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The dish/What's new in city dining
C. 1880

Photos by Kevin Miyuazaki for Plate

November 2012

I wish I could guarantee future diners at c.1880 the same dinner we enthused over, but since chef and owner Thomas Hauck features regional/seasonal products, the menu is never the same. The ever-changing menu is no small feat when one considers he serves the likes of Lamb with Baba Ganoush and Pita Panzanella.

Hauck, a Wisconsin native, grew up in Port Washington, graduated from the Culinary Institute in New York and ultimately returned to his roots to open his own restaurant. He moved into the former Olive Pit in Walker’s Point and went to work designing a menu that reflects the best of our local products.

The night we dined at c.1880, our server, Robin, gave us his full attention and answered every question. From him we learned we could be "adventurers" and order a variety of small plates for a set price, with a minimum of five. Tempting, but it might require too many doggie bags as we discovered "small" didn’t necessarily mean small as we know it. We ordered off the menu. Pork belly sounded interesting, especially for bacon lovers. It was an amazing presentation, tender pork belly on top of Gruyere mashed potatoes, chopped asparagus, arugula, pickled peppers, pine nuts and rutabaga. Surprisingly, the layers spoke for themselves; we tasted each individual flavor.

Next we chose Asparagus Soup made with buttermilk and mint. Robin brought us an artfully arranged composition of melon, mint, ham, asparagus and lime before he poured the soup into the bowl. Each finely chopped bit held its own in this delicious tangy soup. "Who’s chopping?" we asked.

"Someone stands next to Chef. That’s all he does," says Robin. "That’s why everything tastes so fresh."

Onto the entrée. We ordered Veal and Rutabaga. The veal — fork tender of course, roasted for 18 hours — came with carrot puree and young carrots. And who orders rutabaga for a main course? That was the biggest surprise. The chef sliced it paper thin and tured it into a lasagna dish with layers of spinach, Gruyere and mushrooms. He finished it with a thyme cream sauce that perfectly complemented each flavor.

Too sated to order dessert, we settled for coffee and then another surprise, small complimentary chocolate-nut cookies — enough, but not too much.

Our dinner was certainly an adventure, but, oh, what a delicious adventure it was.

1100 S. 1st St., Milwaukee
(414) 431-9271
Twitter: @circa1880, @chefhauckFacebook:


This story ran in the November 2012 issue of: