Downtown Milwaukee has a brand new option for Wisconsin-inspired cuisine. Millioke (pronounced Mi-li-wo-ké) is from the Algonquin word from which Milwaukee was named. Appropriately, Millioke focuses on hometown favorites: meat, cheese and beer.
The contemporary Art Deco-inspired interior is a myriad of textures. Brick, wood, glass and leather, plus informally dressed servers, keep the restaurant casual. The booths are spacious and the chairs are comfortably padded, encouraging diners to relax and take their time.
Breakfast is served daily. Guests may order off a menu or enjoy the breakfast buffet on Saturday and Sunday ($14). If you are in the mood for a Bloody Mary, Millioke's take on this classic drink is excellent.
Lunch and dinner highlight Wisconsin-made foods throughout the menus. Meat and cheese are such staples of Wisconsin dining and Millioke does it well. A special menu is brought to the table with all of the choices listed, and diners are encouraged to mark off their selections. It's especially nice for those who feel shy about attempting to pronounce cheese or meat names they are unfamiliar with. The chef clearly took a lot of time to research and source these locally made foods. Each cheese ($5) or meat ($6) is served on a wood plank accompanied by interesting extras like tasty little cornichon pickles, flavorful pitted olives or macerated raisins.
The trio of spreads ($12) appetizer offers generous servings of the diner's choice of three: hummus, tapenade, pimento cheese, a crazy good braunschwiger or duck liver mousse.
Salads are made fresh to order. The delicious chop chop salad ($12) features grilled chicken, corn, bacon, tomato and big hunks of blue cheese mixed together with a smoked pepper ranch dressing. The grilled marinated skirt steak ($14) is artfully presented with a healthy slab of iceberg lettuce at the bottom, topped with tomato, hard-boiled egg, bacon, blue cheese crumbles, grilled-to-order steak and thin, deep-fried onion rings.
The build-your-own burgers ($11) are eminently customizable but each topping is extra. Add cheese ($2), caramelized onion ($2) and Nueskeâ€™s bacon ($3) and you suddenly have an $18 burger. Burgers are served on a pretzel roll, and include sides like yummy bread & butter pickles, and thick-cut parmesan French fries.
Dinner at Millioke is all about comfort food. Order the pappardelle ($16), and receive a plate loaded with nice wide egg noodles mixed with lardons of Nueske's bacon, green peas and locally made Sartori parmesan in a well-seasoned cream sauce. Or go for a classically prepared eggplant Napoleon ($16). The panko coated deep-fried eggplant topped with grilled vegetables and charred tomato is packed with delicious flavor, and not at all greasy.
Millioke's beer list has 20 some varieties on tap and even more in bottles. Try the Hinterland Cherry Wheat with subtle fruity notes, or the light and very drinkable Lagunitas IPA. Millioke has a full bar and a decent (mostly domestic) wine list.
This is a great place to relax with friends and celebrate some of the simple gastronomic pleasures of Wisconsin.