First impression: Ryan Braun’s Waterfront Grill

Ryan Braun fancies himself a Renaissance man. A five-tool player in the business world, the Brewers slugger appears in numerous national TV spots, endorses his own baseball bat, and designs some of the fugliest T-shirts known to man. April 5 was opening day, both for the Brewers and for Braun’s latest business venture, Ryan Braun’s Waterfront Grill (102 N. Water Street). The A.V. Club paid a visit to the new restaurant to see if it has what it takes to be a hit (sorry!) in the Third Ward restaurant scene.

The space: Being that it's situated at the former site of Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant, it’s no wonder Ryan Braun’s Waterfront Grill managed to open with such a quick turnaround, just one month after plans to open were made official. The new establishment looks a lot like its predecessor, with semi-upscale decor, a Top 40 music soundtrack, and paper tablecloths. Aesthetically, the main draw here is the patio and the view of the condo-lined river it’s nestled by.

The service: Our faux-hawked server sat us at a table near the patio. Once seated, his table service was nothing less than attentive—almost annoyingly so. Over the course of the 30-minute lunch, he twice asked how we were enjoying our food, and we found our water glass refilled following each sip. Frankly, the constant attention got in the way of the meal itself, but hopefully that can be blamed on the young restaurant’s staff trying to keep busy despite a sparse lunch-hour turnout.

The A.V. Club’s food: The menu, like the decor, seems lifted from Fratellos. The waterfront grill offers up pricier fare such as steak, seafood, and pasta along with everyday options like burgers, sandwiches, personal pizzas and an assortment of salads. With most selections ranging from $7 to $15, we opted to see how Braun and company handled a Milwaukee mainstay and went for a reuben grill. The marble-rye-bread sandwich burst with flavorful corned beef, but the cheese and sauerkraut seemed a bit lacking by comparison. We paired the reuben with a side of garlic and parmesan fries, which just seemed like normal fries. At $9.80 for the meal, the portioning left something to be desired, but the taste and quality held pat.

The verdict: Ryan Braun’s Waterfront Grill isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it does manage to provide a sleek-yet-affable dining experience to a wide spectrum of diners. Still, we’d advise Braun to keep his day job.

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