RACINE — There are new tastes from Texas, and a new attitude about food, at Booster’s Buoy Dockside Bar & Grill.
Booster’s Buoy, 209 Dodge St., is the former Chartroom Charlie’s, which then became Wharf 209 for what turned out to be a run of only about 16 months. In October 2016, Keith Randolph, owner of two other Milwaukee-area bars, bought the bar-restaurant and reopened it as Booster’s Buoy.
Last month, exactly one year after Keith Randolph bought the property, he brought in his brother Brian Randolph of San Antonio, Texas, as general manager and executive chef.
“We are taking Texas flavors and my unique approach to food and embracing as many local ingredients and dishes as possible,” Brian said.
At age 44, Brian brings more than 27 years of culinary experience.
“Been taking it serious that long,” Brian said and laughed. “My mom owned a restaurant, so I kind of grew up in it.”
That was in Boerne, Texas, and Brian started working in her German restaurant when he was 13 years old; he learned how to execute family recipes in the scratch kitchen.
“I apprenticed — I didn’t go to a formal culinary school,” Brian said. “I apprenticed and worked under several great chefs, and I was able to test out with the American Culinary Federation.”
Food for the famous
Brian has great stories from his years in the business. He cooked for numerous celebrities while working in Tapatio Springs, Texas, at Tapatio Resort — which burned and closed just eight days ago, on Nov. 5.
When Brian was 18 or 19, he met his first celebrity at Tapatio. He was sent out of the kitchen to serve flaming cherries jubilee to country singer Reba McEntire — and set her tablecloth afire.
“She was very sweet about it,” Brian said, laughing at the memory.
Brian also cooked for two U.S. presidents after he was recruited to work at Christopher’s World Grille in College Station, Texas.
“Christopher’s was the exclusive caterer for the Bush Presidential Library,” Brian explained. “And the Bush family has a residence there. So I got to cook for Bush Senior quite often. And, obviously, got to cook for Junior when he came to visit. So that was really fun.
“I did some V.I.P. dinners for right around 80 to 100 people,” Brian continued. “… In fact (Booster’s Buoy’s) cocoa- and espresso-rubbed New York strip is one I used to do for them.”
Brian has thoroughly revamped the Booster’s menu and brought in the technique of cold smoking. He uses it with four menu items including the cocoa- and espresso-rubbed New York strip, a dish he created.
“Cold smoking is kind of a lost art,” Brian said. The process results in meat that is cooked on the grill — but exudes the rich taste and smell of having been cooked on a wood grill with apple wood and mesquite chips.
Brian’s enthusiasm about cooking gushes out when he talks about food. For example, both the lunch and dinner menus include an appetizer, smoked wings. He said about them, “For me, that’s a fun thing; that’s something I do when I do a family barbecue at my house. … Everybody loves them, so I put them on the menu.”
Brian continued, “Our Booster’s oysters — I love oysters Rockefeller … but everybody does oysters Rockefeller. So I added andouille sausage and a tabasco aioli.”
He also uses that first ingredient in the andouille corn chowder, available every day.
Another new Boosters appetizer is cheddar cheese curds with a smoked tomato jam.
“It’s funny: I had never cooked a cheese curd until I got up here,” Brian said. “Obviously it’s a popular dish; people love them. But I couldn’t just leave that alone, I had to do something a little different.” So, he creates his own smoked tomato jam for curd dipping.
And Keith Randolph loves his brother’s lobster mac and cheese appetizer.
Brian’s goals include not just ultraconsistent food, but also speed: He wants every dish served within 15 minutes.
One feature at Booster’s that should prove popular to a large segment of the population is a 15 percent discount on food for people age 55 and older.
For more information, call 262-633-3222.