Monkey business is over, but Palms still satisfies
Back in the late 1990s -- when the historic Third Ward as we now know it was little more than a twinkle in a few developers' eyes -- a nondescript, casual diner and watering hole called the Broadway Bar & Grill served up big breakfasts and cheap eats for the neighbors of Commission Row.
Somewhere around 2002, the building caught the eye of Julie Hollingsworth of The City Market; she stripped down the interior to beautiful cream city brick and lined the walls with original paintings of monkeys. And that's how Palms Bistro and Bar, 221 N. Broadway, came to be known as a fun, funky restaurant that OnMilwaukee.com publisher Andy Tarnoff once classified as "upscale monkey."
After several years of monkey business, one of the resident bartenders, Andrew Maricle, and his Group Five Development, purchased the restaurant, and changed very little of what was working well, including much of the menu -- but quickly drove out the monkeys. Artwork at the new Palms rotates and typically features bright, splashy colors that meld well with the hardwood floors and cream city beauty.
Two years into the new ownership, I'm pleased to say that Palms Bar and Grill still does the grand majority of things right. From a simple menu with fresh ingredients and unique combinations, to a bright, welcoming space and open-air sidewalk dining, The Palms holds its own and delivers many things that surpass the competition.
For a moderately priced establishment, Palms offers a vast variety of seafood, red meat, chicken and vegetarian dishes. This is one of the rare restaurants where you can take just about any guests and be confident they will find something to suit their palates.
Lunches at Palms feature salads, sandwiches, and pastas in the $6.75 to $13 range. The French dip ($8.95) arrives on a crusty baguette with seasoned fries and is delicious, if slightly bland, but the baguette more than redeems it. Ripe avocado with bacon, smoked gouda and Dijon mayonnaise cover a basil chicken club ($9.95). Served over ciabatta and with the chicken delightfully moist, this messy sandwich makes for an excellent lunch. Just be sure to request extra paper napkins, which are used for lunches.
Dinners mix a significant amount of starters, assorted entrées, and pasta dishes with excellent results. Appetizers here are enticing enough that you may want to order multiple starters in lieu of a regular meal.
Shrimp and mango spring rolls ($11) come fresh and crisp with a carrot ginger aioli and a slaw made with julienned jicama. Three thick diagonal slices of baguette carry the bruschetta ($8.25) with the sultry tang of balsamic vinaigrette in the tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella and basil. As with all dishes at The Palms, presentation is clean and beautiful, as are the flavors.
Achiote roast chicken ($20), literally fell from the bone with the touch of a fork, and true to the Latin American influence of the achiote, the accompanying rice contained pigeon peas and chorizo for excellent results.
Service at Palms on both visits was slightly off in tact and timing, but after observing the many regulars in the packed dining area, I suspect this is simply the nature of the restaurant, and nothing so disruptive that it would deter me from returning.
Like all other aspects of Palms, the service was consistent -- and I like knowing I can return for great food and great ambience and know exactly what I will be walking into.
I agree with the other comments - amazing food, amazing service - a Milwaukee jewel!
Great food, Great service, Great Atmosphere, great people
I have been to the Palms numerous times, and it has always proven to be a smashing success, both as to quality and the professionalism of the staff. The food and drinks are consistently excellent and the service always friendly and efficient. This is an understated jewel in the Downtown restaurant scene. But I do miss the monkeys.
Downtowner | March 10, 2009 at 12:34 p.m. (report)
Palms is always good. Wish, though, they'd open earlier on Saturdays and Sundays.
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