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Adventures in Small Plate Dining

Distil serves craft cocktails and crafty dishes for lighter appetites

Jun. 11, 2013
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Distil first brought its craft cocktails to Milwaukee in the fall of 2010. The main room is long and dark, there are no windows and the bar runs nearly the full length of the room. The craft cocktails are a bit pricey, but this is Milwaukee Street and not West Allis. Also, great care is taken in the preparation. The “Made in Milwaukee” uses Rehorst vodka infused with Rishi plum cinnamon, house-made grenadine, lime and Sprecher ginger ale, and is topped with Schlitz elderflower foam. No wonder it is priced at $11.

Distil also offers a food menu for the lighter appetites. Many enjoy the burger ($11) made with Hidden Creek Farms beef and ramped up with roasted garlic aioli, four-year-old cheddar and bourbon onion jam. It’s fancy bar fare. But since craft cocktails aim at more curious palates, the menu also fills those needs. Carrot soup ($4-$7) is a simple affair, a purée with scents of ginger and the sweetness of coconut milk. It’s Asian in spirit. Do try the humble smelt ($6-$11). The filets are flattened a bit and dusted with semolina. Dip them in garlic aioli or perhaps a tad of the lemony gremolata. Like many menu items, this is served in two sizes—small plate and smaller plate. This is a perfect finger food.

The flatbread pizza charts new territory with a roasted asparagus option ($10). The asparagus is as thin as it gets and is served over slices of speck, the northern Italian cured pork, and pungent tellagio cheese. Uncooked pea shoots add more greenery and the bread is more soft than crisp. It’s rarefied vegetarian fare. Seared scallops ($14-$28) are the jumbo sea variety and served over handkerchief pasta with carrots, leeks and peas in a simple butter sauce. Good scallops do not need complicated recipes. The star of the menu is the crispy braised pork belly ($10-$20). Pork belly is on every trendy menu now but rarely gets this good. It actually is more meaty than fatty and is served over the surprisingly tasty Brussels sprout purée that makes this dish such a success. Naturally there are cheese and charcuterie platters ($20) offering assortments of select cheeses and cured meats.

While the portions are a bit small, Distil is a unique place. The bar bill will likely be more than the food bill but this is a place to indulge and pretend that you have escaped from Milwaukee for an evening.



722 N. Milwaukee St.



Handicapped access: yes



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