By Kristine Hansen | Photo Courtesy Odd Duck Restaurant, Artemio Photo
It’s no secret opposites attract in romance.
United by a passion for food, Melissa Buchholz handles front-of-the-house matters—including chatting with diners and media interviews—while her boyfriend Ross Bachhuber is happy cooking alone in the kitchen. Together they co-own Odd Duck, a farm-to-table spot along Kinnickinnic Avenue in the heart of Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.
“A pretty global philosophy,” says Buchholz, drives dish creations, whether that’s Malaysian nasi lemak (a fragrant rice dish) or Portuguese feijoada (pork and beans stew), to help diners “explore the world.” Cocktails, too, dance among cultures. The menu is printed daily for that night’s dinner, reflecting not only what’s in season but what has been brought to Odd Duck from food suppliers and farmers that morning. “We work more collaboratively than a lot of places. Some days there’s a lot of changes (to the menu),” explains Buchholz. “Other days there’s only a few.”
Scallops are always on the menu—with a flavor twist that varies—and “most cultures have a seafood stew,” says Buchholz. A pasta dish (including pierogi, Polish dumplings) is also a constant feature. “We really love our lamb from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farm in Delavan,” she says, and “we always have duck, sometimes in several dishes. We often have some sort of dish where we make (our own) sausage.”
The couple’s international travels—including a trip to India this past March—inspire the menu.
On a typical evening—no matter if it’s Tuesday or Saturday night—there’s a vibrancy inside the restaurant, which opened in 2012. Many arrive in groups, intent on sharing dishes, and the cozy space—with its cream-city brick walls—feels both homey and haute. Delightful aromas waft out of the open kitchen in back.
It’s almost like walking into one’s living room—exactly how Buchholz and Bachhuber want you to feel. “We wanted it to be affordable and not feel fancy or exclusionary,” she says. “It’s not just our job, it’s our life.”