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Dining out for Thanksgiving in Milwaukee, a report (longish)

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mike_d Nov 24, 2006 01:28 PM

Here's a report on Thanksgiving dining in Milwaukee. I'm posting this in part because there was no info available on where to eat or how it was on the board, nor did my post asking about it generate any replies. So, for the record....

First, in the city itself, the options are limited, as you would suspect on Thanksgiving. Though, I guess I was surprised by how limited they were. While there were several places in the suburbs (very suburban in location) we found only three restaurants in Milwaukee or immediately nearby that were open: Karl Ratzsch's, Mader's, and the Hubbard Park Lodge (Shorewood, which borders Milw.). The last one generally serves only on Fridays for the traditional fish fry and on Sundays for a brunch. It had a buffet style Thanksgiving menu and three 'seatings' from noon to 3:30. We passed on Hubbard Park because of the 'seatings' etc. and went for Ratzsch's because neither of us had been there in years and years.

The question obviously is 'how was it?' and I'd have to give it a mixed review.

Neither of us went for the traditional turkey dinner, in part because we wanted something different and in part because the menu (which was very detailed in places, with asterisks pointing out choices such as type of potato) excluded potatoes with the turkey, which seemed strange. And it was, we overhead our waitress at a table nearby asking someone what type of potato they'd like. That's the best way describe the experience, not completely bait and switch, but.....

My wife had what was called Black Forest Veal. Even given the circumstances (Thanksgiving, etc.), a breaded veal cutlet with 3 pieces of the strongly flavored Black Forest ham folded together on top, smothered in some sort of cheese was a disappointment. The ham completely overwhelmed the veal and the cheese was flavorless. It had clearly been cooked well ahead of time and nuked. Though the spatzle was good. I suppose in a German restaurant it had better be, though.

I had duck with wild rice and stuffing. It appeared with red cabbage, not indicated on the menu. Okay, so I'm being picky, but if you don't like red cabbage, keeping the juices from flavoring everything on your plate is a hassle. The duck was oddly cut, almost the entire back was facing me on the plate and it essentially was mashed in half to be presented. The stuffing was excellent and the duck flavorful and not dried out, once I found the breast meat and had to de-bone the thing on my plate.

If this had been a new thing for Ratzsch's, an attempt to establish a Thanksgiving business, then I would say they gave it a valiant try. However, according to the person who first told us the restaurant was open on Thanksgiving, Ratzsch's has been open on Thanksgiving for years.

The service was okay, but the bottle of wine wasn't even chilled completely and for almost 30 bucks for a only half-way decent Kendal Jackson chardonnay, I'd like it chilled.

I didn't expect a virtuoso performance on Thanksgiving, but if we do this again, I think I'll try someplace else.

Tonight, cioppino, homemade and no warm white wine!