Jeffrey Merlot

Riverwest Filling Station Needs Improvement

Great decor and good service but the food is uneven.

By - Jan 7th, 2014 03:16 pm


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.

Curry Scallops

Curry Scallops

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.

Duck-fat Fries

Duck-fat Fries

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
(414) 906-9000

My Recipe for Extra Creamy, Flavorful Hummus:

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.

Categories: Dining, Mr. and Mrs. M.

0 thoughts on “Dining: Riverwest Filling Station Needs Improvement”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Post Script: I’m publishing my column to TCD under my full name from now on. Why not?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had dinner at the restaurant on the first night it opened with many of my neighborhood friends and many times since. I celebrated my birthday there twice on the same day. I have always had excellent food and service. Because I have an allergy (nuts) they took care of that. The food was excellent each and every time I ate there. I met the owners and their parents and had a lovely chat with them. I live four blocks away from the restaurant and will eat there many more times.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Since its opening, I too have eaten at the Filling Station many times. While I cannot speak for everything on the menu, I have always had a wonderful time. I usually go for one of their burger options, which are always cooked perfectly to order. For appetizers I recommend the “squidbillies”: fried calimari and I want to say lemon aioli dipping sauce..soo good! The atmosphere is excellent, and the servers and exceptional. I’ve even met the owners on a few occasions, and they hardly seem the type to argue with customers (or not apologize)..but who knows what the circumstances were in this case… some customers can really test those operating and working in restaurants. I particularly love brunch (and its substantially lower price range compared to some of its competitors), and their breakfast burger is to die for (I never thought I would like a burger with an egg on it, but….). Knowledgable and friendly bar tending staff, with a HUGE selection of rotating beers that you won’t see anywhere else in the area. I agree with the comment on the old fashioned: best in riverwest. I live in the immediate area and feel lucky that riverwest is adding to its (currently limited) restaurant selection.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My friend and I both had a burger and fries. We both ended up with possible food poisoning from this place. I will never eat here again.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hummus from chickpea flour?!!!!!!! What are you talking about?! That is your great recipie? That sounds horrible.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We pre-cook our wings, and then, when ordered, bread them and fry them. You got wings that were done. Sometimes the bone gives off a bit of blood coloring. That is what you had. They were cooked….completely. I am sorry, but you were wrong on that issue and I won’t accept you telling people that they weren’t cooked. That is false.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ohhh yes. Have you not noticed that anytime a customer gives a review on this particular restaurant the owner has to yell and disagree with anyone who gives a less than perfect review?

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