I enjoy good food, and dining out is a regular part of my life. Because I live and work in the Downtown area, I am fortunate enough to be within walking distance of some of the very best restaurants in Wisconsin. With so many choices, it can be a challenge to get to every noteworthy kitchen in the city. While I know a number of people with impeccable taste who sing the praises of Mason Street Grill, it was not a restaurant I have tried, until last night.
To be candid, it was not a restaurant I thought I’d enjoy. I dismissed it as a “hotel restaurant,” a place that didn’t necessarily have to have good food because it has a ready-made group of diners due to its location. I continued to think this, despite having the best grilled cheese of my greasy-fingered, dairy-loving life at Café at the Pfister, a hotel restaurant. As savvy Milwaukee diners already knew- I was wrong.
We breezed into the bar on a Friday evening. The room was filled, but not crowded, and The Phil Seed Trio filled the air with smooth grooves which seemed to cause the bar to gently sway as the revelers sipped their drinks. We had no reservations, but were easily accommodated at the diner’s bar, overlooking the busy kitchen. I enjoy the active hustle and bustle of watching food being prepared, considering it a “dinner and a show” type of experience. Despite our front row seats to the action, it was quiet enough that we could hear the strains of Toto’s “Africa” as presented by the Trio, soaring into the room from the bar.
I confess, I am an enthusiastic eater with a limited palate. I could never been a food writer or a restaurant critic- the list of things I refuse to eat is long, varied, and contains a lot of very common stuff, like fish, for example. That makes dining with me a fairly pedestrian experience, and my menu choices for my first meal at Mason Street Grill reflect that. Additionally, my favorite part of any meal are the side dishes. And since I am sharing all of this, I’ll also add that I have yet to meet a bread basket that I did not love beyond prudence.
Can you see why I am rarely called upon to write about food?
What we ordered
Mason St. Grill Burger
Fork & Knife Baby Back Ribs
White Cheddar & Smoked Gouda Macaroni & Cheese
First, and most importantly for my fellow carb lovers: the bread basket was outstanding! Apparently I am not the only person who swooned upon taking a bite of the seasoned bread. Our server told us the bread was a family recipe created by the chef’s mother, who won first place in a bread baking contest for her tasty creation. In truth, even if everything else we ate was terrible, I’d come back just for this bread; it was that good.
When our food arrived, it was hard to decide what to try first. Everything was delectable. The macaroni was delicious without being overly rich, and the asparagus was a delight. The slim stalks were perfectly done and we fought over the last remaining tender stems. The burger was beautifully charred and topped by the freshest slice of tomato I have ever eaten at any restaurant. Finally, the ribs! The meat slipped away from the bone as easily as a silk robe slides away from the shoulders. The meal was a hit and the service was impeccable. The Mason Street Grill had fully won me over.
Why no dessert? This was a difficult decision to make. If loving cake were a sport, I would be in the elite 1%, a world-renowned dessert consumer. I wish I had paced myself, but I didn’t, and there was absolutely no room left for a sweet treat. In fact, I was so full that even the idea of taking a slice of cake home to enjoy later seemed like an impossibility. As overstuffed as I was, I could not even imagine the prospect of wanting to eat again in the near future. As I write this, I continue to regret that choice. One day soon, I hope to be reunited with the gorgeously gooey looking chocolate cake and finally enjoy those rich forkfuls of what looked to be heaven on a plate.
Since becoming the Narrator, one of the tips Pfisterphiles have frequently shared is that Mason Street Grill has one of the best Happy Hours in the city. I still have not had my fill of the snack mix trio found in the Lobby Lounge, so I have not yet made it down the hall to sample snacks from the kitchen and partake in the drink specials, but after my first dinner at the restaurant, it is on my short list for weekday fun. I look forward to spending an early evening with great friends while cozied up on the inviting outdoor seating.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love this place?