Centennial owner had a ‘good vibe’ about Sobelmans
‘Milwaukee’s best burger’ coming to Mequon
By Gary Achterberg -
News Graphic Staff
April 28, 2015
The Centennial Bar & Grille on
North Port Washington Road in Mequon will close
Saturday and re-open in mid-July as the third
location of Sobelman’s Pub & Grill.
Photo by Gary Achterberg
MEQUON — Brian Ruelle, longtime owner of The Centennial Bar &
Grille in Mequon, never had met Dave Sobelman before they
started talking about selling the restaurant.
Ruelle had been a frequent customer of Sobelman’s and developed
a good feeling for Sobelman being a perfect fit to take over the
restaurant Ruelle has owned at 10352 N. Port Washington Road
“Every time I went into Sobelmans, I always told myself I just
like the vibe his staff portrays,” he said. “When I go to a
place, I watch the staff more than anything. I just told myself
I like the way this guy does things; he does it right.”
That led to Ruelle sending an email to Sobelman a little more
than a year ago, telling him that he was thinking about selling.
He told Sobelman his restaurant would be a perfect fit for a new
location of the restaurant, which already has locations in the
Menomonee Valley on St. Paul Avenue and smack-dab in the middle
of the Marquette University campus. Sobelman opened his first
restaurant in May 1999.
The conversation continued and led to this week’s announcement
that Sobelman will open his third restaurant next month at the
Centennial location in Mequon.
“We had never met before, but (Ruelle)
understood this is perfect for me and what I do,” Sobelman said
on Tuesday. “This place is absolutely beautiful.”
Sobelman, whose popular restaurants feature
a selection of burgers, other sandwiches, a fish fry, appetizers
and an iconic bloody Mary, hopes to open his new Mequon location
on July 13, or possibly the following Monday if he needs a bit
more time. The Centennial will close Saturday.
“We’re changing very little – almost
nothing,” he said, adding that most of his planned changes
involve adding equipment he needs in the kitchen. The food menu
will be similar to the other locations, but he said he plans to
expand his wine offerings because he believes it will be popular
with Mequon customers.
“This should be fun for us – and it will be
fun for our customers,” Sobelman said.
Ruelle said Sobelman, who lives in Bayside
with his wife Melanie, will be carrying on a tradition of a
tavern and restaurant in the 117-year-old building at Port
Washington and Donges Bay roads.
Ruelle bought the restaurant, known at the
time as the Donges Bay Inn, in August 1988. Prior to that it was
the Good Ollman from 1974 to 1981 and the Old Car Bar from the
mid-’60s to 1974.
Port Washington Road used to be the main
road between Chicago to Wisconsin’s north woods. While Ruelle
said there’s no way to know, he speculated that Chicago
gangsters who spent time up north during the Prohibition era may
have stopped at the roadhouse.
Ruelle is confident the restaurant will be
in “very good hands.” He said he is very pleased that Sobelman
offered a job to all of his employees and plans to honor his
gift cards and loyalty program. Some of the Centennial’s
employees have worked there for well over a decade.
“That’s so uncommon,” Ruelle said. “We
really are a small-time operation and we consider ourselves like
family. He said anybody who works for you is going to be offered
a job with me. That said something to me.”
Sobelman said he is excited about moving to
the North Shore. He added he eventually would like to open
another restaurant or two in the Milwaukee area. If that
happens, they will be in other historic buildings.
Ruelle, who is 57 and said he’s “not wired
right now to be retired,” plans to take a little time off, talk
to his wife and then embark on the next chapter of his life.
“I consider myself a very wealthy man with
all the people I’ve met and the friendships I’ve been fortunate
to establish,” he said.
Gary Achterberg can be reached at