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Chef Speak - Bryan Phillips
Head Chef, Hi Hat

By MARTIN HINTZ
Photos by Dan Bishop

June 2013

For Bryan Phillips, a little of this and a little of that goes a long way. It’s a culinary process that begins with simplicity and evolves with imagination. He’s getting his chance to show his stuff as the new head chef at the Hi Hat.

The corner lounge has been a Brady Street neighborhood fixture since 1998, tucked in at 1701 N. Arlington Place. With its first-floor bar and upper mezzanine, it continues to be on the forefront of Milwaukee’s craft cocktail movement and emphasizes a complete menu. Patrons can find traditional pub grub, specials and a brunch on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

His kitchen credentials include Porta Bella and Deb & Lola’s in Madison, an internship with Sandy D’Amato and six years at D’Amato’s Coquette Café. He helped open the kitchen at Tosa’s Le Reve Patisserie & Cafe and helped launch Bay View’s wonderfully quirky Honeypie around 2005. He came to Hi Hat last fall.

What sort of dishes are you considering for the summer season?

We’ll be sticking to your basic pub grub, but it will be good pub grub. There will be a few twists such as serving Banh Mi. That’s a Vietnamese traditional sandwich with pickled vegetables and roasted pork on a baguette-like bread. That’s the French influence. I’ll also be doing a Maine lobster roll — a real one — with chunks of lobster on a toasted bun. And shrimp po’boys.
 

What attracted you to the Hi Hat?

I am excited to be given the opportunity to be creative, yet still considering our audience. We’ll test some new items through specials to see how they do. And, yes, we’ll keep our Friday fish fry. There’s perch and cod, with house-made tartar sauces. We make all our own sauces. We’re not doing $25 plates here.
 

Are there any differences switching from a restaurant to a lounge environment?

Again, you need to think of who you are serving. We’ll still be doing half-pound burgers, dashed up with a bit of salt and pepper, and fries. Keep it simple. There aren’t any magic tricks. We serve right up until midnight. Our brunch now has biscuits and gravy, and hanger steak and eggs.
 

Who’s on your team?

I snared Gil Petrovic as sous chef, who worked with me at Le Reve and Coquette Café. We also have eight line cooks. Cody Magee is bar manager and Dan Dufek is general manager. They handle all the drinks and I stick to the kitchen as headmaster, cheerleader and some unmentionable titles. We have a great group.
 

What do you do when not in the kitchen?

I hop on my motorcycle and take off cross-county with my tent, sleeping bag and good eats. I love cruising the Kettle Moraine.


This story ran in the June 2013 issue of: