Gettin’ Our Motor Bar and Restaurant Run In

There I was, at Motor® Bar and Restaurant at the Harley Davidson Museum, about to dig into a dish called “The Fat Boy,” a bit of an undertaking as the name implies. Everyone was talking about the upcoming 110th anniversary celebration, and then it happened; the phrase “gearing up” slipped past my lips and I was a little horrified. Luckily, I had WMSE Volunteer Coordinator, Chris DeMay as my dining partner because A) he is very amenable to sharing dishes, and B) before I could apologize for my pun transgression, Chris said, seriously and sincerely, “It’s okay. I’ll forget it.”

It was not my first transgression of the night; as I walked in wearing all primary colors, not a stitch of black or bad-ass on me, I had flashes of those scenes in movies when Joe Civilian walks into a biker bar and burly men sporting beards and leather make him aware of his mistake. Instead, I was greeted by a friendly hostess with a warm smile who immediately made me feel at home. She even stopped by during our meal to chat. The thing is, most biker folk are as friendly of folk as you’ll ever meet, and it seems Motor has drawn on that when staffing the restaurant. After all, it’s not just a “biker bar,” but a place for all of us to celebrate the legacy of Harley Davidson in Milwaukee.

The Fat Boy

The Fat Boy

So, transgressions out of the way, it was easy to settle in to enjoy the beautiful space, food and company. Chris, who once worked on a trout farm, FYI, ordered a cup of the velvety smoked trout bisque. It had nice chunks of fish and a complexity of flavor that made me believe any other soup they make is probably pretty damn good too. The aforementioned “Fat Boy” is a plate of crispy fries topped with cheddar, mozzarella, pico de gallo , cilantro, sour cream, BBQ sauce and house smoked pulled pork. Pulled pork is ubiquitous on menus these days, but this pulled pork… well, I guess I should not be surprised that Motor takes “hog” seriously. (Damn! I did it again! Sorrysorrysorry.) It was juicy, tender and tasted both like pork and smoke. They didn’t put it on the menu just because it is popular, but because they knew how to do it well. Seems they did some serious dialing in to get the BBQ sauce just right too. Since Chris helped me with the Fat Boy, I helped him with the fish tacos; a nice big piece of lightly battered cod with napa cabbage, chipotle cream, pico de gallo and chunks of queso fresco. Chris liked how he got a little bit of all the ingredients in every bite.

Chris DeMay in the "lime light" with fish tacos

Chris DeMay in the “lime light” with fish tacos

While Chris and I leaned south of the border on our food choices, Motor features mostly traditional American fare. They are particularly known for their house-breaded cheese curds, for which, Executive Sous Chef Tom Long says, folks go crazy, and the Stuffed Motor Burger, which is stuffed with bacon and cheddar and topped with that great BBQ sauce. Our waitress called it “a 10-napkin burger.”

inside Motor

inside Motor

The indoor space is open, comfortable, industrial and classy with glass walls all around and an artful metal work screen separating the bar and dining area. I imagine whoever designed it was thinking of the experience of being on a motorcycle on the open road – a tight, cozy space would feel too confined after a day with the wind in your hair. It feels pretty good if you’ve spent the day in the office too; there’s space to breathe. The outdoor space offers plenty of that too, butting up to the river, offering a nice view of the riverwalk landscaping and, if you are lucky, as Chris and I were, fireworks from the Summerfest grounds.

outside Motor (See the fireworks?)

outside Motor (See the fireworks?)

After this week’s 110th celebration, you may just catch a little Harley-Davidson fever. Motor is a great place to engage in that spirit of friendliness paired with a job-well-done that distinguishes the motorcycle legend and our fair city. It’s a pretty good place to forget your transgressions with good food and a friend, too.

Chris’s musical pairing: Blue Oyster Cult – “True Confessions” 

Chris says, “When I think of Harley-Davidson I think of Blue Oyster Cult … not entirely sure why, but the two are forever linked in my mind. Which brings me to the recent death of Blue Oyster Cult keyboard and guitar player, Allen Lanier, who shook off his mortal coil on August 14th. Lanier’s contributions to the band’s songwriting and sound are essential—as well as his work with Patti Smith, The Clash and Jim Carroll. For all those reasons, I roll out “True Confessions” from BOC’s classic 1976 album, Agents of Fortune. The song was written by Lanier and features his fine piano playing and lead vocal. See also Patti Smith’s “Elegie” and The Clash’s “Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad,” which also feature Lanier’s piano work. Get your motor runnin’…”

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

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