Al fresco dining at Parkside 23 might just be the late summer escape you need
Summer is in full swing and so is our need to hit up the hottest patios in the city. There's no time like patio time in summertime – especially when it's Miller Time!
Most people are surprised by what they find when they venture out to Parkside 23, 2300 Pilgrim Square Dr. in Brookfield.
Located just 20 minutes west of Downtown Milwaukee, the restaurant sits just beyond a commercial corridor, tucked between an increasing number of suburban residences. And despite its location just off of North Avenue, it provides a remarkable respite from city life with its well appointed patio and local, seasonally driven menu.
In Milwaukee, restaurants like Roots blazed the trails for farm-to-table dining both in the city and surrounding area. Parkside 23, which opened almost a decade ago, followed solidly in those footsteps. In fact, they took the concept a step further by including a 10,000-square foot farm in the plans for the property.
The farm, located just footsteps north of the restaurant, is maintained by resident farmer John Harrington, who nurtures a collection of crops that range from summer squash and onions to peppers, potatoes, raspberries and herbs.
During the growing season, farm-fresh produce becomes a feature at the restaurant, appearing in specials from Chef Kyle Witkowski which highlight the best of the seasonal produce that's being harvested on the farm.
"We have a good amount of produce that comes from the farm," notes George Flees, vice president of operations for DeRosa Corp "Crops vary from Swiss Chard to peppers, tomatoes, squash and apples, and the garden is staged so it produces crops throughout the growing season."
Parkside 23 is owned by the DeRosa Corp., the dining group that includes eight restaurants including three Chancery locations and four Jose's Blue Sombrero restaurants. But it was specifically designed to serve customers who wanted in on the pleasures of field to fork dining.
"When we opened this restaurant, we opened it with a very specific brand in mind," says Flees. "The farm, the size of the plates, the paper menus that we use and recycle were all part of that. And they were all things that told people who we are.
"That was also embodied in perennial menu items like the creamed corn, the beet salad, the caprese flatbread … Even as the years have passed, not much has changed; but we've continued to hone in on our identity, essentially becoming more of ourselves."
A patio designed for relaxing
Seasonal comfort food might be what draws folks from across the city to Parkside 23 throughout the year. But it's the well-appointed patio that encourages diners to linger during the clement months.
"At the time we opened, patios were growing in popularity," recalls Flees. "And we purposely built the patio to wrap around the building so that we could provide comfortable seating in various types of weather and throughout the course of the day. We also created it to accommodate a large number of people, since patios are simply where people want to be during the summer months."
And there's good reason for that. The 70-seat dining area is created with comfort in mind. Trees, shrubbery and flowers surround the fenced in area where tables offer diners room to stretch out and enjoy conversation with their dining companions.
And beauty also lies in the details. Take for instance the corner water feature, the sound of which enhances the patio's calm, relaxing vibe.
While the west-facing portion of the patio boasts tables with umbrellas, shade lovers will find respite in the southern section. It's enhanced by a pergola, which offers a cozy, covered dining room that's comfortable and cooler on hot days. It also sports plentiful greenery that provides a natural divider between guests and the restaurant's parking lot.
Ryan McCreary, general manager at Parkside 23 says the patio atmosphere encourages diners to relax and enjoy an escape from their busy schedules.
"We notice that guests tend to linger for a longer period while sitting outside," he says. "It's the vibe … the greenery, the water fountain and the music. One of the biggest things we hear is that they simply get a level of service here that they don't find anywhere else. It's a place where people can relax – where they forget about time and simply enjoy themselves."
In fact, great service is a hallmark at Parkside 23, where all wait staff are trained to be familiar with the ingredients in every dish, cognizant of potential allergens and educated in the flavor profiles of the restaurant's 20 tap beers, 19 of which are sourced from Wisconsin breweries.
Urban farm suppers
In addition to the patio, there's another way to enjoy dining al fresco at Parkside 23. The restaurant's farm suppers, which take place out of door's on the restaurant's farm, have been a tradition at the restaurant since its inception. The intimate suppers are offered during four-day stretches throughout the growing season during the months of July, August and September. In fact, the final installment is coming up Sept. 16-19.
During the dinners, which kick off at 6 p.m., 24 guests enjoy a farm tour led by Harrington, live music and a five-course paired menu (four courses include beer and wine). During the dinner, representatives from wineries and breweries chat about the beverages served and Chef Witkowski presents each course, telling the story of the food's journey from the farm to the plate. Each dinner culminates with a dessert course and specialty cocktail.
But whether diners visit for a farm supper or simply an everyday lunch or dinner, In the end, Flees says, Parkside 23 offers guests an experience like none other.
"We have a place that's secluded and quiet," he says. "Our farm is literally steps away, and so we have some of the freshest produce. So we serve locally sourced food that you can't find at any other place. We also have a passionate, knowledgeable staff who take real pride in the food that we produce and serve."
Parkside 23 is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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