Riverwest Filling Station Needs Improvement
Great decor and good service but the food is uneven.
I recently celebrated my 50th birthday at the Riverwest Filling Station with my closest friends and my mom, who flew in from out of state for the occasion.
The restaurant’s décor is quite lovely. Original art is found throughout. The metal work was done by Milwaukee’s famous Flux design and is gorgeous, as is the lighting.
Unique to this eatery is what is called the “growler” – a large brown jug which patrons may pay to fill with the beer of their choice and, once sealed airtight, take it right out the door with them to enjoy at home. The City of Milwaukee had to change its liquor laws to accommodate the sales of growlers by this tavern. It’s a fun choice to have.
I chose to start things off with the Trio of Hummus, Babaganouj and Tahina, a combination platter that was served with three pitas, pickle spears and spicy Yemenite hot sauce called s’khug, for $13. The Trio, alas, was a symphony of monochromatic browns: There needed to be some color on the plate, perhaps a few lemon wedges, freshly chopped herbs or red pepper puree, in lieu of the s’khug. Worse, all three of the veggie dips were bland. Very disappointing.
I’m partial to seafood on Fridays and, as my birthday fell on a Friday, I ordered the Indonesian Scallop Curry with Rice Noodles, also $13. I love scallops and this just sounded too intriguing to pass up. The scallops were done well, but, my God, they served enough pasta under them for the whole party. Too much. And where was the curry flavor?
One member of my party had the BLT which came with a big heap of French fries for $8. The “bacon” in it seemed to be off – my friend was not happy with it. I tasted it and it was terrible, with the texture tree bark.
Another friend in my party had the soup of the day (tomato with croutons) for $3, and he was very pleased with it. I had a taste and it was quite good. However, he also ordered the chicken wings, and they came out of the kitchen dangerously undercooked (bloody, in fact). When this was brought to the owner’s attention, he argued with us – no apology.
The duck-fat-truffle French fries, however, are absolutely to die for. They cost $6 for a big plate. We polished off two orders.
My mom had the Friday night fish fry (cod) which, of course, came with a big heap of crispy fries, coleslaw and tarter sauce for $12, and she loved it! However, her sweet-potato fries did not show up on the table until we were practically ready to leave.
That said, our waitresses were sweet and their service was good, and they removed a couple of items off of our bill in response to our complaints.
It’s an interesting menu, which includes one of my favorite sandwiches, a spicy shrimp po-boy ($11) and a Honey Mustard Cilantro Salad with Crumbled Tuna in Olive Oil, which also includes romaine and arugula lettuce with chopped red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, dried cranberries, mushrooms, blue cheese and croutons ($8 for a small salad and $12 for a large).
A fully stocked bar offers a nice array of liquors, wine, beer and other intoxicants, and they do make great cocktails. The Old Fashioneds won praise from members of my party, and the one cocktail at this place that you must try is the “Dark & Stormy” for $8.48. Made with rum and ginger beer [Recipe Link], it’ll blow you right back to the 1980s!
But the bottom line is that, while the Filling Station has a nice atmosphere and some of the food is good, most of it was bad, at least on the night we ate there.
Riverwest Filling Station
701 E. Keefe, Riverwest, Milwaukee
Major credit cards – reservations accepted
You can make extra-creamy hummus using chickpea flour (found at any Indian grocery) instead of whole chickpeas. Bring 2¾ cups salted water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk in ¾ cup chickpea flour to make a paste and cook 2 minutes. Close the heat and mix in ¼ cup tahini, 3 tablespoons olive oil and the zest and juice of 1 lemon.
In a separate pan or skillet, toast ¼ teaspoon each cumin and fennel seeds (found at your local Indian grocery) in a skillet; add some crushed red-pepper flakes, to taste, and 2 tablespoons olive oil; cook 30 seconds.
Serve warm with pita wedges, drizzled with the spiced oil and garnished with a little chopped parsley.