In Dining Reviews

Ginger is located at 235 S. 2nd St.

In Dining Reviews

Ravioli is a regular special at Ginger.

Minor menu miscues hamper dining at Ginger

When Walker's Point favorite Barossa closed its doors, Julia LaLoggia's building at 235 S. 2nd St. sat lonely and quiet while regulars mourned the restaurant's passing.

Nearly 18 months later, LaLoggia has reinvented the space with a new partner and a new moniker, Ginger on 2nd.

A bright and classy space, Ginger is not dissimilar to Barossa in décor, but miles away in terms of food and wine selections. The emphasis on organic, locally grown food (which still can be found at Meritage, former Barossa head chef Jan Kelly's restaurant), has morphed into economical wine and beer selections and tapas dining.

Recent visits to Ginger left me wanting more. I have always loved the space and the neighborhood in general, so I was pleased to see Ginger open. But, the kitchen here has encountered enough challenges that I will likely frequent Ginger for cocktails and the occasional pre-show appetizer, but I'm not going to hurry back for dinner unless they work some things out in the kitchen.

Ginger's strengths, beyond ambience, include a friendly and knowledgeable waitstaff and the fun and diverse clientele that LaLoggia's ventures have historically drawn.

The tapas menu is laced with creativity and a nice mix of items -- at first glance -- but after our server began walking through the menu, we found some challenges both in listed items and actual food preparation. There were multiple substitutions and items that were no longer available as written.

Ginger doesn't serve marinated tuna sashimi ($7) on Sunday evening, because the server said they couldn't get fresh enough product that day. I found this a strange explanation because there are purveyors who provide local sushi houses and other restaurants with tuna fresh enough to serve on Sunday, but an easy workaround would be to simply add a tag to the menu indicating the item is not available on Sundays. The petite tenderloin filet ($15) is now served without the tenderloin, and the kitchen was out of fresh basil, so they were substituting chives, which I found to be an odd, unparalleled substitution.

Hanger steak skewers ($8.50) were the most successful of the tapas we sampled. Drizzled with horseradish cream sauce and served with pickled onions, this dish was one that would be quite fabulous with a great glass of red. Chickpeas with spicy sausage ($6) showed potential as well, with pieces of spicy Hungarian sausage interspersed amid chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes. And fried goat cheese ($6.50) could be spectacular if the serving temperatures even out.

The goat cheese fritters themselves were a delight, but the caramelized onions they were served with had been over-chilled, making the temperatures so unnatural in our mouths that they detracted from the sweet honey drizzle and warm, crumbly fritters.

A warm spinach salad ($5.50) was so thick with bacon grease that we found it unpleasant to eat, and a lemon artichoke risotto ($7.50) wasn't a risotto at all, but more of a mushy rice dish with very little flavor. A Picasso pizza ($7), served on a crunchy flatbread with gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, Roma tomatoes and chives (substituted for basil), was virtually flavorless. Perhaps the fresh basil and slices of Romas instead of a stingy smattering of diced tomato pieces would make this dish more inviting.

Ginger also offers a rotating ravioli special for $8.50, which on one of the visits was butternut squash ravioli. The ravioli was well-cooked, and extraordinarily sweet; almost dessert-like. It was different enough that should I venture back, I may consider sampling the ravioli again.

While I'm glad the space is again open (it is lovely), I really want Ginger to work out the challenges in the kitchen so that it can serve better food -- and nothing we encountered was insurmountable. These days, it's not enough to just be a pretty, friendly face; you have to have some substance, too.


Talkbacks

badgerlion | May 17, 2009 at 7:45 a.m. (report)

very disappointed: We went to Ginger planning on celebrating my husband's birthday with his parents. We had called earlier in the day and made a reservation. However, when we arrived they indicated that they never got the message. Though there appeared to be empty tables at the time (saturday 7:00 pm), they said they could only offer us seats at the bar. As this was a special occasion - this was not acceptable to us. We realize that mistakes do happen, however as the error was on their part, we felt that they could have tried harder to accomodate us.

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missalex805 | April 26, 2009 at 12:16 p.m. (report)

A friend and I went to Ginger last night for the first time. We had the ahi tuna (very good!), chickpeas w/andouille (good!), tots w/red pepper sauce (sauce was bland), fried goat cheese (he liked it, I thought it needed a makeover), banana split and choc. lava cake (desserts were fantastic). We drank a bottle of wine and tawny port. Food came out quickly and was tasty. We ate at the bar and our first server, while cute and friendly, was entirely uneducated about wines. We asked for a Zinfandel suggestion, and not only had she never tried the ones on the menu, she said her fave is Yellow Tail :-/ (?). Then she grabbed some bottles and read the food pairing info from the label on the back. Haha. (PS, we weren't upset about all this, we found it funny) Our second bartender/server, though, was fantastic! He made great suggestions, was knowledgeable and very friendly. The Gist: At a place like this, we expected at least a basic wine knowledge from the staff. Food was pretty good, not great. The atmosphere is wonderful. We would definitely return to try some more tapas on the menu!

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kotlarek | April 6, 2009 at 1:54 a.m. (report)

We had a FANTASTIC meal at Ginger on Saturday night, APR 4. We were there with another couple and everything we ordered was extremely good - intense and varied flavors & textures. Service was very attentive, better than almost anywhere else we eaten recently. I specifically got on-line to write a positive review and was quite surprised to read some negative comments. We definitely plan to return and encourage more of you not to be unduly influenced by the JAN comments. Based on our personal experience, it is now a great choice for dining out.

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enitz | Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:25 p.m. (report)

I think that my first impression of Ginger was clouded due to my true love of Barossa. This is not Barossa, however my husband and I did have a fairly enjoyable experience. The food, for the most part, was good - albeit we did have a few criticisms. My one true critique, is that I feel that the use of space is a bit akward. I think that more lounge seating would be nice, and the space with the pool table, by the kitchen, may be better utliized with more seating. I think it's just a matter of time that Ginger will find its identity, both in terms of menu, wait staff, and space.

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JuliaandRose | Jan. 27, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. (report)

Owner's Response: After reading the review and responses on OnMilwaukee.com, we'd like to take a minute to address a few things. The reviewer references a visit to the restaurant on a Sunday evening. An evening that we were both on site and remember well. The Friday and Saturday night preceding that Sunday were very busy, and as a result we ran out of some of the items on the menu which is a common occurrence in the restaurant business for a Sunday evening. Any changes to the menu were made verbal at the table before the customers ordered. We do not serve sushi that is not fresh. We ran out of basil, made a trip to the market, only to find basil of poor quality. The tenderloin was a special addition to the menu that we sold out of on Saturday night. We print new menus at the start of each week. There is no bacon fat added to the spinach. It is in a caramelized substrate. We refuse to serve any item that we feel isn't of the highest quality and freshness. However, if we receive complaints we address any issues immediately. We know that issues occur, but do not find it acceptable when a customer is not completely satisfied. We are always striving to exceed customer expectations. The general response to the restaurant has been overwhelmingly positive. We have many repeat customers who tell us how much they love the food and the atmosphere. We have had two great reviews in local publications. We thank the customers who have taken time to voice their appreciation and will continue to strive to earn their business. Regarding some of the readers responses: We take comments about mediocre or poor service very seriously. We place a high priority on excellent, friendly service and are genuinely disturbed when any customer experiences anything less than quality service. For any occasion that this has occurred we apologize whole-heartedly. Business has been brisk, which we are grateful for (especially during a crummy winter and a recession). We have hired more staff to accommodate the amount of volume we are seeing at the restaurant. We place a VERY high priority on quality customer service and understand how frustrating and disappointing poor service can be. We ourselves hate it when we experience it elsewhere. We stress the idea of hospitality as the single most important aspect of our jobs. Previous reviews of Ginger have been positive and we constantly strive to provide an excellent dining experience for every person who walks through the door. We hold the idea that every guest is a VIP. We love our business and know who pays our bills. We genuinely love Milwaukee and take great pride in our businesses and feel very fortunate for the opportunities we have had. We understand the type of business we are in and strive to excel in customer satisfaction every day. A heartfelt Thank You to our customers, please know that we appreciate your patronage, and will continue to strive to earn it. Julia and Rose

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