Cari Taylor-Carlson

Bridgewater Offers Good Food, Lovely River Views

The Bridgewater Modern Grill offers extensive menu and windows overlooking the KK River.

By - Apr 27th, 2023 02:33 pm
Bridgewater Modern Grill, 2011 S. 1st St. Photo taken Oct. 19, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Bridgewater Modern Grill, 2011 S. 1st St. Photo taken Oct. 19, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

With spring arriving in Milwaukee it’s almost patio season, and on a warm day try heading to the Harbor District for a meal at The Bridgewater Modern Grill. Even if the food wasn’t delicious, which it definitely is, a meal on the extensive patio adjacent to the Kinnickinnic River will be worth the trip. It’s also good to know that if you come by water, you can tie up at one of the 10 docks by the patio.

Everything about Bridgewater says this is a classy joint from windows overlooking the river to the sleek industrialized setting and three paintings that represent the Hoan Bridge. Friends and I also appreciated the lovely table settings and the impeccable service which we enjoyed at a weekday lunch and a Sunday brunch. If the place looks familiar, it’s because it is the location of the former Horny Goat Brew Pub that closed in 2015.

Bridgewater is the latest addition to Benson’s Restaurant Group that includes Onesto, Smoke Shack, AJ Bombers and Blue Bat Kitchen & Tequilaria, a diverse group known for Italian cuisine, barbeque, burgers, and Mexican specialties. Bridgewater, with its seasonal ingredients and oak-fed grill, adds an upscale modern twist to the group.

At lunch, seated by a window with a fine view of the river, my companion and I enjoyed the outstanding service of Fame who answered our questions and recommended the Friday Fish Fry Special, catfish. It was exceptional, three large pieces of tender fish in a tempura-like beer batter that let the taste of the lager linger in every bite. The accompanying roasted garlic aioli had a kick which we wanted to be able to duplicate at home, but server Fame said, “Don’t ask. The chef chooses not to reveal his spices.”

The fries had an unidentified flavor that Fame explained was “ash salt.” That is exactly what it was, salty ashes that came off the grill which the chef used to add an additional layer of umami to many of the dishes on the menu including those fries. It’s a flavor that adds something extra. You just can’t describe it.

For the Chicken Salad Sandwich, the chef combined chunks of rotisserie chicken with crunchy cashews and green goddess dressing. Then he added spicy arugula, sliced tomatoes, and sprouts, and piled it inside house-made, just-out-of-the-oven, slightly warm focaccia.

The Ancient Grain Salad was also unique and a meal in a bowl. Sweet potato puree was amped up with miso while the supporting players — mushrooms, avocado, and charred onions — added a mélange of flavors to the grain which was topped with pumpkin pesto, sugar snap peas, and a handful of greens. This is what you want when you are looking for maximum flavors and minimum calories.

Brunch was equally impressive, especially the crab cakes in the Crab Cake Benedict. We have all ordered crab cakes with high expectations and instead found crusty patties filled with crab-flavored bread crumbs. That is not what you will find at Bridgewater. Two crab cakes, almost 100% crab meat, were served on house-made English muffins and topped with flawless poached eggs and bearnaise sauce. When you add “petite greens,” as they were described, dressed with tart lemon-shallot dressing, you have found brunch perfection.

A companion ordered the Bridgewater Breakfast, the classic combination of scrambled eggs layered with fontina and chives, house made sausage that hinted of sage, sourdough toast, and a showstopper, crispy fingerlings. If you are a potato aficionado, these are the potatoes of your dreams, deep-fried, crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside.

For the Seasonal Quiche, the chef chose an heirloom tomato base and added a few peas. It came with greens and a tart vinaigrette that added a piquant counterpoint to the tasty quiche.

Even the coffee is worth a mention. They serve Valentine coffee and bring it to the table in your own little pot along with a pitcher of half and half. It was classy, understated, and something else to like at Bridgewater.

The menu is packed with dishes that suggest another visit or three. A few unusual items include Pork Belly with pickled ginger, Duck Tostada, Oak-Fired Beet Salad, Oak-Fired Oysters, Oak-Fired Ruby Red Trout with Caramelized Lemon, and for dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding.

On the drink menu you will be enticed by multiple creative craft cocktails, or if you prefer an NA drink, you can order a Spirit Free Drink such as the Berry Smash, a combination of raspberry, raspberry, lime, cherry bark vanilla bitters, mint, and sparkling water. There is also a selection of beer in bottles and cans plus six draft beers including Moon Man from New Glarus Brewery.

Bridgewater Modern Grill is a fine example of why Milwaukee is rated one of the best food-centric cities in the Midwest. One meal, that’s all you need, at this restaurant by the Kinnickinnic River, and you will surely agree.

On The Menu

Photo Gallery

The Rundown

  • Location: 2011 S. 1st St.
  • Phone: 414-299-6556
  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m Mon-Thu, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri
  • Website:
  • UM Rating: stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

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