Pfister Files: A Tradition of Fine Dining

Posted by on Apr 25, 2013

Over the next few months, I will be dusting off pages from the Pfister’s history books and sharing bits of the Pfister’s prolific history. This is the third post in this series.

The Pfister Hotel was and still is a mecca of fine dining.  The holy grail? A Lobby Lounge Bloody Mary overflowing with accutrements, gourmet Sunday brunch buffet in the Cafe Rouge or a 14 oz. dry aged strip at the Mason Street Grill.

The English Room (1926-2001) was the special occasion place offering classic French cuisine. Lauded by the Journal’s long-time restaurant critic Dennis Getto, it was awarded four “chefs hats” (the highest rating) in one review. After 76 years of success, The English Room had a modern facelift and transformed into Celia (an homage to Ben Marcus’s wife), a more reasonably-priced restaurant to encourage frequent diners, before it closed in 2006 to morph into a totally different venture – the WellSpa.

Today, guests can dine in the Mason Street Grill, The Pfister Cafe or even the Lobby Lounge. I bumped into Chef Brian Frakes in the Cafe asked “Hey Chef, can I ask you about the Pfister’s tradition of fine dining?”

“Sure anytime except for right now.” He replied calmly. “It’s just that I have this event going on upstairs in the Grand Ballroom with a bunch of James Beard winners.”  Well, sounds like he just answered my question. So, I bolted upstairs to see for myself one of the most grandiose displays of fine dining I had ever seen. Eighteen accomplished chefs took the stage, all lined up like dominos in their crisp black and white uniforms. And then the fun began as they dispersed to their posts. There were about 300 people, seated at beautifully decorated tables of 10, encompassing a chef and his prep team, like an oyster shell cradling a pearl.DSC_0037

What does it take to get one of Milwaukee’s best chefs to personally cater to your every gastronomic wish?  The Flavors of Wisconsin Event was a benefit for the American Liver Foundation – its tenth annual event at the Pfister. Guests had the opportunity to taste and sip several different courses while seeing the dishes and drinks come to life right before their eyes.

Chef Brian Frakes preparing a dish.

Chef Brian Frakes preparing a dish.

So as you can imagine, Chef Frakes has plenty to say to about the Pfister’s tradition of fine dining, but at the moment, he’s writing his own history.






This picture, from 1917, likely was taken in the Rouge Cafe. Now if this doesn’t scream fine dining, I don’t what is. When was the last time you had a peacock on display at your dinner table?





%d bloggers like this: