Can Waukesha become a dining destination?

When Waukesha residents want a nice meal they usually head for Deliafield, Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, or Brookfield. Waukesha can boast a wide array of great cheap places to eat. Rochester Deli is one of the best sandwich spots in southeastern Wisconsin (their Rubens and Pastrami sandwiches are phenomenal), Jimmy’s Grotto’s ponzeratta’s are already legendary, the Mexican eateries are on par with many of Milwaukee’s favorite spots, and Fuzzy’s on Main serves up some of the best breakfasts in the County and one spectacular pub burger.

Unfortunately, Waukesha really has very few places that could be called “fine dining.” Most sit-down restaurants are chains catering to the lowest common denominator.  But that appears to be changing and I think it can be traced to a single project, the Clarke Hotel and Black Trumpet Restaurant. Andy Ruggeri and business partner Drew Valozzi finally unveiled their long awaited project in the heart of downtown Waukesha a little over a week ago and the initial reviews from people I have talked to are really good. The food thankfully is not looking to cater to the supper club, meat and potato crowd that has unfairly been ascribed to aukesha’s residents. This is high-end, refined, creative cuisine with dishes like Lobster Confit, a Maine lobster tail poached in Irish butter and served on a white parsnip polenta with black trumpet mushroom stew ,or the Black Trumpet Angus Filet, which is a Black Angus filet seared au Mignonette and finished with a foie gras mousse and black trumpet ragoût. Served on truffle scented potato purée.

Sakura is a Japanese restaurant that opened up a little over a month ago. It’s a vast improvement over the Quizno’s that previously occupied the space. While the service needs some work, the food is good. The fish is as fresh as any sushi place I have visited. They have pretty standard sushi restaurant fare, maki rolls, sushi, sashimi, and a handful of non-sushi dishes to satisfy the annoying person in your party who not only won’t eat raw fish, but won’t even try the rolls with cooked fish in them. If you do skip the sushi, try the Sakura Udon soup. Its a flavorful broth with mushrooms, udon noodles, vegetables, and a huge tempura shrimp floating on top.

In the coming months look for Taylor’s Peoples Park and Generations at Five Points to open. People’s Park is will be an upscale bar/restaurant owned by the same folks who own the extremely popular Taylor’s in Downtown Milwaukee. I have heard that Generations at Five Points will be a Tapas (small plates) restaurant.

Ray’s On South opened earlier this fall and while I am not a huge fan of their food (it tastes good, but not really the kind of food I want to eat when I go out), they are non smoking and the bar is really nice inside.

It seems that this culinary wasteland is finally turning the corner.

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67 thoughts on “Can Waukesha become a dining destination?

  1. Glad to hear Waukesha is getting some good restaurants. When I lived there I could only eat at at Jimmy’s Grotto and Casa Del Rio so many times per month. Now that I’m back on the East Side of Milwaukee I really appreciate the many dining choices within a 5 mile radius of my house. You just can’t get that in the suburbs.

  2. Not sure if Waukesha will ever be a “dining destination”… but I definitely think they’re on the right track.

    One of the strengths of restaurants in Wisconsin is the plethora of really COMFORTABLE places to dine. Great food, without a stuffy atmosphere. Hopefully they’ll follow that lead!

  3. I have to say I disagree with Wiggy. I had dinner with a small group of friends a few months ago at Golden Gate and I read all of the clippings ranting and raving about its delicious food. However, when my food arrived (pork in a spicy plumb sauce) I was rather disappointed. A friend of mine always orders sweet and sour chicken at every oriental restaurant we frequent and he was also rather disappointed with his food. I think a dinner at Ching Hwa would be a much better choice.

    As far as Waukesha becoming a food destination…that has yet to be seen. However I do agree that the opening up of the establishments mentioned in this post will help to put Waukesha on the map.

  4. Now you missed one there…or does a coffeeshop have a say in the sandwich/ food fare genre? I am speaking of The Steaming Cup. Could it be an understated little coffeeshop that is lost in the maze of downtown Waukesha. They serve normal to almost astounding sandwiches and wraps. Now don’t overlook the drinks or the atmosphere…this is a real Waukesha homesite! On Fridays and Saturdays, the live music makes the place a perfect date night site. Check them out – they are GREAT! (I am biased, I own the place!)

  5. I kind of focused on the new stuff and didn’t talk about the existing places, but I should have. The Steaming Cup is and will probbaly always be the hub of downtown social activity and the coffe, soups, and sandwiches are out of this world.

  6. Rochester’s service is so snotty, I’ll never go back. I will drive to Jake’s instead.

    Divino Gelato needs to get rid of the food & stick to what they do best–gelato.

    Ching Hwa’s only has 2 things going for it–egg rolls & sizzling rice soup.

    Kim’s Garden–they let the crabby little lady at the order desk go. Peanut chicken is awesome, so is the lemon chicken, pineapple rice, pretty much everything but especially the eggrolls.

    Albanese’s–Deli rocks the house. Fish fry is great, so are the pastas & sandwiches. Grocery section is awesome when you don’t have time for a run to Kenosha or Glorioso’s.

    Golden Gate–crystal shrimp. so good.

    Golden Chicken–yeah they’re a chain, but something everyone agrees on.

    Bombay Sweets, Yosoko, Louise’s, etc. We have some good places, it would be nice to get a place like Thai BBQ (34&National) out here.

  7. Also forgot to mention, one of the guys at Grotto’s asked me this week if the spaghetti sauce was better than in past years, and it was. He said the owner had taken the old recipe & tweaked it. It’s not as bitter as before. Very good & of course ponza’s.

  8. Hope you have headed over to People’s Park by now. It’s on the corner of Main & Clinton. They are doing a great job! They know their food…prices are reasonable….service is excellent. Might I suggest – try their burgers and fries…awesome!

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