Nestled atop the rapidly-evolving Brewers Hill area, Roots Restaurant and Cellar not only offers one of the most spectacular views of downtown Milwaukee, but it also serves up some of the most creative culinary fare in town.
With its blend of warm, caramel colored walls, clean, modern lines, and chic, eco-inspired style, Roots’ atmosphere exudes the kind of casual-elegance that manages to be both cool and intimate, a combination I find incredibly appealing.
Another thing I find highly appealing is the fact that all of Roots’ ingredients, including meats and seafood, are organic and purchased from local farmers whenever possible. Roots believes in supporting sustainable agriculture as well as aquaculture. That commitment to earthy authenticity contributes to the creation of a menu so playful and eclectic that their flavorful food has garnered attention both locally and beyond, earning acclaim from magazines like Gourmet and Bon Appétit. It’s one of those places you want to visit again and again, and that you want to recommend to every single person you know.
Following that, our server brought us two shallow bowls, one filled with garlic roasted chickpeas, and the other brimming with buttery gourmet popcorn. Ah the love for all things buttery! It’s probably a good thing she didn’t deliver up a larger portion. I would have devoured it all and asked for more – pronto. And thus, I would have ruined my appetite for the forthcoming entrees.
After cozying up over candlelight, and taking a few more savory morsels from the center of the table, we surveyed the night’s offerings.
Roots’ menu celebrates all seasons, different cultures, and fresh foods with a progressive flair. Everything is grown ecologically and respectfully, and made from scratch. The appetizers incorporated an entertaining array of things like Acorn Stuffed Pork Cheeks served with orchard apple relish and chestnut-cider jus ($12), and Hot & Sour Mussels over daikon relish, drizzled in lobster oil and accompanied by a warm baguette ($9).
There’s also a satisfying selection of leafy greens, including an interesting Corned Beef & Cabbage salad mixed with caraway jelly, boot string potatoes and pickled mustard seeds ($8), and Sherry Roasted Mushrooms that are tossed with mizuna greens, a well-balanced juniper vinaigrette and Wisconsin cave-aged sheep cheese ($9).We ended up sipping a hearty, warm bowl of beef and cranberry soup, followed by Maine Peekytoe Crab Cakes ($13), which we proceeded to savor even more with the sweet corn salsa and spicy remoulade.
Yes, should you make it past the snacks and apps, there’s a wonderfully diverse selection of inventive entrees such as Chipotle Grilled Prawns paired with vanilla-black beans, mufungo mojo criollo and avocado ($25), Truffle Seared Tenderloin that’s cooked with Madeira-black truffle glace and stacked on chevre whipped potatoes ($36), and Whey Braised Veal Shortribs amid autumn vegetable paprikash, pork belly dumplings, and brussels and curd ($26). The number of items that piqued my interest made my selection process a little difficult.
I ended up opting for the Chicory Braised Chicken ($24). The locally procured organic chicken was braised in rich Wisconsin maple syrup which rendered them wonderfully tender and full of sweet and earthy flavor; they were served with sweet potato waffles, ham hock Wisconsin grown greens and maple-pecan butter. To be honest, the sweetness was a little overwhelming, and the waffles a little out of place, but the chicken was excellent.
Eric decided to try the Soy Grilled Tilapia ($27). The organic tilapia was of sashimi grade, wild caught, flown in whole, and filleted at the restaurant to ensure freshness. Then it was marinade in a zingy soy sauce and lightly grilled. It came atop a heap of cashew sticky rice and flavorful coconut curry sesame-yuzu dressed pea shoots, which I couldn’t pass up sampling.
The one thing I did pass up was dessert. Not because they didn’t have anything to offer (the selection of cakes, pastries, and tarts was excellent) but because I already had my birthday dessert before dinner.
Here’s to a very happy birthday and many more memorable meals at Roots.
Roots Restaurant and Cellar
1818 N. Hubbard Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Dinner Hours: Monday-Thursday 5-9 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5-10 p.m.
Reservations are recommended for the Restaurant, but are not accepted for the Cellar.