By BRITTANY SEEMUTH
Walking into Love Handle, located at 2215 E. North Ave., in Milwaukee, is unlike any typical restaurant experience I have ever had. There was not a hostess, server or table busser in sight, but rather, the owner who is also the head chef greeted me as I stepped through the door.
I picked a table near the front window of the restaurant. It was a fast choice, as the restaurant has a total of only seven tables. The other unusual aspect of Love Handle is there are no paper menus; instead, chalkboard menus hang next to a wooden sign with hand-carved letters spelling out, “Order Here.”
The restaurant offers only small plate and sandwich options, so my guest and I opted for the cheese plate ($10) and the soup special, beef tongue ($6) to start. Placing our complete order right away, I chose the “Matt Hensely” sandwich ($9) and my guest ordered the “Pontus Alv” sandwich ($9).
Country folk music played quietly in the background, reminding me of summertime in the South. Wallpaper decorated with images of cattle lined a portion of the wall near our table. Dangling from the ceiling were two white window frames hung by steel chains. Beneath these frames sat several glass vases full of baby’s breath.
Yet, the most interesting area of Love Handle was the western wall, where a hand-painted portrait of a man and woman rest inside of a heart. The man’s arm is wrapped around the shoulder of the woman. I came to learn from the owner that he and his wife opened the place in May 2013. I imagine this portrait is intended to be them.
Our soup and cheese plate arrived within 10 minutes. The plate was made up of two types of cheese – raw cheddar and water buffalo (yes, the cheese is made from the animal). On the plate also came a handful of perfectly toasted and salted baguettes and pickled beets. The raw cheddar cheese had a grainy texture and strong sharpness to the taste that lasted well after eating.
The sandwiches came before we finished the starters, which I did not mind. My Matt Hensley sandwich was definitely not for everyone, but I appreciated the fresh salmon flavor, especially paired with the onions. The onions tasted just like an onion ring, without being deep-fried.
I tried my guest’s sandwich, the Pontus Alv. The sandwich was made with pulled pork shoulder, apple butter and pickled radish. The apple butter added a sweet barbecue flavor that complemented the saltiness of the pork shoulder, while the pickled radish tasted like a sweet cabbage and lacked the typical bite of a radish. The only other chef working alongside the owner informed us the bread of the sandwiches came from Wild Flower, a bakery in Bay View.
A local restaurant keeping its ingredients local always makes the food all the more enjoyable.
Go to Love Handle and take in its simplistic service that misses all of the usual aspects of a typical restaurant, yet satisfies all the same. With the exceptional service and simplistically elegant surroundings, paired with the delectable menu and its ample variety, Love Handle can be appreciated by both those looking for a trigger to recall memories of the past as well as those who are looking to make new ones.