Restaurant name: Dino’s Riverwest
Restaurant address: 808 E Chambers St, Milwaukee, WI 53211
Phone number of restaurant: 414-817-0241
Business hours: Wednesday and Thursday – 5p-10p, Friday – 4p-11p, Saturday – 5p-10p, Sunday 10a-3p. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
The front door of Dino’s Riverwest welcomes customers with a simple expression, “Hard to find, harder to leave.” Located between N. Fratney and N. Bremen on E. Chambers St. in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, Dino’s, as its colloquially known, is a cozy escape from the new and trendy restaurants popping up around Milwaukee.
Originally built in the early 1900s, the building now occupied by Dino’s saw its fair share of ownership changes until Leo Dinonpurchased the building in 1969. First going by the name Dino’s Lounge, Leo decided to shorten it to Dino’s. After Leo’s death in 1996, Dino’s had an array of operations management and eventually shut down in 2009.
Then, a few years later, enter brothers Anthony and Lawrence Lococo. The Lococo’s, Dino’s grandkids, grew up running around and playing in the restaurant they now operate. They did some minor renovations and gave their dining room large windows overlooking E. Chambers Street, but the bar is still original from Dinon’s time as owner.
On a recent Thursday evening, my girlfriend Jamie and I were in the mood to go out for dinner somewhere within walking distance of our house in Riverwest. We debated between a few restaurants but decided to try out Dino’s, a place we hadn’t tried but have walked past many times on our way to pick up pizza from Scardina’s Specialties. ”
As we walked towards the entrance, a group of about 10 was being seated at the metal tables on their front patio. We walked up the four or five stairs that led to the front door and entered the dimly lit bar and dining area. The bar seats about 15 people and there were enough tables to seat approximately 20 people in the same room as the bar.
We walked passed the bar on our left and the dining tables to our right towards the hostess, who asked if we wanted to sit outside, at the bar or in their dining room. We opted to sit outside because it was a beautiful night, but their dining room was large and open, with wood floors and big bay windows overlooking the street and can accommodate seating for maybe 40 people.
We were escorted back out the front door by our charming hostess and led to a table on the alley that splits the 800 block of E. Chambers in half. After being brought a couple of glasses of water, we heard the day’s specials and were immediately intrigued.
Apparently, Thursday is burger night, when the menu features $5 half-pound burgers. It seems to be the same two burgers every Thursday, a cheddar and onion burger and a goat cheese and mushroom burger. We placed our order right away, and a few minutes later our Black Husky Dogfather IPA ($5 each) were delivered.
I opted for the goat cheeseburger ($5) and Jamie ordered their steak pesto sandwich ($12), which was also a special that day. We ordered the arancini ($9) as an appetizer as well.
The arancini came out quickly. The three tennis ball-sized spheres of deep fried rice, tomato, and cheese were presented well on a white, rectangular plate. They were crispy and flaky with breadcrumbs on the outside and a melty concoction of cheese and rice on the inside. I tried my hardest to eat them slowly, but they were so good I just couldn’t take small bites. Jamie enjoyed them as well, and we had to play rock, paper, scissors to decide who would get the last bite. I lost.
Shortly after Jamie lucked her way into the last arancini, our orders came out alongside another round of Black Husky. My burger looked pretty good, with melted cheese and mushrooms dripping off the surface of the patty and landing on the bed of fries that laid beneath it. But Jamie’s steak pesto sandwich was enormous. It was almost a foot long and came cut in two, served with french fries. I was jealous of it merely based on proportions.
After I took my first bite of my burger, however, I was pleased with my choice. Ordered medium, it came out just to my liking; a little pink in the center and browned on the outsides. The patty was perfectly seasoned and the mushrooms complimented the goat cheese, all of which was distributed evenly with each bite.
Jamie was kind enough to let me try her steak pesto sandwich. I bit into it fearing I would come to regret my choice of ordering a burger. It was good, but definitely not as good as the burger. Relieved, I continued working on my burger and fries.
After we cleaned our plates we asked for our bill. The total for four beers, the appetizer, the burger and the pesto sandwich was $48. Pretty affordable for a date night, and it was worth every penny. It got Jamie and I thought…what did the quote on the door mean when it said harder to leave. Is it because the atmosphere makes you want to stay or because you’re so full you physically can’t stand up. We decided it was probably both.
Cuisine type: Italian/American
Price per entrée: $10-$17
Happy Hour: YES