Steny's Tavern and Grill
800 S. 2nd St., Milwaukee WI 53204 (map); 414-672-7139; stenystavern.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Burgers at this sports bar are nice to look at but pretty bland; stick with wings and apps
Want Fries With That? Fries are better than the "Jamaican" potato salad, but only if they're hot and fresh
Price: Tex Mex burger, $8.99; Pub burger, $8.99; wings, 8 for $4.99
Milwaukee has so many bars—taverns, sports bars, dart bars, tiki bars, historic bars, and so on—that unless the goal is just being the corner tavern, a bar in this city needs something special to make a name for itself.
Many bars try to stand out with food, offering some of the best "bar food" available—at least, according to the bar. Sometimes the bar tries to perfect one particular item but lets everything else fall to the wayside, like at Steny's Tavern and Grill. Their wings seem to be the standout, while the burgers take a backseat in the flavor department. Although wing specials are probably what get people in the door, it should be burgers and other more substantial things that get people to come back.
While I have no complaints about the burgers being cooked properly for once(!), there was no getting around the fact that the burgers were bland. Even the Tex Mex burger ($8.99), topped with a slew of toppings, had somehow less flavor than the lighter-topped Pub burger ($8.99). It's a real shame, too, because even though the meat was a little chewy, those 1/2-pound patties were super juicy and you could tell they were hand-formed.
The barbecue sauce on the Tex Mex might as well have been non-existent since all it did was coat the burger in a glaze of thin, indiscernible sweetness. The jalapeños were mild to the point that I ate one plain to make sure I wasn't missing them. Supposedly the patty was "southwest seasoned," but you could have fooled me.
Haystack onions on the Pub burger gave it much more flavor and salt, meaning I could enjoy the beef a little bit more. Bacon was abundant and crispy, though it had a lingering aftertaste of refrigerator. The buns were toasted in copious amounts of butter and held together very well, despite the juices (or barbecue sauce) running from the beef.
Two different flavors of wings were abundantly seasoned, in contrast. Sweet and spicy garlic was aptly named—it started out like a honey buffalo sauce, ended with some heat, and had pieces of fresh garlic throughout. Cajun wings weren't sauced as much as they were dry rubbed with straight Cajun seasoning. Because they were baked and not fried, they had some charred bits on their skin, a welcome departure from the usual fried wings if you ask me.
Sides were supremely disappointing. Fries, though homemade, were delivered cold and stale. A few were cut from black parts of the potato, which was a bit off-putting. They had potential, if fresh. The Jamaican potato salad option intrigued me, but it was just celery-heavy and full of Cajun seasoning, the same that was on the wings. I have no idea how that makes it Jamaican, but it wasn't very pleasant.
Steny's is trying to make a name for themselves with food, but they could use some improvements. In the meantime, stick with their drinks and apps while you play some darts or catch a game.