to the restaurant around 11:15, to grab a spot in line for a table on the roof. Right around noon, Andrew, Sara and I show up and our table was ready—rock star seating, because we sat right at the corner above the main entrance.

Walking into the restaurant, it seems a bit dark, but the large staircase in the middle opens up to the roof, letting in a fairly large amount of natural light. I am guessing in the winter, it will feel nice to sit inside with  all that natural light.

Sitting at the table, our server took the four of our drink order while we waiting for two more. Andrew ordered the Classic Bloody Mary ($7). He said the flavor was nice and rich—not too much spice and the mix-ins were nice, including a  pimento-stuffed olive. I ordered my usual, mimosa ($6.50), coffee ($1.95) and water. The mimosa is the usual one you will find at any of the Lowland Group's restaurants and the coffee is delicious. We waited for our other friends to come and once they ordered they got a beermosa ($7) and a Morning Rooster Bloody Mary ($8). This unique bloody uses chipotle Hangar One vodka, house-made bloody mary mix, and comes with the usual add-ins and a jalapeƱo-stu ffed olive. Talk about spice. I can see that one waking you up in the morning with all that heat in the drink.

We all caught up and poured over the menu. We placed our order, and this is where the brunch went a little south. Service was a little off. The server that took our order, Alaina, would come around every so often to check-up on us, but other servers would come over and ask to refill our waters. Twice, they forgot about Amy's water. Another time, a different server came to ask to refill our drinks, and didn't even ask Andrew what he wanted, as he was sitting in front of an empty glass. On top of the missed drinks, our table sat for over 50 minutes after ordering before we had food come to the table. We actually measured it by two or  three rounds of drinks for some. While I understand a new restaurant might have some service issues to start off with, this was a little much.

Once our food did make it to the table, we were all fairly hungry and even a little tipsy. Our friend Chris ordered the Classic Benedict ($8.95). This traditional entree was served with a large ham steak in the middle of the benedict. Chris told me that since he lives on the East side near Cafe Hollander, this benedict was much better. While the ham was large, the egg on top easily covered it, and the Hollandaise sauce was nicely prepared—buttery with a hint of lemon to hit you in the corner of your jaw. Although he was hoping the the signature breakfast potatoes that could be found at the other restaurants, the hash browns were nicely prepared.

His wife, Neha, ordered the Market Omelet ($9.95). I am not sure how many eggs when into this one, but the omelet itself was huge. Taking up nearly half the plate, this fluffy egg dish was filled with sauteed mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes and cheddar cheese. Neha said she really enjoyed the omelet, but could not finish it all. It was just too much. Served with a side of toast and hash browns, I can see why she would have some difficulty eating the entire entree.

Sara ordered the Portobello Benedict ($9.95). Unsure if she was going to like the Hollandaise, she asked for it on the side. What I thought was nice about this dish was not only was the English muffin home-made, but the roasted portobello mushrooms were joined with grilled tomato slices and sauteed spinach. Taking one taste of this scrumptious dish, Sara instantly loved the Hollandaise, and used every last drop as she could. As the other dishes, this brunch entree was served with a side of the hash browns.

Andrew ordered the Biscuits and Gravy ($9.95). When the plate came out the table, I was surprised by the color of the gravy. I knew that it was made with chorizo, but the red-orange color threw me off. He let me try one bite, and I have to say, it was amazing. I really enjoyed how the gravy, poached egg and black pepper basil biscuits tasted all together. I was thinking that I could have ordered that and would have been happy with my decision. Andrew said that he really liked the spice and heat in the dish. He didn't even need to add hot sauce, which he likes to do from time to time.

Amy, our fearless friend who got their early, went a different route with her brunch entree. She ordered an "appetizer" of Breakfast Poutine ($8.95) and a side of fruit ($2.95). Now was is poutine you might ask? I had heard of it once before, but it originated in Quebec, Canada and is making it way across the US. The dish consists of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered with brown gravy. The Cafe Benelux version adds two poached eggs to the mix. If there was ever a brunch item that was so "bad" for you, but tasted so good—this is that item. (I now know why Amy ordered the side of  fruit as well). The crunchiness of the fries is covered by the smooth gravy with the warm, gooey curds adding a zing of saltiness to each bite. I called this an "appetizer" because the portion is large enough for two people's brunch entrees. Amy ended up taking a good portion home with her.

I wanted to try a little of everything. I ordered the Hodge Podge ($11.95). Staring off with a large portion of hash browns, this dish took something of every dish and put it into one: melted cheddar cheese, bacon, sausage, poached eggs and topped with the chorizo cream gravy and pico de gallo. The photo to the right doesn't do this plate justice. It is a massive amount of food. And what it brings to the table with size, it delivers even more on flavor. Obviously, the chorizo cream gravy is amazing, and the hash browns were a good base. The other flavors (egg, sausage, bacon and cheese) could make this one of my favorite brunch items. I just wish it would have made it out to the table sooner.

All-in-all, Cafe Benelux brings the traditional items and flair a Lowlands Group restaurant is known for to the Third Ward. There is something for everyone on the menu, and the view from the roof top patio is something no one else offers in that section of the city. While we all decided to split the check (because of all the drinks), we ended up paying about $23 per person. While that is a little on the high side, a normal outing of one drink and one entree should run you around $17 per person. One thing to note is that Cafe Benelux has partnered with the Milwaukee Public Market for parking. So, park there, and you can get your ticket validated at the host stand for free parking downtown. Now that is a huge plus. With any new restaurant, I am sure this brunch spot will go through it's growing pains. I just hope they correct the service problems soon—this is brunch is a must for any one wanting to experience a view like no other downtown.

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

What have been your experiences at Cafe Benelux? What are some other good entrees? Respond below in the comments or suggest other places for me to try around Milwaukee!

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

Cafe Benelux (****)
346 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
(414) 501-2500
Cafe Benelux on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Saturday and Sunday
8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Atmosphere: ***** (awesome)
A truly unique space and offering stunning views of the neighborhood

Food: ***** (awesome)
Great new entrees and I love that chorizo cream gravy

Service: ** (ok)
New restaurant. Multiple servers forgot one item or another, plus food took over 50 minutes to get to the table.

Drinks: ****
Mimosa - ***** (awesome)
Bloody Marys - *** (pretty good) inconsistently made between rounds and between people

Price: *** (pretty good)
Normally less than $20 a person with a minimal leftovers.