Since I reviewed The Social back in April I have been back a couple of times so I decided it warranted another review. So what follows are some impressions from a couple of recent visits.
On one visit I tried to order a half dozen oysters, but it was late in the evening on a Friday and they were all out so we decided to try the Crabby Tater Tots because they were highly regarded by our waitress. The crabby tater tots entree was a throwback to all of those lunches I had in high school, except these tots were enhanced (or as the menu descrbes them, “studded” with the addition of blue crab meat. A tarragon tartar sauce is served on the side. While the tots were quite good, ours suffered from a little too much time in the fryer. While not burned, they were a bit crispier than I would have liked. Nonetheless I would still recommend them, especially if you have a group that wants to share appetizers.
The mac and cheese, while overpriced at $14.95, is still a great dish. The creamy mac and cheese is enhanced with goat cheese, roasted chicken, and just enough rosemary to counter the richness of the dish. Charging 15 bucks for pasta, cheese, and chunks of chicken seems a bit of a reach but it is quite delicious and you will likely have enough left over for lunch the next day.
As many people know the Social is owned by the same people who owned the excellent, and now extinct, Sol Fire. One of the best dishes at Sol Fire was their steak frites, which featured a hangar steak marinated in red wine barbecue sauce and a side of crispy French fries. Though its a different preparation from Sol Fire, I wanted to see how the Social’s version of the popular bistro staple fared. While not as good as the Sol Fire version (which I consider the best preparation of hanger steak in the City) it was still very good. Cooked to medium rare, the steak was excellent when paired with the béarnaise sauce. The thin fries served on the side were also quite good.
Another standout dish is the Roasted mushroom and butternut squash risotto. The creamy rice was filled with roasted chunks of squash and mushrooms and was finished with a drizzle of fragrant truffle oil. Sun dried tomatoes added a sweet and acidic balance the richness of the rest of the ingredients. Truffle oil can easily overpower a dish but the use here was restrained allowing the flavors of the rice, parmeggiano reggiano cheese and the mushrooms, squash, and sun dried tomatoes to take center stage while the truffle played a supporting role. The only complaint was that the dish came to the table terribly under seasoned. Thankfully a dash of salt awoke the flavors of the dish.
The Social has nightly specials ans on one visit a friend tried the Friday Fish fry and raved about it. He also loved the Matzo Ball Soup. On another visit they had a skirt steak that had a chimichurri sauce and some cilantro lime rice, which I believe was once on the Sol Fire menu (or maybe it was a special there as well). The steak was cooked to medium as requested and was sliced and laid around a large mound of the delicious rice. If they have this special when you are there, give it a try.
The only problem I have with the Social is that almost everything on the menu looks good. Making a decision on what to order is a daunting task so I would recommend going with a group of friends who like to share. Service is good, but a bit slow. Its great if you want to linger around and talk with your friends and enjoy some beer or wine, but sometimes you want to get in and out in a hurry. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this place. The menu is diverse enough to satisy gourmands and picky eaters alike, and that is no small task. The Social is located at 170 S. 1st Street in Milwaukee.
EatWisconsin Rating: 3 out of 5.
Rating Guide: 0=Absolutely terrible, avoid at all costs, 1=Bad, 2=Mediocre/Average, 3= Admirable, 4=Excellent, 5=Sublime