In Dining

Crazy Water first opened in in 2002. (PHOTO: Zach Karpinski)

In Dining

With each passing year Crazy Water's food improves. (PHOTO: Zach Karpinski)

In Dining

The Crazy Water location received a major remodel before opening its doors. (PHOTO: Zach Karpinski)

In Dining

Options here are nicely balanced with signature selections. (PHOTO: Zach Karpinski)

In Dining

The decor and menu continue to evolve. (PHOTO: Zach Karpinski)

Crazy Water still produces some of the best plates in town

The early 2000s brought a lot of change to the South 2nd Street sector of the historic Walker's Point neighborhood. A strip once lined with ethnic bars like Cecilia's, The Dubliner Irish Pub and Zur Krone (the home of "the boot") was vacated nearly concurrently, and there was, quite literally, a movement of out with the old and in with the new.

The original Social and Barossa arrived up the street, taking the places of The Filter Inn/Reed Street Station and the alternative night club Dish respectively, and long-time players like La Cage and Steny's gave themselves face-lifts while the landscape around them continued to turn over. So, when the owner of Zur Krone up and moved the establishment out to Thiensville, there was a nearby chef in Cedarburg just waiting to snatch up the space a little closer to downtown.

Peggy Magister and Tony Betzhold opened Crazy Water, 839 S. 2nd St., in 2002 and have been serving up great big flavors from a tiny little kitchen ever since.

The Crazy Water location received a major remodel before opening its doors, and both the décor and the menu have continued to evolve over the years; the establishment's most recent change now has both the indoor and outdoor patio spaces designated as non-smoking.

I've visited Crazy Water many times in the last five years, and save our most recent experience, my love of this restaurant progressively compounds. As their clientele increases, so does the complexity of Magister's already solid palate. Her food continues to improve with each passing year. And while the restaurant is stronger during the fall and winter months (the menu offers rotating seasonal options), options here are nicely balanced with signature selections like their grilled flat iron steak ($20.00) and crazy shrimp ($22).

One of the most memorable meals I have had anywhere was at Crazy Water and began with their Escargot ($10) in a tomato concassé, a fall seasonal option which was easily one of the single best appetizer selections I've sampled. Like many of the appetizers here, these selections are like a simple meal for one in themselves, oftentimes offering starch and/or vegetable. Our most recent visit offered soft-shell crab on a bed of spinach ($9) and seared scallops with a pineapple and mango salsa ($12). Both options were overcooked, and the breading on the crab was obviously burned, which I have found to be uncharacteristic of this restaurant. Unfortunately, these items were served to us nonetheless, even though a trained eye should have caught this and returned it to the kitchen if the cook did not.

Our entrees, however, were above par as anticipated. The aforementioned crazy shrimp, came plump and delicious alongside spicy chorizo and lovely jalapeno cornbread cakes. My dining companion was so enamored with the sauce we requested additional warm rolls to soak it up. Flat iron steak, too, remains a winner here, served simply in a port wine balsamic sauce and alongside plump and rich blue cheese fritters, cut with the freshness of watercress. Veal scallopini ($24) with a cherry tomato-basil brown butter, was also delicious, served with freshly steamed broccolini and a slightly bland but good gruyere potato-gratin. And a lemon-parsley crusted halibut ($26) was unique and fresh tasting, covered with the ever so green crusting which gave it just a little punch. Many entrees here are served with the gruyere potato gratin and sautéed baby spinach, a highly neglected vegetable which always belies a kitchen which values freshness.

In the summertime, expect to see menu options like a chicken mole stuffed poblano pepper ($21) and various grilled seafood and fish with lemon beurre blanc. Tuesdays and Thursdays offer half-priced bottles of wine. And while Crazy Water's outdoor patio beckons, the best seats in the house are where you can watch the chefs pull together some of the best plates in town out of a matchbox sized kitchen.


Talkbacks

Dizzers33 | June 21, 2007 at 12:52 p.m. (report)

Wow!! I can't believe that what's, quite literally, the BEST restuarant in Milwaukee, is getting any sort of critisism! It's hard to have a business in this city, I mean if it doesn't have a burger on the menu, it's too "fancy" and "pricey". That's too bad- Shame on you Milwaukee for being so closed minded!! Live a little and enjoy the finer things in life!! Keep cooking Crazy Water, I think your food's AMAZING!!!!

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JoeInLA | June 19, 2007 at 8:33 p.m. (report)

It's amazing what can be done with fresh ingredients and a little creativity. After visiting restaurants in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Crazy Water stacks up with the best of them in these two categories. Best of all, you can dine in a relaxed, casual atmosphere while watching the chef prepare your meal. I got a kick out of the comments about the menu changing. If you want same old same old you can go to Jake's on North - oh wait that closed. How about John Ernst Cafe ?- closed too. Oh well you get the point.

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Diner | June 19, 2007 at 9:45 a.m. (report)

Crazy Water is great. Cozy, classy, not too stuff and amazing food. The front table, in the window nook, is one of the neighborhood's best and the staff and owner are very friendly. Seafood is on par with any other restaurant in the greater Downtown neighborhoods. Not too expensive, either. Highly recommended.

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scottish | June 19, 2007 at 9:42 a.m. (report)

I have to whole-heartedly disagree with all the other statements. The menu has been subtlely changed in the last week to reflect the loyal customers requests. There is and always has been air conditioning and I have yet to be delivered anything but the freshest, tastiest dishes that I have ever been served anywhere.

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rebeccca | June 18, 2007 at 5:35 p.m. (report)

I used to love crazy water... but there recent change in the menu is upsetting. why change a good thing???? I loved their ceasar salad and the steak I had a while ago that came with yummy mashed potatoes and asparagas. Now neither option is on the menu and they have no air conditioning!

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