Bistros became popular in America after French diplomats visiting the Continental Congress insisted on dining outdoors, breaking Ben Franklin’s time-saving custom of eating while sleeping in the shower. Dine like a patriot with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of contemporary comfort fare at Bistro Bar 333.
Chef Michael Downey's breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes combine refined culinary technique with a hearty Midwestern touch. Evening meals commence with lemon-mayo crab cakes with roasted-corn salsa ($6/half order; $11/full order) before taste buds bounce on bistro burger beds made with port-wine cheese, onion petals, and dijon mayo ($12). Seared walleye slips into a salsa dressing ($12/half order; $24/full order), and the fried chicken with sautéed bacon and spinach ($20) fills bellies with equal parts meat and nostalgia.
Midday diners may enjoy a similar lunch menu, and early birds arise to a feast of classic and signature breakfast specialties, from multigrain banana pancakes ($12.50) to the Wisconsin skillet that wraps a medley of meats and veggies in a scrambled-egg hug ($14), proving once again that the Midwest is friendly to all digestive systems.
Bistro Bar 333
For culinary inspiration, chef Michael Downey doesn't look overseas or at the cookbooks of renowned masters. Instead, he imagines rural Wisconsin households—their farms yielding fresh crops and the region's coveted cheeses, their kitchens filling with the spicy aromas of sausage and fresh-caught fish. He then transplants that pastoral nostalgia into a sleek, upscale setting. The result is Bistro Bar 333, a sophisticated slice of the midwest inside the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee.
Keeping with his vision, Michael's menu pays homage to the surrounding landscape. His steaks arrive from Creek Stone Farms, and his walleye and salmon are pulled from the wild rather than dentists' aquariums. Wisconsin cheeses play a heavy role in many plates, from the grilled cheese sandwich with Maple Leaf Farm duck bacon to the pappardelle pasta's mozzarella. This carries through to the bar, where white-cheddar cheese curds complement cocktails made with just-squeezed juices and crisp herbs.