Restaurant Review: David’s Milwaukee Diner (Hotel Pattee)

The last time I went out to dinner at the Hotel Pattee, the food was an atrocity. Everything tasted like it had just been in the freezer and the menu lacked anything special. When I thought about going, I’d mentally respond, “LOLz, no.”

I was eager, then, when the hotel opened again under new management. Friends and family told me good things, so being the food snob that I am, I decided to try it out again. I wore these shoes:

SHOESMy shoes don’t add anything to the narrative, but I thought you should know how good I was looking. Onward…

Jessica and I walked in and were quickly ushered to a table. Nothing much seems to have changed in the ambiance — the booths are still enormous. This is very annoying to me. I’m six foot tall and I need to sit in somebody’s lap to reach the table — not that I’d mind sitting in somebody’s lap — but why is the table so far away? I was going to request a cushion or something, but that’s just odd. In the future, I’ll ask for a table.

The dining room seemed brighter and a touch nicer. I think it’s the lighting. The last time I was there I could barely read the menu. Mood lighting is idiotic and I’m glad that the new management isn’t using it.

Our waitress seemed a bit clueless, but I’m not going to discredit her abilities since the place hasn’t been open long. I wasn’t in the mood to drink soda or alcohol, so I ordered a lemonade. They don’t have lemonade! Can you believe that? I still can’t. Instead, I ordered a raspberry iced tea, which was room temperature and didn’t taste anything remotely like raspberry. So, not off to a great start there!

I looked over the menu and was glad to see a new assortment of items. I’m eager to try the flatbread and cheese tray, but was sad to see a decided lack of vegetarian options. Only one entrée fit for those of us who don’t partake of the animals. I hope in the future there’s at least options for vegetarians, not a single choice. Because of this, I ordered the only thing I could, the Eggplant Agnolotti. The way it was described intrigued me, so I didn’t mind.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle over the salad dressings. I was told they didn’t have any more vinaigrette, which confused me. A vinaigrette takes two seconds to whip up in the kitchen. So, I had the house dressing, which was described as “chipotle colored.” I’m still thinking this one over.

A bread basket was brought out and I was pleased to see that they get their bread from La Mie, the only bakery in Des Moines worth buying bread from, unless you make your own. The contents of the basket were strange, though, the pieces cut up into large croutons. They were each bite sized. I don’t get it.

My butternut squash soup soon came out as did my salad and both were quite nice. The soup was excellent, really. I could have had an entire bowl of that and hope that it is on their menu again soon. The dressing for the salad was quite good and I enjoyed this part of the  meal.

Jessica had ordered their parmesan fries, which are french fries tossed in parmesan and sea salt and then served with a special sauce. This dish was a disappointment. The fries were good, but they were just fries. The menu made it sound as if they were going to be encrusted in parmesan or at least have enough parmesan on them to warrant the name. No. The sauce was also ketchup. We spoke to the hotel owner later about this. He apologized and took it off our bill. Good of him. He seems deeply interested in making the hotel the finest it can be, for which he has my applause.

The staff is large and our water glasses were refilled no less than seven times. This is extraordinarily annoying. In fact, and I’m not making this up, our water glasses were refilled before we even took a sip! I hope this is something they work on. It’s quite awkward to constantly be asked about your water. If it looks empty, subtly refill them. Thank you.

The entrées soon came out and were beautifully plated. My eggplant dish was nice, but it was not at all exciting. The main flavors are eggplant, spinach, and mushroom, none of which is particularly thrilling. So, while good, it could have done with a thoughtful addition of herbs or spices. With a bit of tweaking and a touch of salt, this could be excellent. It was begging for flavor.

Jessica enjoyed her steak, but I was sad to see that her potato had been cooked in foil. I don’t think anybody enjoys a soft-skinned baked potato. Toss them into a hot oven, cooks!

I ordered the Chocolate Fondant for dessert and waited a good long time for it! When it came out, it came à la mode, which was unrequested (and a few dollars more on my bill). This was terrible. The flavor was very mild, I’d barely consider it chocolate, and it tasted burnt. I was not a fan.

All in all, the dinner service could use some slight improvements, but it shows promise.

I couldn’t just go for dinner, so a few days later I returned for lunch. This time I had their Four Cheese Macaroni; I again ordered the salad since I had enjoyed it so much at my earlier visit. When I ordered the same dressing, the waitress seemed a bit confused about my request, and when I received the salad, it was something completely different. The salad itself did not match the menu — there were no croutons, no carrot, and no tomato. I love tomatoes, so this was kind of devastating. One of the people I was dining with had a slice of gorgeous yellow tomato on his sandwich, so I tossed that on my salad — made it perfect. Salads are important, get them right.

The macaroni was absolutely delicious, though. I enjoyed it completely. The only complaints I have about it is that I wish that it had some kind of breadcrumb crust. It would make it all the tastier and really add to the flavor. I hope that this is considered.

I wonder if perhaps there are timing issues in the kitchen? My salad and the macaroni came at the same time, which was not ideal. Also, all of our hot dishes were, well, warm, not hot. Not always the most pleasant thing.

All in all, though, it was a pleasant lunch.

I think the Hotel Pattee shows much promise, but I do have a few worries that I’m sure will be taken care of with time. 1) Train, train, train your staff. If I have a question, I want them to know the answer, I don’t want them to have to ask. 2) Consider more options for vegetarians. 3) Consistency is important with dishes, such as the salad. If I loved something, I want to love that same thing the next time I come.

I hope that the restaurant and the hotel is better able to sustain itself this time. It will surely be necessary to get people in from Des Moines and the surrounding areas.

I wish the new owners luck, and I don’t hesitate to give my happy, yet cautious, recommendation.

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