Centraal dominates the intersection of KK, Howell and Lincoln avenues
in Bay View. On an icy winter afternoon sunshine flooded the
restaurant, adding an extra warm glow to hardwood floors brought from
a tavern in northern Wisconsin. Everything else is local — from the
Cream City brick bar to Sendik’s fresh orange juice on weekends,
local bread and, of course, the café’s own Alterra coffee blend.
The bar stools look more like an exercise in contemporary design or an
exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum than a line of seats waiting for
customers to order steins of draft beer. Our server was quick to point
out the "King’s Chair" — a fully upholstered stool
appropriately fit for royalty — that was unfortunately occupied both
times I visited. "All the chairs are new," he says. "We
keep the weird ones in the basement."
With soft rock background music, the combo of contemporary and
classic décor and comfy chairs for customers, the café will satisfy
the "let’s hang" impulse for anyone of any age.
We enjoyed excellent service and a server willing to answer dumb
questions such as, "What’s Benelux?" and "Sriracha?"
The former is a region in Europe; the latter, an Asian orange flavor
added to the mayo. That led to a Benelux Meatloaf Sammy Sandwich and a
Tulip Turkey Burger with the aforementioned mayo. I had to open wide
to bite into the meatloaf hiding under lettuce, tomato and Swiss
cheese, all together making a mountain of flavors merging on toasted
French bread. On my second visit, my friend bit into my Blackberry
Sandwich and said, "This is the best sandwich I’ve ever
tasted." I liked it, too. The chef piled roasted turkey, Swiss
cheese and caramelized red onions on a toasted baguette, then threw in
pieces of hot giardineira that woke up my mouth, then cooled it down
with blackberry jam. We shared giant Seared Scallops set on curried
butternut squash and yes, they were exceptionally large and sweet. All
the sandwiches come with frites cooked in trans-fat-free oil,
delicious and addictive, and for another $1 customers can request
sweet potato frites.
The café also serves dinner entrées, desserts, soups, salads and,
in addition to three all-day breakfast choices, an extensive weekend
brunch menu. Not to be overlooked is the list of Belgium beers
because, after all, Café Centraal is modeled after a Belgian bar and
named for the train station in Amsterdam.
2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Bay View