When I woke up today, one thing was on my mind--brunch. I knew I wanted something hearty that satisfied both my lunch and breakfast desires, and I settled on Chic Cafe, a cozy, newer black-owned venue located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee, located on 770 N Jefferson St. A follower of mine tipped me off to this Southern-style restaurant through my interactive page, (see above) something I greatly appreciated. I decided to take the bus downtown to save a little time, and I was at Chic in less than 10 minutes, ready to dive into my next restaurant.
My first steps inside the cafe were a bit confusing, as you have to go down a set of stairs and walk a little toward the back to be served. I surveyed the venue and soon realized that Chic is an underground cafe with its own lounge for weekend music concerts and events. Upon my arrival, I was greeted warmly by Rita Willis, who turns out, is the co-owner of Chic Cafe. Owners are sometimes distant from their establishments so it was refreshing to see an owner doing some of the grunt work, taking orders from customers and interacting with them. All of their prices were extremely affordable and easy on the pockets, something important for students and people looking to obtain good deals when eating out. After five minutes or so I surveyed the menu and finally decided between shrimp and grits or chicken and waffles.
Since I had eaten gumbo at the Cheesecake Factory yesterday, (Not local, I know) I decided to stray from seafood and opted for chicken and waffles. I had the choice of dark or white meat and wings and.or breasts and decided to turn my savage up and get not only a wing, but a breast as well (white meat). I was told that the wait would be at least 25 minutes because they cook their chicken breasts fresh, but why would anyone complain about getting food that is piping hot? All of their food is made from scratch, from their waffle mix to their cheesy grits, my side, and this feature alone puts it above a lot of other restaurants because pre-made food is common and faster to make for customers, who can become impatient.
My first bite into my chicken was filled with seasonings including garlic powder, but the most prominent taste was the lemon pepper that sat atop the chicken's crust. The chicken's seasoning collaborated with the waffle's cake-like taste and crispy texture on the outside of the waffle. Having eaten Coffee Makes You Black's chicken and waffles, I must admit that Chic gets my nod of approval for the job they did on their seasoning and offering larger options of chicken with the waffles. The cheesy grits I ate were also delicious, and this was something to celebrate because I am not crazy about adding a lot to my grits (Basic, simple, call it what you want).
I usually do not inform restaurants that I am food blogger because I do not want the service of a restaurant or food to change just because they know I am reviewing it, but today, I decided to let Chic know about my food blog after eating to use as a talking point and create more awareness about my blog. As a nice gesture, I was given samples of their spaghetti, yams and chicken jambalaya, and these options all were satisfying. My grits were also on the house, and this was nice because they went out of their way to make a good first impression. The one qualm that I have about Chic Cafe might be the set up of the cafe (out in the open, away from waiters), but the owner told me they plan to move Saturday/Sunday brunch from their main open seating area to their lounge that sits next to the dining area.
Overall, Chic Cafe is a place that I wish I would have known about three years ago during my time at Marquette because of its extremely close proximity to campus, inexpensive dining options, wide assortment of southern-style eats, and over-the-top service that sits above a lot of other venues that I have visited. This underground venue in downtown Milwaukee might only be three years old, but it is seasoned in more ways than one might imagine.
Today, I had the opportunity to get a sneak peak at one of my favorite restaurants that originated in the Chicagoland area-Portillo's. This restaurant, one that started as a hot dog stand, has spread to California, Arizona and Florida, to name a few states. Starting on Tuesday, July 19th, Wisconsin lovers will be able to taste what I experienced today in Brookfield, Wisconsin, located on 17685 W Bluemound Rd.
When I first heard Portillo's was coming to Wisconsin, a part of me was upset because it was native to Chicago and has become synonymous with Chicago's food scene. Wisconsin has their beer and brats and Chicago has their hot dogs and deep dish pizza, and that was the end of the discussion. I also heard about this news early into my senior year at Marquette so I was a tad bit jealous that Wisconsites would be able to devour the same food I had to wait to eat when I went back to Illinois. However, I began to think about how neat it was that a piece of Illinois was going to be on Wisconsin's plate and soon began to appreciate this change.
Dick Portillo, Portillo's' founder, Keith Kinsey, Portillo's CEO, and Steve Ponto, the Mayor of Brookfield, talked about the economic impact and good Portillo's will do for the community and mentioned they are beginning to research other places in Wisconsin as potential landing spots. Unfortunately, someone asked was Dick converting to Packer nation, something that made me a bit queasy. Luckily, the owner respectfully declined. Soon after, I posed a question to Dick and Steve about research and how they decided to choose Brookfield as their first Wisconsin-based location and their response can be viewed here.
As for their menu, something you all obviously are concerned about, it ranges from their hearty italian beefs, beef and cheddar croissants and chopped salads. Something new to their menu is their bratwurst, an ode to Wisconsin and their tradition with this sausage. Thankfully, we were given the opportunity to try out an assortment of food, including Barnelli's pasta, onion rings and a daunting chocolate cake shake.
As usual, the food was fresh, the service was friendly, and this consistency in food and service stems from the company's culture that starts with Dick Portillo and trickles down to the young cashier trying to make a few dollars. Likewise, the nostalgic feel of Portillo's is unlike any other casual dining experience and is a unique feature that other places can not replicate. Although I enjoyed calling Portillo's my own when talking to those unfamiliar about this Chicago restaurant, I'm now willing to share the love, food and extra pounds that will follow after visiting Portillo's.
- Go to portillos.com/freecake to sign up to get a free slice of their chocolate cake on your birthday!
- Portillo's Employees go through an extensive 6 week process before opening up a location.
- Portillo's can be delivered anywhere in the the United States.
- It took Portillo's 6 months to get a permit to begin building in Brookfield.
It has been way too long since I've written about food. There was snow on the ground, it was freezing outside and I was still a student at Marquette. Since then, I have graduated, been away from Milwaukee and have been very sedentary to say the least. Luckily, I am back working in Milwaukee for a couple of months and will be able to give you all some updates to new and old food joints alike.
Earlier today, I decided to take a stroll to Purple Door Ice cream located at 2nd & Pittsburgh to combat the warm weather and satisfy my sweet tooth. The walk from Marquette's campus down past the Third Ward to Purple Door was quick and easy. Once I arrived to Purple Door, I had some decisions to make and it was not just limited to the ice cream this time around.
As I surveyed the venue I spotted a section off to the side that appealed to me-merchandise. I've visited Purple Door numerous times and never paid attention to what else this ice cream shop had in store-literally and figuratively. T-shirts, hats (the one pictured below) stickers and water bottles are just a few of the items Purple Door offers at decent prices ($20 for hats and t-shirts, a buck for stickers). As a self-proclaimed foodie, I decided to grab some gear while embracing the good vibes of Purple Door and was pleased to take Purple Door with me after eating my treat, leading me to what I devoured.
A huge part of me was feeling a fruit-infused dish versus chocolate, and I opted to get a double scoop of Tropical Sorbet and Raspberry Green Tea. The Tropical Sorbet provided me with a mixture of mango and pineapple along with another exotic fruit that I can't name. The flavors were pungent and packed a punch-a fruity one that is, and the Raspberry Green Tea flavor offset the flavor of the Tropical Sorbet. It was the perfect complement and added a nice balance. My friend chose to go with a safe but always reliable option, a Cookies N' Cream and Vanilla split (two smaller scoops). We were both satisfied with our dishes and finished them both off.
Although it had been a long time since visiting Purple Door, my return to this small but trendy ice cream shop in Milwaukee's Walker's Point area provided me the same thrill, savory ice cream and a new purple bill that allows me to pay homage to chilled, tasty treats.