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.
At Naples 15, chef Salvatore Di Scala shares the experience of his travels with guests—not through photos, or souvenirs, but through his food. A native of Naples, Italy, Chef Di Scala has built his menu around true Neapolitan cuisine. It includes pizzas named after beloved Italian songs, as well as dishes recommended by Chef Di Scala himself, such as the aragosta alla don Salvatore: fresh lobster tail baked in a wood oven and served with cherry tomatoes, garlic, and parsley.
The restaurants on the Journal Sentinel's list of Best New Restaurants of 2013 have one thing in common—they all have menus that rotate seasonally. And according to the Sentinel, Prodigal Gastropub's "refined, delicious dishes ... stand with the best plates in town."
They come from the kitchen of executive chef and native frenchman Van Luu, who previously worked at famed Chicago restaurant Charlie Trotter's. Luu's expertise in French, Italian, and Asian flavors—combined with his reliance on local ingredients—results in the diverse and ever-changing menu praised by the Sentinel and featured in ample press outlets.
The dishes, which have included wagyu beef sliders, spinach salad with red-wine-poached pears, and rabbit confit pot pie, are served alongside European wines and dozens of craft beers.
Diners eat and drink surrounded by high ceilings, skylights, and roll-top garage doors that open up to let warm breezes or the lawn-mower repair guy in. According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, Prodigal is outfitted with wood reclaimed from barns across the state, transforming the former all-white nightclub space. The gastropub also features a private bourbon room where guests can sample creative cocktails and more than 50 bourbons and whiskeys.
Befitting a restaurant with its name, On The Clock Bar & Grill keeps one eye on the past. Here, the past is visible everywhere: Built in 1903, the restaurant retains the leaded glass, carved gum-wood paneling, and tile arches that once made it such a glorious addition to Milwaukee's South Side. Wherever you look, you're likely to see some relic from the past, be it the exquisitely carved wood bar or the pair of medieval knights checking IDs at the entrance.
But On The Clock isn't content to bask in the glories of yesteryear. New owners Robert Krause & Linda Kilcollins have brought their bar into the present with some modern comforts. Chief among these is the menu, which now includes half-pound burgers, pizzas, and a weekly fish fry. A gluten-free menu also recently joined the mix. And though the bartenders can still make a mean martini, Milwaukee's craft-beer explosion is proudly represented on the drink menu.
The cozy confines of Happy Tap help create an inviting spirit that encourages visitors to stop in, grab a stool, and linger for a bit while enjoying a beer. Scattered flat-screen televisions ensure that patrons never miss a game when they visit, and the neighborhood bar's dark wooden walls are laden with Packers decorations celebrating the legacy of Green Bay football. In between sips, Happy Tap tempts guests with its signature thin-crust pizzas, which emerge from the kitchen with layers of melted cheese and hearty toppings supported by atop a disk of oven-crisped dough.