The faint melody of blues music and the aroma of smoking meat drifts out of the imposing white brick façade of the former American Bank & Trust building. It can inspire the occasional double take from passersby who don't know that the opulent space is now occupied by Gerald’s Smokehouse. Inside, where bank tellers once counted cash, there's now a meat smoker that roasts ribs.
Restaurateur Gerald Bester has striven to preserve the building's old-fashioned bits of grandeur. The former deposit slip column has been upended into a long table, and the bank vault serves as the centerpiece of the dining room and as a time-out room for fussy dining companions. Sunlight pours through the service window at the end of the bar. Mr. Bester has also updated the space by transforming the second floor into a VIP lounge furnished with flat-screen TVs, leather couches, and an outside smoking patio.
Mr. Bester, who has a background in entertainment and promotions, strives to lure in international musicians, comedians, and poets to the restaurant’s stage. “I knew from an early age I wanted to be an entrepreneur," he says. "Comedy, bands—I just wanted it all in one location, with good food and good drinks.”
In contrast to the oft-elaborate décor, Mr. Bester keeps the food casual, offering southern-style barbecue. His chefs smoke ribs atop beds of apple-pecan and hickory wood and serve the meat alongside heaping sides of fried green tomatoes and collard greens.
Under the direction of chef Eddie Castillo, The Pink Magnolia serves an eclectic menu that's equal parts comfort food and upscale cuisine, with an emphasis on non-farm-raised fish, organic ingredients, and hormone-free meat. By placing escargots alongside mac 'n' cheese and by whipping up lobster-stuffed burgers and salmon BLTs, the cooks combine upscale motifs with straightforward American fun, like a man wearing a tuxedo and stilts. At the eatery's full-service bar, bartenders complement meals with domestic and imported beers as well as signature cocktails blended with fresh juices and herbs.
Within its storied confines, The Ivanhoe presents hearty cuisine drawing from classic Irish and American pub traditions alongside a selection of 26 brews and a focus on lively community. A bountiful drink menu holds the secret access code to an international cabal of crisp brews, indexing aliases such as Spotted Cow ($4), Smithwick's ($4.50), and the notoriously elusive Blue Moon ($4). Sample one of more than 100 whiskeys, absorb a glass of wine, or sip a martini such as the tongue-tickling Snickers ($8). A robust food menu details singular starters such as the wasabi-laced sesame seared tuna ($10) with greens in a honey-soy-ginger sauce, as well as Celtic standbys such as the European-style fish and chips ($10). The Jameson burger ($9) extends a transatlantic bridge of onion rings smothered in Jameson sauce and the relieved tears of stranded sailors.
The HobNob serves a menu of steaks, seafood, and other bistro fare in a colorful supper club overlooking Lake Michigan. Diners can whet their palates with crab-stuffed mushrooms au gratin ($7.95), a fresh fillet of salmon brushed with a grainy mustard glaze and broiled on a hickory plank ($21.95), rib-eye steak topped with gorgonzola sauce and crispy onion rings ($26.95), or house specialty roasted duckling in orange sauce ($23.95). If you'd like to keep your meal as light as a globetrotting eccentric's hot air balloon, try the wasabi-encrusted tuna served with sushi rice in pickled-ginger vinaigrette ($24.95).
Vero International Cuisine is all about blending culinary traditions to create dishes that are entirely new and unexpected. Most of the experiments combine elements of American and international cuisines; examples span the globe and include the Southern po' boy sandwich and the Caribbean-inspired fried plantains. The restaurant's international ambiance lends itself to a range of private parties, including bridal showers and wedding rehearsal dinners.
At The Summit Restaurant, soft light illuminates an ultramodern space full of blonde woods, black leather, and wrought-iron accents, perfectly framing feasts of gourmet steaks, seafood, and handmade burgers. Guests wrap their hands around roast-beef baguette sandwiches or dig knives into tender morsels of filet mignon and kona-crusted sirloin. Couples share romantic evenings out over meals of cedar-plank salmon or chicken pasta, while company parties and wedding banquets revel in the restaurant's event space. In the Everest Lounge bar area, patrons enjoy live music, comedy, and dancing four days a week. The bar is a member of the Tavern League of Wisconsin and offers free safe rides for late-nighters. A window for takeout opens in the winter.