The “Breakwater Burger” is phenomenal, an outsized stack of bacon, onions, and aioli.
The new Breakwater Monona is an unusual and cool space. Boats dock directly below the main dining room area. Take the stairs outside all the way down to have a look. Boaters drifting lazily down the river can set anchor and head to the Breakwater for lunch.
This space was previously occupied by the Bourbon Street Grille, which served terrible food, by any measure.
So it’s exciting to see the new menu, with intricate dishes using prime ingredients from Fox Heritage Farms — which makes sense, since chef-owner Brandon Reid is an alum of Fox Heritage Tavern, as well as the Coopers Tavern and Steenbock’s on Orchard.
In the warmer months, the revamped nautically themed dining areas sprawl onto a veranda where diners can watch boats drift by while noshing on gussied-up supper club fare.
At brunch, the lightly fluffy frittata with sausage and an enormous heap of mixed greens is fully functional as a light meal in itself. There are lots of spices here and decent heat for this Italian dish. A steak skillet with roasted potatoes for breakfast — why not? Dense, rich, smoky duck confit with eggs makes another interesting brunch.
These are enormous portions — and come with commensurate prices. At $13, it may seem like a lot for one plate, but we were able to generate an entire second meal by frying up leftover steak and potatoes with some red bell peppers. Unless you are supernaturally hungry, just plan on getting a box to go. Presto! You just cut the price in half.
The Cuban sandwich is smoky, rich and stuffed with seasoned meat. The signature “Breakwater Burger” is phenomenal, topped with an outsized stack of bacon and onions and finished with aioli. A pulled pork sandwich with plum sauce is very large and hard to eat even with two hands; sautéed and still warm yellow and red bell peppers add flavor and snap. All the sandwiches come with fries or mixed greens, sprinkled with cheese and lightly dressed.
Cheese curds, one measure of Wisconsin pub food, are unfortunately bland here, and the ranch-style dressing doesn’t do anything to help. Pub chips, on the other hand, are addictive — not too crisp, with soft interiors. The blue cheese dressing provides a perfect counterpoint. The Philly cheesesteak is a disappointment, almost totally lacking in flavor even with the house-made giardiniera. Philly cheesesteaks are hard to do correctly, but this was a miss by a country mile and should be removed from the menu.
A raft of specialty pizzas, a bone-in pork chop, sirloin, trout and Friday night fish fry (walleye with caper truffle aioli) round out the dinner menu. Listed as “In a League of its Own” is the “Ultimate Poutine” which, at $25, is more like a super-appetizer for a very large group — truffle fries topped with foie gras, duck confit, aged white cheddar, caramelized onions, mornay sauce and more.
For dessert there’s nicely tart Key lime pie, a blueberry blondie with blueberry coulis, and a beignet with foie gras buttercream (this last one unfortunately not as successful as the other two).
During slow periods the restaurant has had trouble keeping up with even modest demands. On one visit, it took the kitchen nearly 30 minutes to produce three plates, despite an almost completely empty dining room. On subsequent visits the teams did better. Since this is not the kind of place that gives out a bread basket to quell hunger pangs or pacify kids, getting food out of the kitchen is important.
This restaurant is a good choice for out-of-towners or locals wanting to sit in a dining room along the Yahara. The menu is solid. With a bit of fine-tuning there’s no reason the kitchen shouldn’t be able to hit its marks.
6308 Metropolitan Lane, Monona, 608-416-5388, facebook.com/breakwatermonona, $4-$25
Kitchen hours 4-9 pm Mon.-Tues., 11 am-9 pm Wed., 11 am-10 pm Thurs.-Sat., 10 am-9 pm Sun. (bar open later).