Cari Taylor-Carlson

Bet The Farm on Parkside 23

A restaurant with its own farm, and you can taste the difference.

By - Jul 27th, 2018 01:50 pm
Parkside 23. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Parkside 23. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Parkside 23 turned out to be an unexpected pleasure. As I maneuvered through those damn ubiquitous orange barrels on West North Avenue, I whined to myself and cursed the book group that took me so far west to a restaurant I’d never heard of.

As soon as I turned off North on to Pilgrim Road, I saw a restaurant with a crowded parking lot, a large patio, actually two patios, a stone fountain, and rows of colorful flowers. When I poked around the back of the parking lot, I found a huge garden with perfect rows of herbs and vegetables, and in the center, a tent, where I later learned they serve Farm Suppers for six weeks from mid-July to early September. Parkside 23 advertises itself as “the only restaurant in Wisconsin with on-site farm,” and the garden full of growing plants spoke to the quality of the food I would enjoy on my two visits.

One glance at the menu and I saw there would be no problem finding something delicious for lunch. On this first visit, when I ordered the Veggie Risotto, and our server said, “It’s pesto and carrots today,” I knew where the basil for the pesto came from. They grow masses of it with gusto in the garden.

If you like pesto, you will like this risotto. The creamy parmesan risotto was rich, cheesy, loaded with the flavors of basil and garlic, and studded with small pieces of raw, sweet carrots, an unusual and tasty combination.

They organize the menu by price, $9-14, $15-19, $20 plus, and at the bottom, six sides. From the $9-14 choices, Creamed Corn sounded like a dish from my childhood, not a favorite, so I ordered it to see what the chefs at Parkside 23 did to transform creamed corn from boring to interesting.

It was better than interesting, it was superbly delicious; every bite resonated with flavor from the sweet crunchy corn to the large slices of meaty bacon. Leeks and roasted poblano pepper added additional layers to this creamy dish served in an earthenware bowl. If you dine here, Do Not Bypass Creamed Corn.

Roasted Stuffed Bell Pepper. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Roasted Stuffed Bell Pepper. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Two more vegetarian dishes from the $9-14 list also turned out to be memorable. The Roasted Stuffed Bell Pepper sat on a bed of parmesan risotto. It looked like an ordinary stuffed pepper until I forked it open and a potpourri of chopped veggies fell out. Server Leah gets kudos for reciting every veggie stuffed inside the pepper: eggplant, corn, celery, yellow squash, green onion, green pepper and tomato. Because everything was fresh, each veggie held its own in the mix. A light tomato sauce seeped through the layers which added more complexity and bonded the flavors. The parmesan risotto, like frosting on the cake, added pizzazz, and made this even more addictive as well as an elegant vegetarian entree.

You can’t call the Roasted Beets an entrée, but close, as the beets laced with maple-glazed walnuts and goat cheese, made a filling salad. They served the beets inside a collar which our server Leah removed with a flourish to reveal a column of roasted scarlet and golden beets topped with arugula.

No matter how diligently a restaurant strives for perfection, occasionally you find a dish that doesn’t rise to the standards of the rest of the menu. This time it was the Pot Pie, butter-baked chicken with sautéed veggies baked inside puff pastry. Something went wrong with the flavor of the sauce. It tasted sour, and there was far too much of it. The accompanying greens however, were tasty, tender, filled with ample pieces of that meaty bacon, a partial antidote to the disappointing pot pie.

On each visit I ordered dessert. The brownie with vanilla ice cream tested my “How long must I wait for dessert?” patience, but when a warm-from-the-oven-brownie arrived, all was forgiven. It was crusty on top, silky, and intensely chocolate, more like a flourless chocolate cake than an ordinary brownie. For a final touch of glitz, they decorated the plate with caramel sauce sprinkled with sea salt to make it pop.

The Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp wasn’t as compelling, mainly because it was more like soup than a crisp. It had that mouth-puckering rhubarb flavor, but lacked structure, as if someone reheated it in the oven, but forgot to bake it first.

They also offer Soup and Sandwich specials on a rotating seasonal menu where you can order a half or a whole sandwich, or, soup and PS23 Salad.

No matter what you decide to order at Parkside 23, expect generous portions, exceptional fresh ingredients, reasonable prices, and a long list of creative dishes to choose from.

On the Menu

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