718 N Milwaukee St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Open Mon.-Wed. 5PM-10PM, Thurs.-Sat. 5PM-11PM
Rating system: 1-5 spoons
Overall= 4.25 spoons
Cuisine type: Steakhouse
Price per entrée: $19.00-$162.00
Payment: Cash, Credit card, Surg gift card, no checks
Carnevor Steakhouse Moderne was rather exquisite. The location was prime, however, the recent change and expansion seemed to change the vibe of the environment in a slightly negative way, decreasing the entire rating.
Carnevor is located in downtown Milwaukee on Milwaukee street, and used to be part of what was called, “The Milwaukee Street Trio,” because it was in line with two of its sister restaurants, Distil, and Umami Moto. However, Carnevor recently had to relocate to what was Umami Moto’s location due to a problem with their rental building.
The restaurant is part of Surg Restaurant Group, and was actually the first ‘Surg’ restaurant prior to the group being “a thing.” The group was started by Omar Shaikh, who is still currently the president of Surg. Mike Polaski, a multimillionaire whose riches come from his insurance company, bought into the restaurant group and became partners with Shaikh. Together, they expanded the group to 13 restaurants total. Mike Polaski now owns a farm in New London, WI, which actually supplies a lot of the meat for the restaurant group.
Carnevor’s head chef, Jarvis Williams, was a dish washer at age 15 and decided from there that the kitchen was where he wanted to be. He grew up right in town on the North Side of Milwaukee. His chef career always consisted of restaurants within the Milwaukee area such as ‘Bacchus.’ He is very well known because of his presence and success with Carnevor and continues to bring amazing things to menu.
Now, the juicy stuff. My name is Ninia, and I’m originally from La Crosse, WI, a smaller city right on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota. I’ve been to a lot of “regular” places; as La Crosse was smaller, most popular restaurants in town were still “chains.” When I moved to Milwaukee, I began working in the service industry during my schooling and dined everywhere. I became familiar with Surg Restaurant Group and was a regular at their old Asian cuisine restaurant, Umami Moto.
All of my friends and I knew about Carnevor but had never been there, and finally, for a friend’s birthday, a group of us went to experience what we had heard to be some of the best food in the city, and it did not at all disappoint. The second time I went with a date, and I still had the same amazing experience but due to the change in location, the ambiance lacked the relaxing, personal feelings that we got from the original location.
In the first location, there were technically four levels: the basement which acted as a private dining area and had to be rented out, the main level, the second level, and a few steps up from the second level was the top level, but not quite a third level. It was designed specifically for them and was a million dollar building. On the ceiling, there were custom made wood cuts hanging in arch shapes. The rest of the building consisted of glass barriers, dim lights and elegant accessories.
The second location is very similar, with the same type of custom design. However, the layout is much more open and all on one floor. It feels more like a normal restaurant now, whereas before it felt more private; almost like you were super special to be dining there because it didn’t feel like there were many others around you. Originally, this was one of the things that made Carnevor stand out from other top Milwaukee restaurants, and not it isn’t quite as distinct.
Pretty much everything else met up to par. The service was absolutely phenomenal. From the second we walked in the door, the hostesses made sure we were comfortable and led us to our table. The first time we went, they had custom menus on the table for the birthday we were celebrating that read “Happy Birthday Declan.” A server greeted us right away and was sure to let us know that they would get us anything we needed. Throughout the night, the servers were all very attentive. Our table was never dirty, there was never anything we didn’t need on the table, and every new dish was like a presentation. New silverware was always being set. The coursing was perfect; everything came out after the previous course and we were never left sitting waiting for food except at the beginning, which wasn’t long.
The first dish for me was a simple Caesar salad ($9), which was everything but a simple Caesar salad. The dressing was rich but not overloaded, and it was topped with fresh parmesan and homemade croutons. For our appetizer we had crab cakes ($17) which were easily the best I have ever had in my life. It was not at all dry, and had perfect, but not overwhelming, sauce on it. Finally, my steak, the 14 oz., center cut, dry aged New York strip ($53), was cooked perfectly at medium rare. It was juicy, fresh, and sliced like butter.
The only other thing I rated lower than perfect was the value, because it was definitely expensive. It was to be expected and was worth it for the most part, but was slightly overdone. We understood that we were paying for their name as well.
Overall, this was phenomenal. For anyone looking for a special occasion dining place, or just a mind blowing dinner, this is the place to go. Hands down a favorite in Milwaukee. They reminded us they would fix what wasn’t satisfying, and fortunately that wasn’t necessary. I highly recommend this place.