Reviews of Bacchus – A Bartolotta Restaurant | Downtown Milwaukee Restaurant


Carol Deptolla – ★ ★ ★ ★ Review

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There’s much to take in at the refreshed Bacchus dining room: sleek slivers of sconces, a backlighted faux skylight, a brighter pattern of marble within a wooden grid underfoot. Peek into the bar, or the Conservatory, or the Lakeview dining room — they look fresher, too.

What I remember most about my first dinner at the refreshed Bacchus was the utter contentment at the meal’s end. Everything about it had been so satisfying: the very feel of the place, the service, the pace, the flavors.

Bacchus has kept plenty of what makes it Bacchus: It dedicates one portion of the menu to some of its most popular dishes over the years, available for a set price of $55 for three courses (a relative bargain for the restaurant) or a la carte. And it still has a main dish for two, the chateaubriand, with steakhouse-style sides. But I love that Bacchus is taking more chances and switching up the menu more often. It certainly has the firepower in the kitchen to push flavors, preparation and presentation.

Not all of the best restaurants make it to 15 years as Bacchus has. But Bacchus isn’t just enduring — it’s better than ever.
  – Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Food Critic – Best Fine Dining 2019

I’m a big advocate for navigating fine dining restaurants without dropping an entire paycheck, and I gravitate towards places that are accessible in terms of that investment. That means perennial favorites like EsterEv (which offers an exquisite ten-course tasting menu for under $100) and Sanford where you can sample an ever-changing four-course menu on weekdays for just $49.

They’ve made the same possible more recently at Bacchus, which underwent a refresh this summer in honor of its 15th anniversary. The project, which was the last spearheaded by the late Joe Bartolotta, resulted in a beautiful restaurant that simultaneously feels opulent and accessible. The same is true for the menu, which showcases a flexibility that previous menus didn’t exhibit.

I’ll admit I haven’t scoured the entire menu in the short time since the restaurant reopened after its refresh. But I’ve enjoyed a number of dishes that reminded me of the level of skill Chef Nick Wirth brings to the table — dishes like charred Spanish octopus with Middle Eastern touches like hummus and preserved lemon; and (the creamiest) butternut squash risotto with applewood smoked bacon and Marieke gouda. Combine that with the pleasure of eating in a space now worthy of its new menu and you’ve got a truly winning combination.

Carol Deptolla – Top 30 Restaurants 2018

With its ivory-colored walls and tufted leather banquettes, Bacchus means a posh night out, a white-tablecloth setting for stylish plates. Chef Nick Wirth crafts excellent examples of the Italian dishes associated with the Bartolotta group, like delicate veal ravioli with spinach, pine nuts, and butter sauce. But he casts a wide net, pulling in world flavors, such as Middle-Eastern-leaning lamb loin with charred-eggplant puree and parsley-cucumber salad. And the restaurant has one of the most comprehensive wine lists in the city, a long list of covetable bottles with a special emphasis on France, Spain, and California.
  – Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Food Critic

Wine Enthusiast – Top 100 Wine Restaurants 2017

Bacchus offers one of the Midwest’s most extensive wine lists, with more than 800 selections. Nick Wirth’s American cuisine is best experienced through the five- or seven-course tasting menus that change nightly. End with a local cheese board. Read more the full article.

Wine Spectator Awards – Best of Award of Excellence

Wine Spectator’s Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.

To qualify for an award, a wine list must present complete, accurate information, including vintages and appellations for all selections. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, and the overall presentation of the list is also considered.

Best of Award of Excellence
These wine lists display excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation. Typically offering 350 or more selections, these restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team.

Bacchus has been honored to receive this distinction for eleven consecutive years since 2006.

Carol Deptolla – Top 30 Restaurants 2017

Elegant plates and an elegant dining room, an expansive wine list and solid service are the calling cards of Bacchus, a Bartolotta restaurant. Chef Nick Wirth is bringing world flavors onto the menu; in summer, a bavette-cut steak was served with Mexican corn salad, charred red onion, and cumin vinaigrette. Desserts, almost too pretty to eat (almost), are a necessary thing at Bacchus, such as a St. Honoré puff filled with pistachio cream.
   – Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Food Critic

Carol Deptolla – Top 30 Restaurants 2016

At the Bartolotta group’s swanky downtown restaurant, chef Nick Wirth has been breathing new life into Bacchus’ entrées. The ideal roast chicken, with juicy meat and crisp skin, now is matched with herbed buttermilk dumplings, mustard greens, and Madeira sauce, for instance. Desserts by pastry chef Allie Howard are as wondrous as ever; in summer, a dessert called Chocolate ’n Peanut filled a peanut poundcake shell with chocolate mousse and candied peanuts, embellished with caramel and chocolate ice cream.
  – Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Food Critic

Carol Deptolla – Top 30 Restaurants 2015

Why go here: You need someplace elegant — for a special occasion, entertaining clients, or maybe just a civilized night out. Looking out at Lake Michigan, it’s a special spot for patio dining. The savory and sweet plates by chef Nick Wirth and pastry chef Allie Howard are elegant, too.

What to order: Small plates and salads at Bacchus hold more interest for me these days, and they make a visit more affordable — anything from crisp sweetbreads to melon and pea shoot salad. Don’t leave without dessert; they’re remarkable. Coconut semifreddo enrobed in dark chocolate and candied almonds is one of my favorites of the year.

What you’re drinking: Naturally, a restaurant named for the god of wine will have an impressive wine list — 650 bottles. Sommelier Katie Espinosa’s notes on terroir in this well-organized list make for good reading.

Carol Deptolla – Top 30 Restaurants 2014

“I’m looking, first and foremost, for well-executed food that delights me. A menu that’s original or one that honors tradition makes me take notice, as does technique that’s sharp. The food has to be so special that it makes me want to return… But I’m also looking for a memorable experience overall. That means service should be welcoming and competent, at a minimum, although many servers go above and beyond.” 

Find out what Carol Deptolla said about Bacchus in 2014.

Carol Deptolla – Top 30 Restaurants 2013

“What’ll it be? Modern or traditional? Contemporary American, German or Italian? Casual? Fancy? There’s all that and more in this year’s Top 30 restaurant list. 

Restaurants continue to step up their game, composing thoughtful dishes, using more ingredients in season, preserving foods and making more components from scratch. It’s awfully gratifying to be in the diner’s seat these days.

The polished dining room at Bacchus signifies a posh night out, but I found the service more relaxed, less stiff this summer. And the recasting previously of appetizers as small plates (like luscious lobster ravioletti in cream sauce) lets diners who like to graze do their thing. There are entrées I’d be loath to miss, though, such as perfect scallops with browned, tender pork belly, creamy spinach, caramelized cauliflower and veal jus, or beef short rib atop carrot puree with browned wedges of fennel and roasted red grapes, so savory. Wine lovers can revel in this list.”

See the whole Top 30 list on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Carol Deptolla – Top 30 Restaurants 2012

In shades of ivory, the Bartolotta group’s Bacchus dining room makes an elegant setting for romance or business (you’ll see both here). Diners who prefer sharing small plates to committing to an entrée will find an expanded list, such as a contemporary spin on cabbage rolls (handsome savoy cabbage leaves filled with pulled pork).

Among entrées from the kitchen led by executive chef Adam Siegel and chef de cuisine Nicholas Wirth, guests can choose dishes such as the homey but perfectly executed roast chicken, or lamb two ways, medallions of tender shoulder and sliced loin. Careful service and a 900-bottle wine list make this a choice spot for celebrations.

Getto’s Top 30 Red meat, great treats and more – 2007

By DENNIS R. GETTO, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Food Critic

Of the four new restaurants that appear on this annual list of Milwaukee’s best eating establishments, two have the word “grill” in their names, a third beckons with a carnivore-friendly name, and a fourth has built a reputation for great slabs of red meat cooked to order.
Together, they show that more of Milwaukee’s elite restaurants are stepping up to satisfy the area’s seemingly insatiable appetite for steak.

Over 22 years of assembling the top 30 (originally top 25), I’ve watched the number of steakhouses making the cut 
grow steadily.

The newcomers are the Mason Street Grill, Jackson Grill, Carnevor and the Savoy Room.

Carnevor and a returning top 30 restaurant, Dream Dance, are even betting that some Milwaukeeans are so intoxicated by the taste of steak they will be willing to shell out $140 to $160 for the privilege of eating true Kobe steaks from Japan, which are considered the world’s best. (See story on 14E.)

But not all of the restaurants on this list are steak establishments. French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Cuban and American cuisines are all represented. And for those interested in vegetarian dishes and organic foods, two restaurants – Roots and Barossa – both serve dishes guaranteed to satisfy.

All of these restaurants have been accorded a full review within the last 18 months, some very recently. All earned at least 3 stars, many 3½ or even 4. In addition to their ratings, each of these 30 restaurants has distinguished itself with a high quality of both food and service.

For this annual listing, I’ve compiled capsulized descriptions with busy readers in mind. While strict dress codes are a thing of the past in even the most elegant establishments, I’ve tried to offer apparel guidelines based on how patrons in each restaurant typically dress.

I also provide details about outdoor dining (where it exists), and the quality and nature of each restaurant’s wine offerings.

Once I compiled the list, I looked it over to determine distinctive aspects of each restaurant – the view, the atmosphere, the food – to provide diners with a clearer picture of their choices.

My ultimate goal is to guide you to those places where your meal will transcend mere eating and become an experience you and your companions will remember for years.


In the Cudahy Towers,925 E. Wells St.
(414) 765-1166

What makes it great: World-class food and service and one of the best wine lists in the state.

What to wear: This is definitely a dress-up place; whatever you put on should have a designer label.

A great spot for: That special-occasion meal that you want everyone to remember for the rest of their lives.

You might not notice, but the glassed-in conservatory was first designed, built and assembled in England, then disassembled and shipped to a firm in Chicago, which brought it to Milwaukee and assembled it.

Outdoor dining: Lunch is served in the conservatory five days a week.

Wine list: Draws from the entire world, with whites and reds from all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5:30-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 5-8 p.m. Sunday. 

Prices: $21-$45. 

Credit cards: All major. 

Reservations: Recommended.