October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."
It's a pretty safe bet that any restaurant or bar that Scott Johnson and Leslie Montemurro attach their names to is going to be good. They've simply nailed every genre they've tried, from café to dive bar to tapas to lounge. After a quick lunch today at their new entry into nuevo-Mexican fare at BelAir Cantina, I can comfortably say the pair has done it again.
You have to feel for the owners who built Good Life, where BelAir Cantina now stands, at 1935 N. Water St.
On the south end of the Humboldt Bridge, it's an eye-catching space in an excellent location -- but with the bridge out for so long, it had no chance.
But now the bridge is open, and so is BelAir. For Johnson and Montemurro's first take on Mexican, it's really good.
The aesthetic is Baja meets Southern California, but it feels consistent with the other places in this restaurant group; just a little like Palomino and Comet but more airy and bright.
And the food speaks for itself. Mind you, I'm not a professional food writer, but I like great Mexican food. Today, I mixed and matched three tacos: carne asada, Korean beef and pollo Yucatan. All three were quite good, and with my colleague Bobby Tanzilo's tilapia taco/tostada lunch, our bill came out at a reasonable $20.
Bobby said his Baja tilapia tacos were delicious, with lightly battered fish and a mellow sauce, though his shrimp tostada was a bit oversalted.
But we both raved about the medium-hot salsa verde that we enjoyed with the complimentary chips.
I'll definitely come back after sundown soon to sample their creative and expansive tequila list; from top to bottom, everything at BelAir looks and feels inventive and original.
Our service left a bit to be desired, as our waiter seemed fairly confused and inattentive, but being brand new, it's understandable the management has a few kinks to work out. The music being played didn't match, either -- I hardly expected to hear The Cranberries, Modern English and The Wallflowers when I could've been listening to Manu Chao or Calexico.
But those are just small knocks on what is otherwise set to be a quality addition to the area's dining scene.
I know we write a lot about Johnson and Montemurro's restaurants, but they deserve it, not just for their food, but for how they raise the bar in Milwaukee. BelAir will do just that, breathing new life into an area that so badly needed a shot in the arm.
they told you to wait at the bar across the street?
I thought this place was awesome! I was with a decent size group on a Saturday night. Tho they were very busy, they suggested we wait at the bar across the street & they would call us. We waited no longer than they said & were happy they could accomodate us! The food was awesome! Salsa & chips were good, but I do agree that they could have more spice. You can ask for a habenero salsa as well which was a much higher kick. The queso fundido was amazing. The service was great, always a plus with a large group drinking tequilla! The one plate that was not right was very quickly fixed. I can't wait to go back & try more items!
I gave the place a try last week. The people behind the bar had to look at cheat sheets to see what the house specialty drinks contained. The house Marg was made with what tasted like fresh lime juice, but not much else. The salsas were amazingly bland and while the filling selections for the tacos sounded good they are really lacking flavor. And with so few items to make at a time when the place was 1/3 full why did it take so long for teh food to arrive? I don't mind a place with a small menu, but every item on it needs to knock your socks off. I'm going to wait a week or two and give them another try, but I just ate at Chipotle for the first time today, and surprisingly enjoyed the food more. As for kid-friendly...please take them to McDs and allow people to enjoy their nights out.
I went for lunch yesterday and had a great assortment of tacos that I really enjoyed. I didn't care for the salsa variety that they serve with the chips, I just thought all three were incredibly bland. They definitely need to add a little heat or something to the salsa selection to spice it up a bit. The food itself was very flavorful. Overall - great job, I'll be back...
I enjoyed both my experiences--great bartender! Needs better chips and more spice.
Show me the other 4 Talkbacks
9 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
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.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published Aug. 19, 2014
I recently interviewed a former boss, a courageous woman who once hired me as an intern. She's now affiliated with the Milwaukee Masterpiece, a high-end car show. Meet Bev Jurkowski, my mentor, and the woman crazy enough to ask me to be a "celebrity judge" this weekend at the show.
Published Aug. 19, 2014
Chicago native Molly Fay didn't expect to host a talk show. But the former investigative journalist, mother of three and self-described introvert, found herself doing just that eight years ago when WTMJ-4 launched "The Morning Blend," and she hasn't looked back. We caught up with Fay over coffee last week to discuss where she's been and where she's going. And why every person, even if their job seems mundane, has a story to tell.
Published Aug. 13, 2014
I quite enjoyed the "Garlicmeister" last time, but I'm pretty sure I'm now partial to their $9 "Baconmeister" meal. With 1/3 pound of Angus beef, topped with bourbon bacon, onion, lettuce, tomato and cheese (I opted for cheddar), it's the brioche bun that makes the difference to me. It comes with homemade chips or fries and a drink.
Published Aug. 12, 2014
I could pretty much eat falafel every day of my life and never get tired of it. The fried chickpea dish is close to the perfect vegetarian dish, and whether you claim it's Israeli or Arabic, it's one meal that everyone in the Middle East can agree is great.
Published Aug. 6, 2014
Last weekend, I talked my wife into joining me on my adventure - we hadn't visited Door County together since we first started dating in 2002. It turns out that showing off old favorites, discovering new memories and cultivating another Door County fan is a wonderful, relaxing way to experience this magical place. After all, even as a entirely different kind of trip, Door County remains my "happy place." Scoring points with the wife makes it even happier.
Published Aug. 5, 2014
This time around, Spacehog returns to Milwaukee in a larger venue, joining Everclear, Soul Asylum and Eve 6 in the Summerland Tour at State Fair Thursday night night. It's easy to call it a `90s band reunion - and it may be - but listen to Spacehog play, and then ask yourself if this is a band just cashing a paycheck. Pretty sure you'll come to the same conclusion I did. We caught up with Spacehog drummer Jonny Cragg from Denver, as his tour moves to the Midwest. He talked about life on the road and what's next for a band that did so much more in its four albums that just what you heard on the radio and saw on MTV.
Published July 22, 2014
It's easy to complain about highway construction in Milwaukee. After all, it's pretty much a constant. When one project finishes, another begins ... if we're lucky. More often, it seems like every interchange or stretch of freeway is being worked on all at once.
Published July 9, 2014
Milwaukee's homegrown sausage chain, The Dogg Haus, has reached an area development agreement with Minneapolis-based Freestyle Enterprises, LLC, to expand into the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.
Published July 8, 2014
I can't believe it's true, but the iconic Gobbler in Johnson Creek is coming back. On May 22, Daniel A. Manesis, of Manesis & Associates of West Allis purchased the long vacant restaurant, that last was, as I recall, a barbecue place and served one of the worst meals I ever had in a restaurant.
Published July 2, 2014
G. Love & Special Sauce, now 20 years old, is still around, and they played at the Miller Lite Oasis on a beautiful Tuesday night. They certainly didn't stop making records in the `90s, but to me, they still have that Gen X sound that this older audience came to hear.