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Carson’s Elegant Barbeque

A Chicago favorite opens in downtown Milwaukee

Jul. 24, 2013
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Carson’s has been a Chicago institution since 1977 with two locations, the original in River North and the second in Deerfield. Now a third has opened in Downtown Milwaukee. It is located in the brand new Moderne, that soaring white tower (that looks a bit lonely) west of the Milwaukee River. Carson’s specialties are aged steak and barbeque. The steaks are aged for at least five weeks and Carson’s is proud of making its barbeque the proper way. The meat is not boiled, no Liquid Smoke is used, and rubs, marinades and tenderizers are taboo. The flavor is all from hickory smoke.

The décor matches the sleekness of the tower. The color scheme is urbane deep brown and black, accented by white linen napkins at the tables. Most of the seating is in booth form and the bar is roomy enough to enjoy a few appetizers. The few outdoor tables seem intended for bar patrons.

The starter courses are winners. The jumbo lump crab cake ($14) is all about crabmeat with just a hint of binder. This is what a good crab cake should taste like. Everybody will like the Mediterranean shrimp ($13), grilled jumbo shrimp that just need a dash of lemon juice. They arrive with assorted grilled vegetables—sweet bell peppers, zucchini and onions.

Consider also starting with a salad, although they are close to entrée size. The Roquefort Wedge ($7) includes grape tomatoes, red onions and crumbled bacon. The dressing has a sour cream base and there is plenty of it. Too often wedge salads are short of dressing. The Caesar salad ($6) is respectable with shavings of parmesan, croutons and a dressing that is bold in flavors of mustard and anchovy. Too many Caesar dressings are timid.

When it comes to the steaks, keep it simple. The 10 oz. center cut filet mignon ($29) is better than the pricier bone-in ribeye delmonico ($40). Order the filet medium-rare and with a char crust. It will arrive nearly black on the outside and a succulent pink in the middle. Barbeque choices include ribs, pork chops and chicken. Do try the ribs. The meat is tender and sticks to the bone as it should. Add some extra sauce provided in a cruet. A sampler platter of all barbeque selections is available as well ($30).

The barbeque sauce can also be found on the chargrilled salmon ($21), which is prepared very well. Other salmon preparation options include blackened, Mediterranean, soy ginger glazed and caramelized. Another lighter option is roasted Greek chicken ($13). The half bird (with the bones in) is given a final stop at the grill, adding a nice char. Lemon, olive oil and herbs provide the right touches. For sheer abundance there is the shrimp dejonghe ($22), jumbo shrimp in an abundance of breadcrumbs laced with butter and garlic. Go for it!

Note that all entrées are strictly a la carte. The potatoes and vegetables are extra. But these extra sides are quite large and very sharable. The highly touted au gratin potatoes ($4) are better than the double-baked, diced potatoes in a sauce loaded with cheddar. Broccoli ($3) arrives simply steamed. Carson’s also serves lunch daily. The menu has all of the salads and a reduced number of entrées (no steaks). There is also a selection of sandwiches. The entrées are smaller in size but the prices are just $10.50-$11.95.

Carson’s is a welcome addition to an improving local barbeque scene.



301 W. Juneau Ave.



Handicapped access: yes



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