Cari Taylor-Carlson

Erv’s Mug Does Bar Food Right

Lot's of menu items and lots of bar kitsch at Erv's Mug on Ryan Road.

By - Feb 21st, 2020 12:39 pm
Erv’s Mug. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Erv’s Mug. Photo by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

The last time I ate at Erv’s Mug, Ryan Road had two lanes and a stop sign at Howell, now a major intersection. My then husband and I had burgers and beer at the bar and chatted with Erv. They were friends. The beer was good and so was the burger.

At the time, Erv’s, founded in 1979, was still the new place on Ryan Road. The antique saloon kitsch that covers every inch of the walls, as well as the ceiling, was a collection in its infancy. Now, a visit to Erv’s is a trip. It’s a journey back in time myself and my dinner companions. It left our heads spinning, tilted up, down, and sideways. We attempted in vain to take it all in. After a while you have to give up ogling the paraphernalia, settle down, and look at the menu.

They serve bar food there, a lot of it. It’s listed on an extensive menu that covered several pages. My companions and I sampled something from every category, Appetizers, Sandwiches, Burgers, Salads, and of course, Dessert.

We started at the beginning with an appetizer you won’t want to miss, the mac and cheese bites, served with sriracha sauce. The chef bundled a spoonful of mac and cheese inside a thin batter, gave it a few minutes in the deep-fryer, and served it with a spicy hot sriracha sauce that sounded bizarre on the menu, but the balance  between the cheesy mac and the hot sauce made an appetizer you don’t want to overlook.

Other Appetizers included steak bites, beer battered wings, artichoke dip, breaded mushrooms, and more.

Because we were there on a Tuesday, we succumbed to the daily special, an irresistible mess of a beefy sandwich they call the Garbage Sandwich. To make it, the chef combined the trimmings, ie, butt ends from roasts, prime beef, and tenderloins, simmered them for a day, drained the meat and pulled it, which then made a giant sandwich of pure juicy beef. Additional melted cheese and banana peppers were superfluous, but the honey-mustard dipping sauce made a scrumptious foil for the beef.

Also, on the menu, we noted many sandwich options, prime rib, boneless pork chop, yellow fin tuna, a reuben, and the lone vegetarian-vegan-friendly, chipotle black bean burger.

As for the sides that accompany all the sandwiches and burgers, we found the redskin ranch potato salad ordinary, with the exception of abundant bacon, and the apple pecan baked beans delightful, especially if you prefer beans with a dense molasses flavor. Like the potato salad, the chef did not spare the bacon in the beans. An additional $5.00 will buy you a premium side such as potato pancakes, haystack onion rings, or honey maple glazed sweet potato fries.

I couldn’t return to Erv’s without having a burger from a selection of five, which included my choice, the Patti Melt on grilled rye with cheddar cheese and fried onions. It was a perfect medium-rare though I forgot to mention that detail in my order. Even though the burger was buried under rye bread and melted cheese, the char-broiled flavor was front and center. For a classic burger with cheese, order the Cheese Dandy and select your cheese from a list of seven.

Erv’s is also a bar where the kitchen staff know their way around a salad, evidenced by the Sticky Chicken Salad. It was sticky all right, just as advertised, more than a dozen crisp warm chicken strips sautéed and coated with orange marmalade, then piled on lettuce along with red onion, mandarin oranges, and grilled pineapple. Honey-ranch dressing added more sweetness to this sweet, savory, salty salad that could almost double as dessert.

You could also have your chicken strips in a Cajun style salad, or marinated in Italian seasoning and served over a Garden Salad, or tossed in a Classic Caesar Salad with homemade croutons.

Desserts were limited, just two to ponder, the Colossal Carrot Cake and Chocolate Decadence. The cream cheese frosting on the carrot cake won the day. This slab of cake was everything a carrot cake should be, three layers of moist cake studded with pineapple, shredded coconut, carrots, pecans, and raisins. They served it with a marshmallow-like caramel sauce that put it over the top and on to my list of best-ever carrot cakes.

Erv’s may not be “Urban Milwaukee,” but if you are traveling on I-94, it’s worth a short detour east on Ryan Road. You won’t be disappointed.

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  • Location: 130 W. Ryan Rd.
  • Phone: 414-762-5010
  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tue-Sat, noon to 8 p.m. Sun
  • Website:
  • UM Rating: 3.9666666666667 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)

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