Cari Taylor-Carlson

Stubby’s Gastropub Is Lots of Fun

With very good food in a relaxed, contemporary rustic setting.

By - May 19th, 2015 03:55 pm
The patio at Stubby’s Gastropub. Photo from Facebook.

The patio at Stubby’s Gastropub. Photo from Facebook.

The first thing we see as we walk up the steps and stroll into Stubby’s is Jenga, not the game we play sitting down, but big blocks that look like eight inch lengths of two by fours stacked on a low table. Someone nearby says, “Look out! They make a lot of noise when they crash.” The game sets the mood for this bar/restaurant/playground where I recently dined three times with friends and found exceptional service, delicious bar food, and since I live in the ‘hood, my new go-to for a quick beer and burger.

This is not to suggest Stubby’s is a cozy neighborhood place with the locals crouched around a U-shaped bar. Hardly. It’s huge, but cut into many smallish spaces by wooden barrels that serve as ultra cool room dividers. It’s not cozy, but the bar serves a local population, or as our server Iris explains, “We have a diverse crowd here. We’re on the edge of Brady, Riverwest, the Lower East Side, and we’re on the river.”

Fifteen flat screen TVs keep sports fan happy even if the TVs are often silent. When I comment on that at lunch, Iris says, “We only turn on the sound for Wisconsin teams or by request.” That means we can hear Johnny Cash playing up front at the hexahedron or six-sided bar. My companion and I like the bike hanging from the ceiling and decide it’s an appropriate addition to the barn-wood walls and the contemporary rustic vibe.

As a recent convert to Stubby’s, I look forward to summer evenings on the deck. With its exposure every direction except north, the ramada over the western half of the deck will give welcome respite and a little shade on a blazing hot summer evening.

We have a good time navigating the menu at lunch. One side describes Salads and Sandwiches and the other, the Plate Menu, lists larger portions meant to be shared, or not, if you have an especially hearty appetite. We roll down the menu past Cheese Curds, Deep-Fried Dill Pickles, Pig Sticks, fries served with bacon and cheese, and Tempura-Beer Batter Calamari. We pause to ogle the photo of the Westerner Nachos and decide it takes a village to bring that mile-high pile to a close. We stay with the plates and order Chazz’s Mini Meatloaf Sammies and from the three flatbread pizzas choose Granny’s Apples.

No disappointments here. Iris our server had recommended the Meatloaf Sammies with a caveat, “They’re hot.” She was right. “There are three kinds of chiles in the meatloaf,” she warns me, “and the chipotle mayo has quite the kick.” I loved it. I think of the Sammie as the kitchen-sink version of a meatloaf sandwich. Inside grilled sour dough bread, the chef piles meatloaf, candied bacon, gruyere cheese, chipotle mayo, and for a faux-healthy touch, a few pieces of arugula. I decorate my face with the Sammie and keep my napkin close by as each caloric bite oozes down my chin: butter, cheese, bacon, mayo and the hot spicy meatloaf.

Meatloaf Sammies. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Meatloaf Sammies. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

My companion finds the flatbread apple pizza less imposing but no less delicious. “The balsamic reduction drizzled on top of the apples adds a perfect touch of sweet to tart.” She likes the thin crust and says, “The brie ties all the flavors together.”

We ask Iris about desserts. “They change almost daily,” she says, “but you can always get the Beer Float or for the kids, a Root Beer Float.” Then she describes the S’Mores. “They start with house made marshmallow fluff. The chef toasts it, adds caramel ice cream, crumbled graham crackers, a honey drizzle, and finishes it with chocolate stout ganache.” That might be even more decadent than my camping S’Mores made with super-sized marshmallows, Nutella and dark chocolate candy bars.

I return on a weekend post-theater and find a different vibe and a forty-five minute wait for a table. (FYI-they take reservations) Stubby’s is jammed with people having fun. It’s party time on this Saturday night. We keep our coats on and dine on the chilly deck wishing they had heat lamps. This is when I learn about the beer. There’s an extensive list of draft beers, fifty-three plus and for the record, all the beers listed in red come from Wisconsin. I find my fave, Moon Man from New Glarus and turn my attention to the meal.

It’s hard to resist revisiting that spicy meatloaf, this time in an open-face sandwich with blue cheese and wild mushroom demi-glace, but I opt for the Pork Bomb because Iris says, “It’s the perennial favorite.” The pile of tender pork, the BBQ sauce, and the crispy onion straws, all tucked in a pretzel bun exceeds my expectations. Likewise we find the Overachiever Reuben with its house made thousand island on the side, equally yummy, as are the three fish tacos finished with red pepper aioli. “It adds complex flavors without being too spicy,” says my friend. We gush over our sweet potato fries and it’s unanimous, “Best ever.”

After this stream of good food I pay a third visit, this time to the brunch on “family friendly” Sunday where my companion and I order the Do-Gooder Omelette and the Reuben Bennie. The omelette with brie, caramelized onions and wild mushrooms is ordinary; the Benny superb. Piles of corned beef top sauerkraut and Swiss cheese, while two poached eggs on toast points complete this dish at the junction of Corned Beef Hash and Eggs Benedict.

Maybe next time I’ll eat dessert first and order the S’Mores.

On the Menu

Stubby’s Gastrogrub
2060 N. Humboldt Ave. #1, Milwaukee
Open Tuesday-Friday at 11:00, Saturday-Sunday at 10:00, closed Monday

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