January 2017
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Motor Bar & Restaurant – Milwaukee

My bike has been in storage for almost two months and I am already suffering from PMS – parked motorcycle syndrome. What better way to relieve some stress that to drive down to Canal Street in Milwaukee and spend the afternoon at the Harley-Davidson Museum. There are over 450 motorcycles and items on display situated on 20 acres overlooking the Milwaukee riverfront. But wait…it get even better. The Motor Bar & Restaurant is located on the campus. How freaken good does this get? Bikes, Beer, Ribs and all sorts of food that will make my cardiologist go into a tailspin.

Motor thanksgiving burgerWe walk through the doors and enter into a bar done in Harley-Davidson Industrial Modern. I like the feel and look of the Bar & Restaurant. As we move to the bar the very first think I notice is that the barstools weigh Motor Ribs and Brisketabout as much as my FLHTC. After a bit of struggling I get it adjusted to my comfort level. Now comes the challenge; what kind of beer am I going to have? I opt for the Motor Oil (what else) from The Lakefront Brewery. The tender is friendly and he offers up several taste tests for my friends. If you are really into beer you can join the Motor Mug Club by purchasing a Mug in the museum shop, registering it at the bar, then enjoying $3.50 drafts of your choice in the bar, the average tap cost around $5. Let’s face it, this is Harley and they are marketing masters. I fully admit that I have sipped the H-D Kool-Aid and have joined the collective.

It is a Sunday evening and the dining room is fairly busy. One reason for this is if you are a Museum Member you get 20% discount off the total bill on Sunday and Monday evenings, not a bad deal. We order another round of drinks and look over the menu. We start out with salads and I have the Beer Cheese Soup. The soup had a deep cheesy flavor with a hint of beer in the background and was of a good consistency and very tasty. The girls decide to order burgers, but as guys who have spend the afternoon looking at Milwaukee Iron it is only fitting that we have BBQ Ribs & Brisket. In my opinion the ribs were a bit on the dry side, not exactly falling off of the bone. The brisket on the other hand was tender and very flavorful.

At the end of the day I would go back and sample some other dishes. From a price standpoint they are a bit on the high side, but it is important to remember that 1) you are in metro Milwaukee and 2) it is after all Harley-Davidson.

Since I am a museum member I am looking forward to spending many more afternoons and evenings down here. Bring your mug I will meet you there.

The Big Ragu gives this joint a 4 outa 5.

Motor Bar & Restaurant (Harley-Davidson Museum) on Urbanspoon

Altoona Family Restaurant – Altoona

AltoonaI make it a point to avoid any place whose name ends in ‘Family Restaurant’.  As a rule it is never a wise choice, however, there are some exceptions.  One Sunday morning after Thanksgiving the Little Ragu tells me we are going to the Altoona Family Restaurant.  He and the smokin hot chick Kelly, who by the way is now his smoken hot bride came upon this place a while back while they were on a quest of some of the best breakfast places in the area.

We arrived around 9:30am, just in time to beat the church rush.  From the outside it does not appear to be anything special.  On the inside the place is a beehive of activity.  The hostess seats us at the last available table, we no more than sit down and the waitress is there with coffee and menus.  There are several things that I like for breakfast, especially in this type of restaurant.  Corned beef Hash with Poached Eggs, Hash browns with fried onions and a pancake.  The orders were placed and 10 minutes later our food appeared.  The breakfast was great, the hash browns were done just as I like and the poached eggs were perfect, the corned beef hash was average.  The pancake on the other hand was awesome, huge with great flavor and texture.  This is definitely the place I want to come to after a night of serious martinis.  I had a collage roommate who always told me that if you do some serious drinking you need to ‘feed the furnace’ in the morning.  Truer words were never spoken.

If you are in the Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls area and need to feed the furnace.  Try the Altoona Family Restaurant.

The Big Ragu give this place a 4 outa 5


Altoona Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Painted Parrot – West Allis, WI

Martin Sertich Co-Owner (L) & Jan (the guy with the girls name)

When I learned that a friend of mine bought the Painted Parrot in West Allis all I could think of was the line ‘Don’t worry be happy’.  I thought he must have been dipping in the ganja vat a bit too much.

Being a true fish fry guy I asked him how his fry was, his immediate response was the best in Milwaukee and then went on to tell me he would do 350+ on a Friday night.  This may sound like a lot, but then it is West Allis and it is Friday night. I had to check it out.

I got on the horn and called my friends Jan (the guy with a girls name), Yvonne, and Robin.  We decide on 7:00 pm for cocktails and to see what the Parrot has to offer.  6:45 pm we arrive, no place to park. I circle the block, and find nothing in the immediate area.  6:55 pm a spot in front of the Parrot opens up but I am going the wrong way, I make a U-turn in the middle of National Ave. just narrowly avoiding a multi-colored Yugo.  Just as I make the circle some schmuck zips around the corner and takes my spot.  6:56 pm I am getting pissed off.  I cannot believe there are this many people here.  7:01 pm I slip into a spot in the funeral home parking lot figuring no one will need it this evening.  It’s a nice evening and the walk back to the car will probably do me good.

We walk in and the joint is jumping.  There is the sweet smell of a good fish fry floating through the air.  We wiggle through the crowd and find Mike Polacheck one of the co-owners behind the bar.  He asks Robin what she wants to drink, and she comes back with a Jim Beam and Coke (gack), Mike gives me the WTF look and I can only hang my head in shame.  I go with a Blue Moon and since I am a guy… hold the orange.  I send Robin halfway down the bar to stake out an impending opening and a few minutes later our butts are firmly planted on a barstool.  Life is looking pretty good right now but I am feeling the need for a Martini infusion.

Clam Chowder

DJ Martin Sertich the other owner comes over to say hi.  I sheepishly admit my initial disbelief when we first talked about his Friday night volume.  WTF I have been wrong before and I am pleased that this time I was.  Jan and Yvonne show up and Martin seats us at a table.  I always love watching people in a restaurant; the waitresses are weaving in and out of the crowd with trays held high and massive amount of food on them.  One of the most intriguing things I see is the waitresses carrying what appear to be large garbage can covers heaped with various kinds of food.  Martin points out one of them and tells us they area the ‘Big Ass Nachos’.  I can see myself some night with my beak full of Martinis face first in that tray.  For those with a less aggressive appetite they have the ‘Half-Ass Nachos’.  Right now I don’t care what I have as long as it comes on a can cover.  Our waitress assures me she will make it happen.

Painted Parrot Fish Fry

Martin assures us we have to do the Clam Chowder, so we order the chowder and three fish frys.  Yvonne orders the Fish Tacos.  There is something about a fish taco that reminds me of bar jokes about fishing boats and out-houses.As I start to tell the story Robin gives me the look…which in this case means ‘I don’t know what your going to say, but don’t say it’.  Yvonne said they were great, I will never know.  The Chowder however, is excellent, full of clams and had the WI thickness I like.  The Easterners I know like Chowder with the viscosity of clam urine.  You can think about that twisted thought for a while!  Our waitress was true to her word and the fish came out on a big ass cover, she placed it on an elevated stand so everyone could enjoy the massive amount of food we were about to devour.  The cod had a light breading and was flakey and full of flavor as were the Sweet Potato fries.  The slaw was different.  This was due to the mango vinaigrette dressing.  Although it was good it was not my favorite, however, some people a few tables back asked to purchase 30 lbs. for an upcoming party.  Our waitress comes back a while later and asks us if we want more, and the we find out the fish fry is all you can eat.  I really do love Milwaukee!

Martin and Mike have done a great job cleaning and revamping the Parrot.  Stop in for a fish fry and have a few cocktail while you wait.  You will not be disappointed.

The Big Ragu gives this joint a 4 outa 5

Painted Parrot on Urbanspoon

Jalapeños Sunday or adventures with the Chile Gordo

It is Sunday morning and I find myself wandering through the supermarket eyeing up all the fresh produce.  As I wander from bin to bin taking in the variety of aromas, the produce dude walks in with a large box filled with green tubes of joy.  He is replenishing the jalapeño bin.  As he drops them into the receptacle I have visions of Armadillo Eggs, Texas Toothpicks, Bacon Wrapped jalapeños and Poppers.  Like a Pavlov pup I find myself reaching for the Tums bottle in my pocket to stifle the oncoming heartburn.  My morning has taken on a whole new focus, I decide to make Candied Jalapeños or as they are sometimes called Cowboy Candy!

I bagged up the entire 5 pounds of jalapeños.  The produce dude and few other people looked at me like I had a hole in my head.  Actually they probably thought that at about 10,000 Scoville Heat Units I would have a hole in my stomach or colon by the time I finished all 5 pounds.  So now that I have five pounds of fun in a bag the next question is, ‘What the hell else do I need to do this’?  This is not rocket science so I head over to the pickle section and pick up a gallon of cider vinegar, then walk to the baking area to get a few pounds of sugar.  I top it off with bottles of celery seed, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and garlic powder.  For once I remembered the last but most important item just as I walked up to the check out…mason jars.  A quick mental recap and all seems to be good to go.  Since it is Sunday morning in Wausau every old person in town is in my checkout isle and they all want to write a check or pay with pennies and coupons.  I resign myself to the fact that I am going to lose another 30 minutes of my life to the checkout lane.  Finally it is my turn at the checkout and I am just in time for the 16 year old behind the register to have a meltdown, poor girl must have been overworked counting pennies.  The keyword here is counting, have you ever watched a 16 year old make change?  A new checkout person is directed to my isle and per the checkout person code want to know what I am ‘cooken’ with all the peppers.  I look her in the eyes and say ‘Love medicine’, the checkout pace immediately speeds up and I am out the door and on my way back to the lake.

The cooking process I decide to use is simple.  Wash the jalapeños then cut them into ¼” slices, trimming off the stem section.  I left the seeds and membrane intact for additional heat and flavor.

For the 5 pounds of jalapeños I took a stock pot and added 5 cups of cider vinegar, a one pound bag of granulated sugar, 2 tsp. of cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. of turmeric, 1 tsp. of celery seed and 1.5 tsp. of garlic powder.  I brought this all to a boil and simmered it for 5 minutes.  Then added the sliced jalapeños and simmered them for 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon I added them to clean quart mason jars and packed them tight to avoid air.  After the jars were filled I brought the remaining juice to a boil and cooked it down for 7 minutes.  Each jar was filled almost to the top with the hot liquid.  Remember to use a chopstick to get the excess air out of the jars.  I then cleaned the jar tops and placed the canning lids on.  The jars were submerged into a water bath covering the lids and boiled for 15 minutes.  Make sure all the jars seal and the bubble pops down on the lid top.  You are done.  About this time my house smells like the inside of capsicum processing plant and I have to make a point of not touching my eyes for the next few days.  The jars look great and the liquid has an awesome color.  It will probably be best to wait for two weeks until I open them up for a taste test, but I am sure they will be great.  My local store in town charges $10 a bottle for these.  My final cost was $25 and the yield was 6 quarts.  The added bonus was cleaning out my sinuses.

It is now several days later and I couldn’t wait to try the peppers.  I opened the jar and added them to some cream cheese on a cracker.  They were ‘off the hook’ the sweet heat was incredible and the cream cheese added a wonderful counter taste and texture. I can only imagine that time will make them even better.  Try it with a glass of pinot and enjoy the love.

The Big Ragu gives this taste treat a 5 outa 5.

Back in the Saddle Again

I received an email a few months ago asking if I had stopped writing Fish Frys.  The short-term answer was yes; I needed time to regroup and find my new ‘normal’.  The loss of the Little Mararnia has been personally devastating.  It was no longer fun going to restaurants and consuming great quantities of food and martinis.  Additionally, I no longer had anyone to drive me home after a scandalous night of adventures in some Northern WI eatery.  I needed a new outlet and discovered the world of motorcycles and the lifestyle that goes along with it.  Food and bikes make a great combination.  Hell you have to eat and drink to ride.  So 17,000 miles later I am back at the keyboard fondly remembering the many places I have visited this last summer and getting ready to deliver more of my thoughts on food.

Some updates:  The ‘Smokin hot chick’ Kelly and the Little Ragu were married last August.  Ranger Dave has abandoned the lake and moved to Puerto something or other in Mexico. He likes the street food and Latino ladies. I have knocked off 82lbs, lost a lot of inches in the midsection and though the magic of weight loss I have found several additional inches in other critical areas.  WTF it’s a win –win all the way around.  I also have a bike blog you can check out at

It’s Friday night Wisconsin – let’s find a fish fry.

Boun Natale