Every night the notes of renowned jazz, blues, and R&B performers echo through the glimmering walls of 88 Keys Piano Martini Lounge, where martinis and small plates meet beneath mood-setting blue lights in West Allis’s downtown stretch. The relaxed spot was conceived by co-owners Greg Barczak and Suzy Ball who, as West Allis Now reporter Mark Schaaf notes, “hope the city is turning a corner and want to make something more of the downtown” by attracting a younger crowd and lending the area an intimate, upscale nightlife option.
Inside the low-lit lounge, glass windows open and close to bathe guests and performers in a cooling breeze. Artwork and Wisconsin gangster memorabilia, including John Dillinger photographs and high-school report cards, beam down upon pots of fondue and gourmet pizzas. Behind the glowing bar, master mixologists blend a lengthy list of 28 specialty martinis and fill glasses with wine and beer.
Between's chef, Jose Victorio, captures the authentic flavors of his Peruvian homeland and infuses them with Asian influences to create unique house specialties. Embark on a culinary adventure as exciting as a piggyback ride from Julia Child with one of two predetermined menus. Grilled veal skewers serve as delectable forerunners for potato bites festooned in key lime, jalapeño, smoked salmon, and avocado confit, which preps palates for the next course of broiled tilapia (a $27 value/person). The second menu showcases quinoa-crusted chicken salad, spicy pasta with sautéed meat, and citrusy ceviche (a $23 value/person). Both options conclude with Grand Marnier french toast (a $7 value/person), a dessert so popular that it could date the quarterback of its high school's math team. Customers that redeem this Groupon before 10 p.m. will receive a complimentary cocktail (up to a $10 value), which they can nurse while admiring the chic, crimson décor, eclectic fixtures, and sultry mood lighting.
Most of MOCT's patrons start the experience with an appetizer of Serbian-style sliders (ground pork and beef with kamjak, a feta and red-pepper spread, $6) or O.G. wings (classic buffalo sauce, $7) and a $4 draft of any of the seasonal beers on tap. One of the special imports such as Big Nik Serbian beer or Strongbow ($6 each) pairs well with a 14-inch MOCT pizza (Serbian sausage, mushroom, and onion, $13) or beef burek (ground beef and onions layered in phyllo dough, $12) before you move on to liquid desserts such as a blackberry margarita ($7).
Chefs at Dick's Pizza and Pleasure work a coal-fired oven to forge a menu of pies that fills the futuristic lounge with enticing aromas. Burning at temperatures in excess of 700 degrees, the oven yields crisp, light crusts, which serve as ideal canvasses for guest-designed pizzas crowned with local produce and toppings such as roasted mushrooms, gorgonzola, and white anchovies ($9+). The house-cured-sausage pizza flaunts red onion, mozzarella, pecorino cheese, and organic tomatoes crushed by hand ($13). Shavings of black-truffle mushrooms embellish the top of the White and Black pizza ($15), along with house-made white sauce and fontina, mozzarella, parmesan, and burrata cheese. Dick's kitchen dispenses cold alcoholic or virgin milkshakes such as the Acapulco Gold, a blend of vanilla ice cream, Kahlua, Nutella, house-made caramel, and chocolate-covered espresso beans ($8), while the seasonal cocktail menu makes use of fresh fruits and top-shelf liquors to fuel revelry without saving up yard clippings to bribe a satyr.