In 1999, Dave Sobelman was serving burgers and pitchers of beer to blue collar workers in the rough and rugged Menomonee Valley. With the checks he cashed on weekends from the humble factory workers he began ordering some of the finest ingredients for this burgers - locally baked country-butter rolls and the best beef available.
Then one day, Dave walked out of his burger bar and saw a newspaper stand for the Shepherd Express. The cover story highlighted the Top 5 "Pub Grub" locations in Milwaukee and Dave's did not make the list. This omission was a turning point in Sobelman's history.
After seeing the article, Dave called the author of the story and invited him over for a burger. The local writer came into Sobelman's the next day and sat at the bar, ordered a PLAIN burger, and a beer. That very next week, Dave Sobelman had his own feature article on the front page of the Shepherd Express praising the burgers at Sobelman's Pub and Grill as the absolute best in Milwaukee.
Dave became wild with the possibility of fame after seeing his name and acclaimed burger in print. So with the help of this wife - Melanie - Dave began placing his energies into continuously providing the most quality ingredients and best tasting menu he could create for the public - and of course this menu included drinks. Dave's location is after all, a storied Schlitz tavern.
It's really not what's inside the glass that makes Sobelman's Pub and Grill's signature bloody mary stand out. The drink, or "Bloody Masterpiece" as it's affectionally called (not to be confused with the "Baconado" or "Crown Mary"), arrives with 13 garnishes. Brussels sprouts, celery, sausage, cheese, and even a cheeseburger slider stick out of the drink like an edible bouquet. The creative drink has garnered many fans, not to mention a feature on Good Morning America.
That slider garnish serves as an introduction to Sobelman's menu. The husband-and-wife team will proudly tell you that they have always had the best burgers in Milwaukee, and they back up the claim with a 2013 Readers’ Choice Award from Milwaukee Magazine and three other local Best Burger Awards in the last 3 plus years. Each Certified Prime Black Angus patty is sandwiched between a fresh baked country-butter roll and rests beneath toppings such as homemade chili, diced jalapeño, or The Piggyback's pork belly, which comes drizzled in bourbon sauce. These burgers have often been imitated around the city, but never duplicated. Aside from burgers, the cooks craft chicken cordon bleu sandwiches and host a Friday fish fry with beer-battered cod.
Despite the creativity shown on the menu, Sobelman's Pub and Grill's original location on St. Paul Avenue has a timeless element. The Sobelmans make great use of their building and they've kept original Schlitz tavern elements such as beer-barrel tables and strict adherence to the law of gravity in the revived Menomonee Valley neighborhood. Simply put, Sobelman's Pub and Grill is Classic Milwaukee.
In 2012, Man v. Food called in Jeremy Wheeler, one of their most trusted competitors, to take on Red Rock Saloon's Unforgiven challenge. As he sidled up to the table, a gravity-defying meal towered before him: atop a pound of French fries sat a fried chicken breast buried between two half-pound bacon cheeseburgers. Encircling the meaty monolith were six ghost-chili chicken wings—and he only had 23 minutes to eat it all. Though it took him until the very last second, Jeremy defeated the meal, becoming only the second person in Red Rock's history to do so.
It’s fitting that Red Rock would dream up a challenge most patrons can’t win—the restaurant is named after a real-life rodeo bull that famously bucked more than 300 riders. When patrons aren’t lining up to ride the mechanical version of Red Rock or listening to live rock and country music, they’re crowding around tables to order from a menu that boasts 2012 Chili Bowl champion Texas red chili. Like Oprah’s address book, the rest of the menu reads like a scrapbook of American pop culture: seasoned chicken crowns the James Dean salad, molasses barbecue sauce sweetens KC Jones wings, and pineapple and jalapeños pile atop a Will Kane pulled-pork sandwich.
Even with the ambitious goal of trying a new variety every night, it would take months to sample every single beer at Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar. Not only are there 53 different drafts and an array of cellar reserve bottles, but the selection is constantly updated with new craft brews from Wisconsin and around the world. Beer-savvy bartenders make their own recommendations behind the circular center bar as servers deliver trays of imaginative gastropub dishes—crab-stuffed jalapeños, freshwater bluegill sliders, and the hefty burger lauded by reporters from A.V. Club Milwaukee as “drool-inducing.” When not toppling giant Jenga blocks or throwing darts, guests can gaze up at the flat-screen televisions and cheer when a hardened banker learns to love in a Lifetime movie. The massive wooden deck gives al fresco enthusiasts space to linger over bites of cod tacos and barbecue pork nachos.
As the bartender looks up from his stool, he sees the world around him has started to spin. But drinking on the job isn't to blame: the scenery shifts around him as the mobile Pedal Tavern rolls down the streets of Milwaukee, powered by the cycling feet of up to 15 of his friends. Ten seats with bicycle-style pedals, plus five seats for non-pedaling passengers, circle up around the wooden bar-in-the-round where the “bartender”—actually one of the passengers—leads the carousing and doles out snacks the group has packed. A flat roof shades passengers as a Pedal Tavern employee steers the craft around corners and curves. Though there's no alcohol onboard the Pedal Tavern itself—in line with current legislation—the bars and taverns along routes in the Third Ward and Walker's Point pour beers and cocktails, including perpetual happy-hour specials for Pedal Tavern riders.
The bottles that make up Thief Wine's diverse inventory are not stolen, but they may as well be. The shop's name?a reference to the long tube or "barrel thief" used to sample maturing wines waiting to be bottled?reflects the air of mischief shoppers experience in encounters with otherwise inaccessible wines that makes each of the shop's selections feel like the product of a thrilling cellar heist. The fruits of Thief's careful wine curation decorate the walls of Thief Wine's two locations with more than 650 selections, which mix familiar labels with artisanal up-and-comers from around the globe. At each location's wine bar, certified sommeliers pare down the hulking inventory to about 30 essential bottles, which slosh into thematic tasting flights or full glasses to flank small plates of cheese and charcuterie.
You could call Vino 100 a wine boutique or a wine bar, but you might also view it as something of a wine library. Each bottle in the collection has been scrupulously cataloged according to the Wine Barometer system. Its tag decodes the complex flavors along two scales: flavor (dry to fruity) and body (light to full to solid). Buyers apply other selection criteria, too: the company guarantees it'll stock at least 100 bottles priced at $25 or less at all times, and that all those bottles will come from artisanal, limited-production wineries. Shoppers who can't wait to taste the evidence of the system's accuracy can take a bottle over to the wine bar for a small corking fee. Vino 100 also hosts wine classes and trivia nights to slake the thirst for knowledge.