D is for Distil

My favorite restaurant on Milwaukee Street is Cubanitas. Its crazy that in the numerous times that I’ve been there, I’ve never noticed Distil, a mere two doors down. Distil was selected by both Adam and Michelle, though it was Michelle’s submission that secured the first trip there for most of us (TJ had been).

I instantly felt comfortable at Distil; the lighting is low and the ambiance elegant but somewhat nondescript. The restaurant was relatively busy when we arrived–8:45 p.m. on a Friday night–but we didn’t have a problem finding seats at the bar and getting expedient service from the bartender, who was knowledgeable and helpful. Cindi appreciated the care put into the cocktails, she said:

The bartender whipped me up a delicious cucumber ginger and mint cocktail at a very reasonable price. I give extra credit to any bar that muddles a non-alcoholic drink for a pregnant lady with as much care as their signature cocktails.

Distil is one long room, there is no dining room, just a few larger tables just beyond the bar area, which we moved to once we had all arrived.The rest of us non-pregnant folks got to enjoy drinks with booze!

One of the many excellent, hand-crafted drinks we enjoyed at Distil.

Drinks and an Appetizer

The drink menu at Distil is probably more extensive than the dinner menu, so it was no surprise that each drink was unique and tasty. Adam tried two and had a excellent point, he said:

Their craft drinks are pretty expensive so picking one you don’t love can be a bummer. I tried the Bourbon Apple Crisp and the Wisco Whiskey Sour. The Bourbon Apple Crisp was really good. It was a mixture of bourbon, sweet vermouth, lemon, mulled cider and a house caramel syrup. The Wisco Whiskey Sour was decent but nothing spectacular. It was Great Lakes Distillery Kinnincinnic Whiskey, New Glarus Belgian Red, Lemon, and Egg White.

TJ had the same drink as Adam, he said:

For a drink I also ordered the Bourbon Apple Crisp. I’m not the biggest fan of bourbon so I’m not sure why I ordered it–it sounded good and it was really smooth.

Michelle’s drink had a fun name, she said:

I ordered the Two Mules for Sister Rosali which I would definitely recommend to people who like cucumber drinks.

My drink, the Apartment 137 was sweet and pink, it tasted like a Skittle.

A meat and cheese platter to share

Our meat and cheese platter came with an assortment of bread along with two meats and three cheeses. I thought one of the meats was excellent, though the second one didn’t bother me as much as it did Adam. He said:

The cheeses were all tasty, but I wasn’t a huge fan of one of the cured meats. I’ll preface this by saying my palate is probably novice at best, but one of the meats tasted the way the goat petting area at the zoo smells. I’m sure it was supposed to taste this way, but I was not a fan.

After a toast to Adam and Cindi’s baby, who we’ll all meet before our next dinner together, our palates were whetted and our stomachs primed, it was time for dinner.

Hidden Creek Farms Burger with housemade garlic mayo and bourbon onion jam on a toasted Breadsmith bun. Served with chips.

The Main Course

Sadly, I don’t think any of us were as pleased with our dinners as we were with our drinks.

My hamburger–which I ordered medium–didn’t have any pink. Rather disappointing. It was more medium-well than medium. The garlic mayo and bun were really good, but the onion jam was overpowering and the hamburger was just okay. The kettle chips were nothing special. I tried bits of other people’s food, and was sadly mostly underwhelmed.

Fall Chicken Salad. Bib lettuce, walnuts, Wisconsin Blue Cheese crumble, cranberries and herb vinaigrette.

TJ ordered a salad. He said:

The Fall Chicken Salad was good but nothing special.

As we started eating, a singer/songwriter came onstage and started performing. This is typical for Friday nights at Distil. This guy–Joe Wray–was very good and his covers increased the enjoyment of our experience.

Croque Madame Sandwich. Nueskes smoked ham, gruyere, housemade garlic mayo and gruyere fondue, topped with a local, organic fried egg. Served with chips.

Adam’s enjoyed his sandwich. He said:

The Croque Madame Sandwich was outstanding and it is unquestionably terrible for you.

So did his wife:

“My favorite meal of the night was Adam’s sandwich,” Cindi said. She also enjoyed her own meal and had great thoughts on one of the positives of Distil’s food menu. She said:

Housemade Chili. Hidden Creek Farms top round, red kidney beans, Sprecher Pub Brown Ale, onions and Wisconsin aged cheddar.

I ordered the chili and thought it was very tasty and again, reasonably priced–$6. It was spicy, well seasoned, and I liked the chorizo in it. While their drinks are pretty expensive, in the $10-$12 range, I was pleased with their food prices, especially for [Milwaukee Street].

Wisconsin Dog. House made hot dog, house made chili, onions and Wisconsin aged cheddar, on a Breadsmith bun. Served with chips.

Michelle inexplicably chose a ballpark favorite. She said:

It was weird ordering a hot dog and I liked it, except for the casing, which had a gross texture.

Her meal underlines the confusing nature of Distil’s food menu in comparison to their drinks. The menu is limited, and that is likely purposeful, but pub fare isn’t a natural match with the hand-crafted drinks. Distil’s personality clash never fully resolved itself for me.

Hidden Creek Farms Meatballs
Hidden Creek Farms Meatballs. Made with Mangalista pork, Yorkshire pork, and beef all from Hidden Creek Farms, seasonal mushrooms, sage, and Wisconsin sheeps' milk cheese. Served with a seasonal mushroom sauce.

Shannon ordered the one dish that really worked as a shareable entity and she did a good job summing up our dinner thoughts. She said:

The meatballs were meant to be shared, but I mostly shared with own tummy. They were very good! While the service was really attentive, I felt like this place isn’t meant for dinner. It seems like a good, quieter place to go for an appetizer before going out.

TJ echoed this sentiment:

After my second visit, I’m still not sure what Distil is.

Michelle said:

I like that the menu seemed to have a Wisconsin theme but the food was kind of disappointing.

We weren’t going to let that ruin dessert though!

"Banana Split." Banana/white chocolate mousse, compressed strawberries, strawberry jam, roasted pineapple and a fudge crunch


“One banana split, six spoons!” Cindi described it best:

I really liked the banana split which had all of the traditional flavors of a typical split but different textures; crispy, caramelized banana and something light and crunchy under the chocolate ice cream.

While the Banana Split wasn’t enough to make up for the so-so dinner. We all would recommend Distil as a classy, fun drink spot for a night out. TJ said:

The musician was really, really good and the place is classy enough to impress even the pickiest hosehound. I’d stop in again for a drink but not for food.

Shannon has spent some time on Milwaukee Street and she had this to say:

Thankfully, Distil wasn’t overflowing with the people who fill the clubs ON Milwaukee Street. It was an older crowd with a really good musician on the mic. If I go back to Distil I’d be sure Joe Wray is playing.

Ratings for Distil were, as follows:
Adam: 6.5
Cindi: 6
Michelle: 5
Nick: 5.5
Shannon: 6
TJ: 5.75

Distil cumulative rating: 5.8

Nightcap: METRO

After dinner, we stopped in at METRO in Hotel Metro (Milwaukee and Mason). They had an excellent deal for martinis on Friday nights–$5. The lounge is very contemporary and was crowded when we were there. When I went to pay my bill a gentleman inexplicably told me he was a “lesbian de-programmer.”

Yup. It was that kind of night (we weren’t far from Whiskey Bar, after all).

Still, I wouldn’t trade it. The food isn’t always going to be groundbreaking, the beer isn’t always going to be cold, the beards won’t always be full and the people on the town aren’t always going to be normal, but I can count on the fact that–when we’re together–we’ll always have fun.

And we did.

Visit Distil online at www.distilmilwaukee.com

Visit METRO online at http://www.hotelmetro.com/dining/metro/

Photos courtesy of TJ UTTKE PHOTOGRAPHY

Losing nominations for ‘D’ were Di Carlo Trattoria and Pizzeria (Nick & Cindi), Dick’s Pizza (TJ) and De Marinis (Shannon).

AJ Bombers: 6.8
Beta by Sabor: 7.9
Comet Cafe: 7
Distil: 5.8



  1. Pingback: K is for Kyoto « A Slight Discomfort
  2. wisconsinbetch · December 11, 2014

    I highly recommend any of the Surg restaurants for drinks, but the food is mediocre at best. However, Hóm in Brookfield has an interesting menu, it’s all local and Wisconsin inspired dishes and quite tasty.

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