Milwaukee Sail Loft opens in old Riptide space
Shawn Heine had monkeys strolling through his backyard at his last job. That was in Playa Guiones, Costa Rica, where he was cooking at the Beach Dog, a waterfront cafe.
He knows the flora and fauna will be a little different in the Third Ward, but Heine is calling his new gig the job of a lifetime. He is the executive chef of Milwaukee Sail Loft, which recently opened in the rustic modern space formerly occupied by Riptide at the mouth of the Milwaukee River.
Heine has had other good kitchen positions. A graduate of the prestigious culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University, he has been the sous chef at Fulton's on the River in Chicago.
But Milwaukee Sail Loft owner Jeffrey Reinbold gave Heine the opportunity to shape the menu with him at a new restaurant, and that is a big deal. The Sail Loft offers customers one of the most spectacular restaurant views in the city, and the two men are promising food that is as good as the scenery.
The Great Lakes bulk carrier Saginaw was sliding past the bistro, almost close enough to touch the hull, when we sat down to talk about the new dining venture. "We're a harbor front destination focused on great food," Reinbold said. "We are offering fine dining quality with an everyday atmosphere."
In other words, jeans, shorts and T-shirts are just fine.
All of the meats and seafood are fresh, and most are grilled. Declaring a commitment to healthy eating, Heine is placing the kitchen's deep fryer in semi-retirement, using it for only a few obvious items that need to swim in fat.
Milwaukee Sail Loft is emphasizing local sourcing of food and is striving to be environmentally friendly. Bay View's Sweet Water Organics, the indoor urban farm based on an aquaponic agricultural system, is providing perch and greens. The new restaurant is grinding its own meat and having its fish shipped in whole, enhancing freshness.
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I recently tried this place for the first time. They seemed to have both a relatively busy bar and patio, it was a beautiful day so there weren't many diners inside. Our table of 4 enjoyed a couple rounds of drinks, two great appetizers, and we all enjoyed our entrees. The kitchen/chef is capable and 100% on their game. However, their servers and service mgmt need a little help. We didn't get bad service, it's just the service staff lack both confidence and skill in being good servers. -Confusion on who is seating us and where we'll be seated -The server doesn't know the specials or have them written, has to leave mid-order to check -The bar missed some garnishes on the 1st round of drinks -If someone orders a steak, make sure they have a knife These thing don't bother me when paying less, but they set the bar and I expect them to meet it. They have great potential and I'll be back in a month hoping to see they've shook out any opening jitters.
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