Pulling up to the tiny Parkview Cafe across from Lincoln Park gives one the feeling that they've suddenly left Milwaukee and have been magically transported to a small roadside cafe in a sleepy Southern Mississippi town; a notion reinforced once you pass through the doors and into the cafe.
The small, clean room is dominated by a horseshoe-shaped counter, with round, backless diner seats spaced around it. There are two booths along the far wall. An old TV set plays re-runs of classic television shows - Dragnet, The Jack Benny Program, and others. The counter and tables are adorned with bottles of hot sauce, maple syrup, and Trappey's hot peppers.
Although there are a few standards, the menu here changes daily, and even hourly, as breakfast gives way to lunch, and then to dinner. There is no printed menu - it's all hand-written on a whiteboard on the wall above the booths. On any given day, it might boast smothered chicken, Catfish, roast beef, pork hocks, black eyed peas, fried okra, short ribs, pancakes, country ham, ox-tails, peach cobbler, neck bones, BBQ chicken, and many other specialties.
There's a reason Parkview Cafe has been around for over 35 years, and, as good as all their selections are, it's probably at least partially due to the fried chicken. It's top-notch, and not only is it the best in the city, it's no exaggeration to state that, although unrated (as of yet), it's among the best in the country. The crispy, crunchy batter is not too thick, but it clings to the chicken pieces and keeps the meat moist and tender. It's perfectly fried to a light golden color, and piled high on a plate. It's not overly greasy, and not particularly spicy, but it is flavorful. Buttermilk is suspected, but has not been confirmed.
The gravy served with the smothered pork chops is rich and flavorful, and the pork chops are hammered to a tenderness that needs no knife to cut them. Dip the fried chicken in the gravy, and add a dash of hot sauce for a extra tasty concoction.
There is a choice of three sides with every entree, and the greens are highly recommended. They are not too bitter, and go well with the moist cornbread that also accompanies every meal. Add some of the vinegar from the bottle of Trappey's, along with a few hot peppers. Other sides include potato salad, boiled okra, sweet peas, green beans, spaghetti, and yams. The yams, if they are ordered, should be savored last, as they are sweet enough to qualify for dessert.
The prices here are reasonable, especially considering most people take home leftovers. The service is very friendly, but do not go here if you are in a hurry, as there is one chef in the kitchen, and everything is made to order. It's worth the wait, though. The atmosphere is relaxed, with regulars talking and joking to each other across the room, and occasionally yelling into the kitchen at the more-than-patient cook.
If you like fried chicken and Soul food, the Parkview Cafe should be at the top of your list.
For More Information:
4871 N. Green Bay Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53209
Hours: 6 AM - 10 PM 7 days/week
Parking: Small lot, and street (free)
Celiac-friendly items: Yes
Vegetarian dishes: Yes
Low-carb options: Yes
Handicapped accessible: Yes