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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spur’s Silver Lining

Well-loved smokehouse rises from the ashes

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Devotees of the Silver Spur Texas Smokehouse are thanking their lucky stars that the 18-year-old restaurant barely skipped a beat after a fire destroyed its former digs at 19990 W. Greenfield Ave. in Brookfield a year ago. As owners Frank Hornick, Joe Zupan and Sondra Bartolotta sifted through the ashes of a building that had many faces since its construction in the early-20th century, including a stint as a house of ill repute, they decided to reopen the restaurant in a building that they would own this time around. While this kind of catastrophe would close many restaurants for good, it didn’t stop the Silver Spur from reopening less than a year later.

After touring a number of newly constructed properties with cookie-cutter layouts, the owners walked into the former Elm Grove Inn and knew they had a fit. The historic building was established in 1855 and has a well-worn quality that Hornick says matches what the convivial barbecue joint was before the fire. The Silver Spur reopened on Monday, April 27, with the tried-and-true menu that enticed people the first time around.

The smokehouse is most famous for its barbecue: St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, spicy sausage links, whole chicken, sliced beef brisket and hand-sliced turkey. The meat is slow-cooked and flavored in either the kitchen’s two new smokers or the Texassized smoker on a trailer out back. Diners can revel in the satisfying flavor of the Spur’s rich and tangy barbecue sauce, but they have to apply it with their own hands.

“In Texas they believe if you cover your meat with barbecue sauce, you’re hiding something,” Hornick says. “So none of the dishes come out with barbecue sauce already on.”

The Silver Spur’s menu extends way past dishes of a barbecued disposition. There’s quite a selection of Mexican entrees, including fajitas and enchiladas, as well as seafood like grilled red snapper and catfish. There’s even something as un-Texan as a Friday fish fry. Soups, salads and starters are decidedly Southern, a few downright redneck, like Bubba’s Crispy Chicken Crunch Strips, tender chicken dredged in the sweet crumbs of Corn Flakes and Cap’n Crunch cereal, fried and served with Creole mustard.

“It’s not real fancy,” Hornick contends. “Just honest-to-God good food.”

The only smoke diners will be inhaling at the Silver Spur will be emanating from the meat cookers in the kitchen, as the restaurant is smoke-free. The owners are currently working with an architect to design a back patio for outdoor dining that can rival or even surpass the enchanting garden of their last location. With the reassuring presence of the owners and 60% of its genuinely affable staff returning to work at the Silver Spur’s new location in Elm Grove, customers can rest assured this revered barbecue joint won’t waver in its quality.

13275 Watertown Plank Road, Elm Grove. Call (262) 821-1511.

Silver Spur Photos by Kate Engbring / Miranda Chaput