I palm a guide of matches from the bowl on the host’s station, shoving it into my pocket. Logoed matchbooks was omnipresent at eating places again when smoking was nonetheless allowed in eating rooms. Pink Circle Inn in Nashotah is the primary place I’ve seen them in ceaselessly – a bit of contact suggesting that particulars matter. 

Pink Circle, which began as a stagecoach cease in 1848, took its present title when beer baron Frederick Pabst purchased it in 1889. After varied homeowners since then, it landed within the arms of Geronimo Hospitality Group final fall. The Beloit-based firm shuttered Pink Circle for about six months, freshening up the decor whereas retaining the historic look, which incorporates outdated photographs, a restored hearth within the eating room and the unique Pabst bar.

Restaurant Evaluate: Pink Circle Inn Has Been Reinvented
Pink Circle Inn; Photograph by Marty Peters

The up to date area exudes a sure attraction, however issues are completely different, too. The roasted duck, veal dishes and dessert souffles Pink Circle was recognized for are gone. Steaks are an emphasis right here, and whereas dishes just like the relish platter for 2 sound retro-appealing, I discover myself at instances wishing for the outdated Pink Circle. 

On my first go to, that platter ($19) is overkill, with its deviled eggs breaded and deep-fried, and cheddar beer dip glopped onto triangles of rye bread. It appears to be like and tastes assembled forward of time and chilled. One other app, the tender, delicate Wisconsin meatballs with harmony grape glaze ($18) are marred by a gluey mattress of celery root buttered “mashers.” 



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Entrée-wise, the winner is a young, roasted 12-ounce bone-in pork chop ($32), enhanced by the tart, peppery home steak sauce. I wish to love the pan-fried skate wing schnitzel, but it surely’s extra breading than fish, and the gribiche (a chopped egg sauce) served with it’s extra like a remoulade. I may niggle with our potato choices; the meat fats hash brown blocks are decadent however want salt, and the buttered mashers are so tender and unformed that they pool throughout the plate. The bookend to that meal is a seasonal berry-rhubarb tart ($9) the server guarantees can be served heat and comes ice-cold (from the fridge?) and dry.

Skip forward to the subsequent go to and as an alternative of the cramped two-top within the eating room we had the primary time, I’ve obtained a much bigger bar-height desk with snug swivel chairs and a membership soda delivered to me on a brass-like tray. Fancy! The bougie fried oyster slider ($8 every) with maple-glazed pork stomach and chile tomato mayo on a toasted bun is scrumptious. However the crabcakes ($22) are the moist, more-filler-than-crab selection.

Beef stroganoff at Pink Circle Inn; Photograph by Marty Peters
Crab desserts at Pink Circle Inn; Photograph by Marty Peters

I benefit from the 6-ounce tenderloin ($43), with its crusty coating and clean béarnaise. Like no beef stroganoff I’ve eaten, Pink Circle’s elevated model ($28) combines hunks of quick rib with pappardelle, caramelized onions and maitake and porcini mushrooms with herb crème fraiche. It leans tangy, with unctuous bites of meat and al dente noodles. 

I respect the brand new proprietor’s efforts to convey life again to such a venerable spot, listening to little particulars like these packs of matches. However the meals has to get the identical scrutiny. In 175 years, Pink Circle has served numerous nice meals. I hope, with nice tuning, they are going to serve many extra. 

Beef tenderloin at Pink Circle Inn; Photograph by Marty Peters

Pink Circle Inn

N44 W33013 Watertown Plank Rd., Nashotah, 262-367-4883

Hours: Mon-Thurs 4:30-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 4:30-10 p.m.
Costs: $25-$54
Service:  Enthusiastic, attentive, respectful
Reservations: Really useful 


This story is a part of Milwaukee Journal’s July subject.

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