Barnacle Buds Restaurant (Review)
So on Dawn “L’s” advice I went to Barnacle Bud’s a seafood restaurant that is “your one stop, full service, get it here anytime, love to see ya, have a seat headquarters!!” Quite a mouthful.
Off we went to find Buds and see what this was all about. I will say this about the place that it isn’t easy to find. We used a GPS and an Indian guide and a pack of mules to get us there. I’m exaggerating just a tad but it is located where you don’t expect a restaurant to be, sandwiched between lots of industrial looking buildings. I did see a collection of vehicles that made me keep driving and eventually we found it.
Finally we found Buds and with an empty stomach and an open mind we walked in. Barnacle Buds is like an island getaway in the middle of Milwaukee. With lots of outdoor dining, large roped off areas and walkways along the waterway in which boats were passing, we were sheltered from the city’s bustle for the remainder of our stay. We chose to eat outside as the weather was calm and bugs had taken the night off. Sitting down at a picnic style table under a wooden awning our waitress, Crystal came over to introduce herself.
We started our order with some virgin Mary cocktails and started to dig through the menu in earnest. The menu, napkins and all of the condiments came to the table in a big metal bucket just in case we needed to bail out a boat or something, a nice rustic touch.
Our virgin Marys came to the table and mine was perfect, I ordered extra hot and that’s exactly what I got. Plus the flavor was really savory and delicious with a couple of olives on the hook it was very satisfying. My dining companion remarked “What, no pickle?” You just can’t satisfy everyone. LOL
When we had walked in, there was a huge sign that said “Home of the famous crab cakes & wings” so you know that we had to try the crab cakes. We then asked our waitress what she recommended for our other appetizer and she told us the wings were good as well. So crab cakes and wings it was.
Sitting in an almost idyllic setting with virgin Mary in hand and music floating in from a local radio station it hit me that we were having fun. The music levels were perfect you could hear the music but also hold a conversation without yelling. There were quite a few other diners as well but it was for the most part very laid back and relaxing.
Within a short period of time our crab cake arrived. The cake proper was quite large about the size of a typical coffee mug around and almost 2 inches thick. After taking the pictures and sizing this up we started to dig into this monster crab cake. The tops and bottoms of the cake were fried and the inside of the cake was moist and fell right apart as we started to pick at it. The flavor was really nice with a savory note with lots of bread to lend texture. And the texture was on the coarse side which really suited the size and shape very well. There was a sauce on the side that was primarily some type of mayonnaise infusion that was light on the flavor. It went alright with the crab cake but I think it could have been a better match somehow, perhaps something on the tangy side?
However the big surprise came in the form of chicken wings. I will preface this by saying that I’m not a big chicken wing fan as I think that there are a few million chicken wing recipes and they are all MEDIOCRE AT BEST!!!! Chicken wings were certainly not on the top of the list of delicious foods to eat.
Barnacle Buds has changed that for all time in my mind. If you go for nothing else you would be doing yourself a disservice by not trying these things out. The wings are not battered they are fried, coated with a barbecue sauce that is savory with just a hint of a sweet note and grilled. The thing that made my taste buds strap on a their little helmets and hit the throttle was a sprinkling of an herb mix that smelled heavenly and just as important brought flavor in waves to my grateful pallet. Like many chicken wings they had a container of blue cheese dip. I don’t really care for blue cheese at all but the consistency of the sauce was very thick and perfect to stick firmly to the wings. I ate most of the wings au natural.
You would think that I would have stopped here but no, my intrepid readers I soldiered on.
We ordered 2 dishes, a Cat basket which we were assured that it meant catfish and not some feral feline, And the grouper basket. They both came to the table shortly after we finished up our appetizers and we sampled some of each.
The catfish was breaded with a corn meal type coating that was fried golden and placed on a bed of crinkle cut French fries. The breading was very flavorful and was seasoned really well not too salty and nice and crispy. The inside was soft, moist and also very delicious. I think that the tartar sauce was redundant as this was good enough to eat on its own.
The grouper was also done really well but a little more subtlety. The coating was thinner but had a nice crisp exterior with the inside again soft and light. The seasoning was also lighter than the catfish but fit the grouper really nicely. I like how they paired each coating to the different fish.
Now the downside. The coleslaw was a disappointment. I’m not sure why restaurants treat this part of the meal so casually. I know that coleslaw isn’t the star of the show but at least give it a role in the play. The taste was just a hair above forgettable and thankfully my notes helped me out there.
Then each of the fish were served on top of a bed of fries. The fries were crinkle cut and that again is the most notable thing about them. Without catchup the fries were nothing special. I can certainly understand not wanting these to compete with your first string but at least give them a little pizazz. Some criscut potatoes or some of the different coated fries would have paired well with the fish portion without taking away from them.
Again I’m being a bit picky here but that’s just because I’m trying to maintain objectivity. The truth is that I really enjoyed my visit to “Barnacle Buds” and I would go back in a heartbeat. I loved the ambiance both inside and out. The drinks that we had were wonderful, as were the majority of our dishes. Our waitress was friendly, and we got everything that we ordered quickly and with a smile.
I would rate “Barnacle Buds” a 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. No it’s not upscale but it is a really well done restaurant that allows you to get away from it all. I did get away from it all and I loved it.
Where to find this place
- 1955 S. Hilbert Street
- Milwaukee, WI 53207
- (414) 481-9974