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Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010

Stubby’s Pub & Grub’s Milwaukee River Views

New restaurant boasts excellent beer list

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Now that the seemingly endless construction project on the Humboldt Avenue Bridge has come to a close, life is beginning to return to the neighborhood. Two restaurants, Bayou and Good Life, went out of business during construction, but their spaces won’t remain empty. In the spot of Good Life, a casual Mexican restaurant named Bel Air Cantina is due to open in mid-September. The Bayou location has already reopened under new ownership as Stubby’s Pub & Grub. In Australia, “stubby” is slang for a bottle of beer—the term is appropriate here, as the focus is as much on beer as it is on food.

Stubby’s interior is less formal than Bayou’s thanks to the addition of barn boards and some tavern games. At this time of year, just head straight for the spacious outdoor deck overlooking the Milwaukee River. Although views mostly consist of condominiums and a McMansion across the river, there are occasional surprises. A red fox has been spotted patrolling the grounds and one day a green heron was seen stalking its prey. Nature meets the city on this outdoor deck.

Two menus will arrive at your table. The larger one is the beer list. Stubby’s offers more than 50 beers on tap, mostly domestic microbrews. The alcoholic content of the tappers is listed, which is helpful since some of these approach 10%. The new Lakefront Fixed Gear red ale, brewed just a short distance downstream, checks in at 6.5%. The other menu lists the food, which includes light fare plus entrees that dabble in a bit of barbecue.

The deck seems like a perfect spot for a platter of oysters ($14.95)—a dozen raw oysters on the half shell served over ice. The selection varies, so you might find tiny Kumamotos from the Pacific Northwest or larger ones from Maine. In addition to a standard red cocktail sauce is mignonette sauce, a French blend of red wine vinegar and shallots.

Asian-style beef ($10.95) almost works. Thin slices of beef are served over an Asian cabbage slaw with crushed peanuts, cucumbers and carrots. But marinating the beef with extra virgin olive oil does not fit the “Asian” description, and the marinade still leaves the beef a bit tough. The crab rolls ($10.95), described as “exquisitely seasoned,” hint that it might be best to bypass Asian food here. The rolls are served in crisp rice papers, but the filling is pureed slurry that tastes like a starchy surimi. Skip it.

The sandwiches, on the other hand, generally fare well. The catfish tacos ($11.95), a play on the Mexican variety, include corn tortillas, blackened catfish, tasty pico de gallo, cumin-chive crema and chopped leaf lettuce. The flavors make for an interesting experiment. Be sure to try the shrimp po’ boy ($11.50), an appropriate hoagie roll filled with jumbo shrimp in a cornmeal crust, shredded lettuce and balsamic marinated tomatoes. The addition of capered mayonnaise completes this compelling sandwich.

Stubby’s entrees hint at the Southern fare served by its predecessor, Bayou. The rack o’ ribs ($17.95-$23.95), with Memphis-style preparation, feature very lean ribs covered in a tangy barbecue sauce. That sauce also appears on the barbecue meatloaf ($12.95), which is served over mashed potatoes. The slices of meatloaf are topped with delightful, hair-thin onion straws with a hint of batter.

Sandwiches and entrees include a choice of side items. The coleslaw is fine with the barbecue food, and the spiral pasta mac ’n’ cheese is good.

Overall, the food and prices seem a little uneven. The onion straws are great and the shrimp po’ boy is fine, but the crab rolls need improvement. A dozen kumamoto oysters for $14.95 is a good deal, but a $13.95 chicken wing appetizer seems too pricey. What is consistent, however, is good service—not to mention a great outdoor deck and an excellent list of microbrews.

Stubby’s Pub & Grub

2060 N. Humboldt Ave.

414-763-6324

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Stubbyspubandgrub.com