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Pubs, Italian Fare among the Newest Offerings

Photos by Dan Bishop

January 2014

Sprecher’s Pub is the first Milwaukee location for Sprecher Brewery’s casual-themed restaurants.

The holiday glow might be fading but don’t let the cold winter dampen your cheer. Head out to some of Milwaukee’s newest restaurants and nightspots to brighten your spirits: think beer-focused, Italian-centric, plus a new speakeasy.

Sprecher’s Restaurant and Pub

Sprecher’s Restaurant and Pub at Bayshore Town Center in Glendale has taken over the space formerly occupied by Bravo! Cucina Italiana. This is the fourth Sprecher restaurant for the Glendale brewery, with other locations in Madison, Lake Geneva and Wisconsin Dells.

The new restaurant sports a clean and modern look, shedding the faux Tuscan decor of Bravo!

At the expansive bar there are more than 20 Sprecher beers, some seasonal and some rare. If you prefer wines, the list is more than decent, and dessert drinks include a key lime pie-like concoction and a chocolate-salted-caramel-coconut offering. If you like what you drink, you can take a bottle or four home from the mini Sprecher gift shop.

The menu goes mostly upscale American, with some great flatbread pizzas, an extensive burger list and specials like pot roast with a beer-laced gravy.

My favorites are the house romaine salad — it comes with half a romaine heart with chunky, creamy blue cheese dressing — and the blackened chicken and lime-cilantro quinoa. The chicken is perfectly spiced and juicy, and the quinoa is laced with peppers and onions. The dish is dotted with a creamy chipotle sauce and avocado slices.

The desserts are homemade — of course, the Sprecher Root Beer floats are spectacular. A float-to-go window that opens out onto the mall is already a hit with patrons and mall shoppers.

Third Jackson’s Locale

Another new, brew-focused place is Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub in Waukesha. Like the downtown and Wauwatosa locations, the newest outpost has the same, cool tavern vibe, with scratch cooking. Homemade fried cheese curds, fresh jalapeno poppers and daily made soups are the same, but chef John Ash also gets in fresh salmon every week, which he debones and turns into his decadent salmon burgers. (The bones go into the stock for his fresh clam chowder.) "The chowder is just filled with clams from top to bottom," says manager Tim Goetzke.

The Friday night fish fry is popular, as the fish is battered to order for every order: perch, cod and jumbo shrimp. Friday night patrons are also treated to karaoke.

You can tap your own Pabst right at the table via beer tubes. In addition, its beer cooler holds more than 1,000 bottles of beer, with a selection focused on craft brews. The pub will be hosting a holiday party at 6 p.m. Jan. 18, featuring food, drink specials and music by Joe Richter.

The Astor Goes Italian

Pane e Vino restaurant in the Astor Hotel still sports the gorgeous fireplace in the East Side locale, but the interior has been completely remodeled. "It has more of a Bellagio feel to it," says general manager Alexandria Arnas.

The focus is on all things from Italy, with pastas and pizzas dominating. The two most popular items on the menu are the Cajun Shrimp with Linguini and the Mama Rosa Tortellini, which boasts little, fresh balls of melt-in-the-sauce mozzarella. The new year will bring in a more expanded menu.

During the day the restaurant serves up regular American breakfasts and sandwiches; the restaurant will be offering more sandwich choices in the new year, as well.

SURG Deli/Saloon

Hidden Creek Farm provides a lot of the meat for the new Gouda’s Italian Deli in the Third Ward. Both are operated by SURG Restaurant Group. The deli will be making more of its own cured meats as soon as the licensing is approved by the state.

"We really want to showcase our Italian sausages and aged and smoked meats," says SURG owner and CEO Mike Polaski, adding that all of the recipes come straight from Italy. Besides an array of Italian sandwiches, the deli also offers take ’n’ bake pizzas, and features daily specials like stuffed pasta or beef spiedini.

Connected to the deli is one of the more interesting nightspots to open in quite a while — Bugsy’s Back Alley Saloon. You enter from the back door, and it’s as if you’ve come into a hotel lobby. As you walk by a series of doors —they’re fake — you finally reach the elevator, which is not really an elevator. Once you’re inside, you’re swept into a world of pre-Prohibition glamour with beautiful dancers, adept bartenders and hand-crafted cocktails. "It’s really a different kind of place, and there isn’t anything like this around," Polaski says.,


This story ran in the January 2014 issue of: