If Byron Kilbourn is going to watch me eat lunch, I wish he'd at least try to look a little happier.
Amid the maritime decor adorning the interior of Port of Call Bistro and Beer Garden, 106 W. Wells St., hangs a stern portrait of Kilbourn, who founded his Kilbourntown west of the river.
His face reminds us we're in HIS Milwaukee and the menu at Port of Call keeps reminding diners they're in Brew City, too. While the menu draws from a variety of cuisines, from the deep fried cheese curds and the Wisconsin cheese plate to the bratwurst reuben and beer cheese soup, Port of Call is rooted in its hometown.
I visited for the first time this week as part of my ongoing rediscovery of Downtown lunch spots. I took my co-worker Andy Tarnoff along on a dreary day, when the empty riverwalk patio was wet and chilly.
The dining room, with its portholes on one wall, and big windows out to the river, a giant mirror and lake-faring memorabilia, was warm and welcoming enough, despite the fireplace sitting idle.
I ordered that bratwurst reuben with onion rings, Andy got an avocado burger and we decided to share a plate of those cheese curds.
The reuben, at $10, has two Usinger's brats on pretzel rolls, topped with thousand island dressing, sauerkraut and melted cheese. Pure Milwaukee and really good. I might've preferred one brat for $6, but, hey, now I have tomorrow's lunch here in the work fridge.
The onion rings were of the giant variety, with generous slabs of onion inside. They weren't too greasy, though I can't say the same for the cheese curds, which came with two dipping sauces – ranch and marinara. They were tasty, but I'd prefer them with considerably less oil and wouldn't likely order them again.
"The avocado burger was really, really good," says Andy. "I found it a touch greasy, but the pretzel bun more than saved it. I was pleasantly surprised to find yet another great burger in Milwaukee."
Not sure if it was the weather or the fact that we arrived at about 1 p.m., but Port of Call wasn't doing much lunch business the day we dined. There was just one other two-top.
Hopefully that'll change, because there are good options on the menu, which also includes a handful of salads ($9-13), sandwiches and wraps ($8-12), burgers ($10) and a range of starters ($9-12).
Dinner entrees are not available at lunch. There's a kid menu priced at $5 and Sunday brunch is served, too.
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