Executive Chef Jonathan Cross opened his new steak and seafood restaurant, Jonathan’s On Brick Street, in May of 2019 in historic downtown Delavan, and it’s been buzzing with life ever since. Although he’s been a chef for many years around the region, Jonathan’s is the first restaurant he’s launched independently, along with co-owner and wife Tiffany Cross.
On a typical Friday afternoon, Cross and his crew are preparing for the evening’s dinner service. Cross is moving from the kitchen, where pots are clattering and the crew is chattering, to the front of the restaurant to oversee a delivery, and then to the bandstand at the rear to help a musician who’ll serve up the entertainment for the evening. To say that he’s busy would be an understatement.
“I’ve been cooking for 41 years all over Wisconsin, mainly in Door County and the Madison-area market,” Cross says. He’s had stints at The Legend, at the Bergamont country club in Oregon and, right before launching Jonathan’s, he served as chef at a smokehouse restaurant in Fort Atkinson, where he and Tiffany live.
“At this point in my life, it’s time I ventured out on my own, in hopes of securing a viable business,” Cross explains.
They came upon the Delavan restaurant space at 116 E. Walworth Ave in late summer of 2018. The building had recently been renovated by owners Debra Alder and her husband Jeff Scherer. The rehab work exposed the building’s interior brick walls, and touches such as large, dark brown barn doors were added to delineate the bar and restaurant sections. Now, colorful works by local artists adorn the walls while a large brick fireplace presides over the wall between the bar and main dining area.
“It was mainly the space, the structure, the uniqueness and character of the building,” that sealed the deal for the new restaurant’s location in Delavan, Cross says. The building sits along the historic three-block-long brick-paved street, which is well traveled by both locals and visitors alike.
Jonathan’s specializes in serving up delicious steak and seafood and also offers a variety of small plates, along with a Friday night fish fry and a Saturday night prime rib special. On Friday and Saturday nights, live jazz, blues, or country music fills the air.
The chef’s focus is on giving diners the freshest fish and high-quality beef, lamb and pork, all of which are featured in his main dishes. He sources his Certified Angus steaks, aged at least 28 days and hand cut in house, from Neesvig’s Inc. in Windsor, Wisconsin, while fresh fish is flown in three to four times a week, and lamb is purveyed from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farm, right in Delavan.
A few signature dishes at Jonathan’s include Cashew Encrusted Alaskan Halibut and Day Boat Jumbo Scallops. The Cashew Encrusted Alaskan Halibut is made with fresh halibut that Chef Chad Carper, Cross’ right-hand man in the kitchen, slices in-house. Then, he pulses the dry roasted cashews in a food processor before blending them with house-made seasoning. “We take the fresh-cut fish and lightly coat it with beurre blanc and pat it with the seasoned ground cashews,” he says. Carper then pops the fish into the oven to roast it to perfection before serving.
The Day Boat Scallops—Carper’s favorite dish—uses fresh diver scallops, seared to a light crust on both sides. Those are placed on a bed of sautéed watercress chutney, bacon bits, fresh garlic, shallots and grape tomatoes and topped with a white butter sauce.
The Saturday prime rib special is also becoming increasingly popular, Tiffany says. “I frequently go around and ask how things are and people say, ‘I don’t normally like prime rib, but I had a bite of my husband’s and it’s phenomenal!’”
Cross explains his technique: “I’m pretty much self-taught. My dishes are ideas that I come up with, focusing on the flavors by blending herbs and spices that complement the meat.”
For those with a smaller appetite, the menu’s small plates include items such as Maryland-Style Crab Cakes and Blackened Sashimi Grade Tuna. “He’s also quite famous for his cheese curds,” Tiffany says, which he makes from cuts of Wisconsin white cheddar fried in tempura batter.
Diners have no shortage of wines to pair with their meal, and they can taste and purchase their favorites in the restaurant’s entry foyer. There, offerings from the world’s principal wine regions and some local varieties are on hand, along with selections from Napa Valley Winery, Orin Swift Cellars.
All of this adds up to a great locale for families and groups to share a meal and a fine glass of wine together. Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jonathan’s clientele is already evenly divided between first-time diners and repeat customers, Tiffany says.
“I had someone call for a reservation the other week and say ‘So, I hear you’re the place to be!’”
She credits Jonathan’s growing popularity to the chef’s insistence that the restaurant keep a family atmosphere, where everyone will feel welcome. “It’s the compassion and love that he puts into everything he does” that keeps people coming in, she explains. “Jonathan just has a knack for making things work.”
By: Marni McEntee
Photography by: Matt Haas