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Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012

Classic East Side Corner Bar

Hooligan’s stays distinctive with superb tavern food

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Hooligan’s has been in business since 1936. The nearly triangular-shaped corner bar, just a stone’s throw from the Oriental Theatre, has evolved in recent decades. At one time it was a place to buy bottles of Thunderbird to go. Those bottles are long gone. Later changes include adding more windows, a second bar and tables upstairs, ornamental iron stair rails at the front entrance and outdoor seating (winterized this time of the year). There are also abundant flat-panel TVs, usually with the volume off. The menu has grown over the years and recently many new items have been added.

The list of beers on tap and by the bottle is impressive for a small corner bar. The food menu is supplemented by daily specials, which include sandwiches, soup, a mac and cheese dish and an entrée. The Friday fish fry special offers a choice of cod, lake perch and walleye. The regular menu is built from appetizers, salads and a wide variety of sandwiches. The beer-braised beef brisket ($9.50) is a recent addition. The beef is slow-cooked until it falls apart. Add some caramelized onions, Muenster cheese, and spicy homemade Guinness Stout mustard and you have a sandwich that is beyond ordinary bar fare. Bourbon honey BBQ pork ($9.50) also pleases with coleslaw topping the sweet pulled pork in proper Southern style.

Some new items are a bit more daring, starting with empanadas in a flaky pastry ($8), filled with pulled pork, seasoned with the hot pepper warmth of chorizo and topped with chipotle mayo. On some days pork belly tacos ($10) are offered as a special. The pork is trimmed and not overly fatty, prepared in proper Mexican fashion with a pair of tortillas, chopped onion, cilantro and a few slices of avocado. The Friday fish fry is deservedly popular. The walleye dinner ($11.50) consists of two large fillets in a light batter with the usual fixings of coleslaw, tartar sauce, applesauce and marble rye bread. Try it with Hooligan’s very decent potato pancake.

The sandwiches and entrees all include a side starch. Soup may be substituted for an additional charge. The soups tend to be good. Sampled recently was an Italian sausage with vegetables and that British colonial favorite, a mulligatawny of chicken and vegetables in a mild curry broth.

Customers coming strictly for food will prefer the upper level. The oak tables are not high-tops and it is quieter, with fewer distracting TVs. Otherwise, grab a stool at the main bar and enjoy one of the many tappers. In a side of town filled with bars and restaurants, Hooligan’s still manages to be distinctive.

Hooligan’s
2017 E. North Ave.
(414) 273-5230
$-$$
Not Handicap Accessible