Cari Taylor-Carlson
Dining

Crazy Water Is Crazy Good

Chef Peggy Magister has a magic touch with any food she creates.

By - Mar 10th, 2017 12:10 pm
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Crazy Water. Photo from restaurant's website.

Crazy Water. Photo from restaurant’s website.

As a longtime fan of Crazy Water, I’m delighted to learn Chef Peggy Magister is now serving lunch Monday-Friday. I’ve admired Magister’s cuisine ever since she opened The Fork Café in Cedarburg in the nineties. That’s where she prepared 20 flawless servings of Eggs Benedict for my Walking and Eating group. Anyone who can turn out 40 perfectly poached eggs, on demand, gets my attention.

Every time I visited Crazy Water for dinner, I ordered the same thing, Diver Scallops with Meyer Lemon Sauce and Risotto because Chef Magister knows how to sauté scallops to perfection. I’ve enjoyed that dish at a table by the front window, in the small back dining room, and on the tiny patio behind the restaurant.

Both dining rooms feel like a vintage home or an old tavern, rooms where history comes alive as evidenced by the well-worn wood floors, tin ceiling, elegant chandeliers, and print fabrics which remind me of my grandparent’s century old home in Detroit, or in a word, “cozy.”

Besides serving consistently delicious food, what sets Crazy Water apart from most is the tiny kitchen located in the front of the dining room, adjacent to the window facing S. 2nd Street. There’s barely room for one chef, usually Magister working her magic in full view of her customers and anyone who happens to walk by outside.

She dazzles our group of four when we come for a weekday lunch. We start with benne buttermilk biscuits served with crème fraiche butter. The server brings seven little biscuits in a round baking dish that came directly from the oven. They look like baby Parker House rolls and taste more like those rolls than biscuits. They’re yeasty, soft, rich, even before we add the special crème fraiche butter.

One of my companions orders the Tuna Taco with Thai peanut slaw, wasabi cream, avocado, and black bean cakes. Our server explains this is not an ordinary taco shell, but instead, a fried wonton which resembles a flour tortilla, adding an Asian flavor profile to something Magister labels a taco. This is a knife and fork meal inside a crisp wonton shell. Rare tuna, thinly sliced is piled on top of Asian slaw with avocado slices added to merge the diverse flavors. Two black bean cakes have a hint of sweet which contrast with the heat in the wasabi sauce.

The Falafel sandwich surprises my companion with heat in the falafel from sriracha. Since it comes with hummus, sliced cucumber, cumin yogurt, and sprouts, there are plenty more flavors to cool the falafel. Despite its soft manageable bun, this sandwich also requires a knife and fork. The accompanying couscous salad, a potentially boring side dish, has a light dressing, adding enough flavor to make it interesting.

Another companion orders Broccoli Soup and says, “I am getting a strong broccoli flavor.” The vegetable is pureed to a creamy texture, creating comfort food in a bowl.

Tiny dishes of Kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Tiny dishes of Kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

I decide my Braised Short Ribs with gruyere fondue, arugula, and French onion jus steal the show. The fork-tender, falling-apart meat, served inside a baguette has a dense beefy flavor; the gruyere fondue makes a delicious light cheese sauce on the meat; arugula adds peppery flavor and crunch; caramelized onions on top of the rest provide an unexpected sweet bonus. French Onion Jus tastes just like the gravy from my mom’s pot roast. Since I ate the sandwich with a knife and fork, I rip apart the remaining baguette, dip it in the jus and call it “bread and gravy.”

For a final bite of delish, we order Door County Cherry-Chocolate Chip bread pudding with bourbon caramel gelato and four forks. The bread pudding is swimming in caramel sauce, a dense rich pudding which leaves no doubt it features cherries and chocolate. The salty caramel gelato mitigates the sweet with salty, an ideal combo.

Crazy Water started their lunch service this year on February 1st without making a grand announcement. They didn’t have to. People will come because everything from the tiny dishes of Kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper on the tables to the outrageously delicious bread pudding announces this is a multi-star restaurant.

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On the Menu

The Rundown

  • Location: 839 S. 2nd St.
  • Phone: 414-645-2606
  • Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mon-Fri, Dinner: 5:00 p.m. to close Mon-Sun
  • Walk Score: 90
  • Website: http://www.crazywatermilwaukee.com
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/crazy_water
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Crazy-Water-124651996600/
  • UM Rating: 4.3 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)
  • Menu size: 22
  • Price range food (small plates): $3.00-$12.00
  • Price range food (entrees): $28.00-$36.00
  • Wine list size (bottles): 38
  • Wine list size (glasses): 29
  • Price range wine (bottles): $25.00-$75.00
  • Price range wine (glasses): $5.00-$15.00
  • Beer list size (bottles): 24
  • Cuisine Style: New American

 

2 thoughts on “Dining: Crazy Water Is Crazy Good”

  1. Terry Kiley says:

    What a delightful looking and sounding place. I may have to relocate back to my hometown- winter be damned.

  2. Chuck says:

    “Another companion orders Broccoli Soup and says, ‘I am getting a strong broccoli flavor.'”

    It’s Ruth Reichl-level gems like this that keep me coming back to the UM restaurant reviews again and again.

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