Attention to detail, service sets Bunkers apart
Since West Allis corralled a recent runner-up place in Business Week's 2009 list of Best Places to Raise Your Kids, a glowing aura seems to have hit this Milwaukee suburb. With that attention, a steady stream of restaurants that haven't garnered as much Milwaukee attention over the years is now veering gently into the spotlight.
Among those places is Bunkers Nostalgic Lounge & Eatery, 7420 W. Greenfield Ave., a tiny reincarnation of what was once a 17-year West Allis hot spot that shuttered in 2000.
After a seven-year hiatus, Scott Bunker opened his doors to a new, more intimate and grown-up rendition of his business in late 2007, rolling out "nostalgic food and intoxicating drinks."
While the menu contains some items which may be considered nostalgic -- like classic rumaki and oysters Rockefeller -- the retro theme is more apparent in the lava lamps, disco balls and tunes floating from the speakers.
Bunkers is tiny, and its menu straightforward, creating a unique balance between a great place to grab a drink and somewhere you specifically go to eat.
The food offers interesting twists on old favorites and a pleasantly substantial selection of seafood, but what really knocked me out about Bunkers was the detailed, spot-on service and management of this establishment.
If you ever want a glimpse of how well run a bar is, start by checking the beer and wine coolers. A good manager / owner will always have the coolers faced -- that is, all the bottles will be lined up neatly like toy soldiers, with the labels facing the patrons. When the bartender or server serves that product, he or she will, in turn, position that bottle so the label faces the patron. It may sound like minutia, but when a staff cares enough to take care of these tiny, but critical tasks, you will be hard-pressed to find anything else lacking in your service experience.
At Bunkers, not only was the cooler faced, water glasses were always filled, plates were immediately cleared and silverware was never missing even on the busiest of visits, when the wait for one of the less than 50 seats was hovering close to two hours.
On two visits, Bunkers maintained this outstanding level of service, something I've missed far too frequently when dining out over the last several years. Pair that feel-good experience with a menu touting simple, upscale casual cuisine and Bunkers will easily slide into a list of places to visit on the West Side.
Dinners start with appetizers ranging from the basics to something more extraordinary. Braised short ribs ($8.25) arrived with pearl onions and roasted potatoes drizzled in sauce foyot (a variation of hollandaise with shallots, spices and reduced beef stock). The ribs were fork tender, and, for me, would serve better as a main course on another visit; as an appetizer, it was somewhat awkward to share, especially since I enjoyed the dish enough to want it all for myself.
Five large oysters appeared in a new world version of Rockefeller ($8.99), with the oyster perfectly separated (and free of shell flecks) and garnished with spinach, bacon and a generous topping of hollandaise for sinful results.
Tenderloin ($11.25) with grilled vegetables and horseradish and blue cheese, was cooked to medium instead of medium rare, but still made good strides. The same vegetables found themselves beneath a seafood medley of shrimp, scallop and monkfish ($12.95) with favorable results.
But the two entrées which were the best at Bunkers were a Friday night special of escolar ($14.95) poached in black olive oil with fingerling potatoes and asparagus. The escolar, a flaky, succulent fish, was perfectly cooked and perfectly complemented.
The second was a beer-battered cod fry ($10.95) with silver dollar potato pancakes, dark rye, applesauce and coleslaw -- infused with the flavors of the beer batter without being remotely greasy.
We were pleased to find service eating at the bar just as superb as eating at the tables; Bunkers has special bar overlays for just such occasions, and many patrons seem to find this the spot to be.
The small things make a bar or restaurant stand out. Look at other places that do such things...
Scooter | Feb. 23, 2010 at 10:32 a.m. (report)
Glad to see Scott back in the Biz. Eons ago while I was a college student at UWM I worked for Scott at Bunker's Mainstreet as a cook. Great guy, great place. I am sure this is no different.
What a fun place and great food and service. Scott Bunker should give lessons to other individuals wanting to run a service-based business. Lots of specials.
4 comments about this article.
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.