Stubby's Pub and Grub
2060 N Humboldt Blvd #1, Milwaukee WI 53212 (map); 414-763-6324; stubbyspubandgrub.com/
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Big pub burgers try to be fancy-pants but come up a bit short, especially for the price. Try the 53 taps or small plates instead
Want Fries With That? Don't think the Pig Sticks are all about bacon flavor, and enjoy them and the dipping sauces for what they are
Price: B+B Gastro Burger, $15.95; Stubby's burger with fries, $13.95; Pig Sticks, $6.95
The menu at Stubby's Pub and Grub has evolved over time, most notably changing from typical bar food to ubiquitous gastropub fare, coinciding with the hiring of a new head chef in 2011. Now the menu is what most barflies would call "fancy," with a number of (very good-sounding, though not tasted) small plates and nibbles.
My experience with the food was a mixed bag. It almost seems that while trying to reach a certain level of uniqueness, they've forgotten some basics, at least with the burgers.
The eight-ounce Angus beef patties looked fantastic—they were well charred and had uneven edges, the tell-tale sign of being hand pattied. When I cut into them, though, the beef was finely ground and tightly packed, giving them an unpleasant sausage-like texture. Because of that treatment, the patties were also tough and chewy, though that may have also been a symptom of being cooked over my requested medium.
Strangely enough, there was still juice dripping out of the beef. I'm not quite sure how they did it, but kudos to them for that. The flavor of the beef was flat, something better seasoning could take care of easily.
Topping the B+B Gastro Burger ($15.95) was something I've never seen on a burger before: duck confit. I was intrigued, but the duck was a little dry and the flavor was a little bit of a disconnect from the rest of the burger. Even so, I made sure to pick it all off and eat it when I couldn't finish the burg.
Also topping the same burger was a delicious, sharp four-year cheddar, an (overcooked) fried egg, grilled tomatoes that I didn't even realize were there, arugula, and whole grain mustard hollandaise. The sauce tasted great, even though it was somewhat lumpy and thick. It was suspiciously similar to the mustard aioli served with an app.
Stubby's Burger ($13.95) was better, topped with barbecue pulled pork, cheddar, bacon, and onion straws. The pork was abundant and the bacon was very crispy with just the right amount of smokiness. The super crunchy onion strings gave a nice textural contrast. I wish the barbecue sauce was less like a sweetened ketchup, though.
The highlight of the meal was by far the Pig Sticks appetizer ($6.95). The menu calls them "baconized French fries." Fresh rosemary and parmesan cheese overshadowed the bacon bits, but they were delicious enough that you didn't really miss the punch of bacon. The accompanying mustard aioli was fantastic—I'd recommend anyone that doesn't really like mustard to give it a try. It's creamy and tangy with a mild mustard flavor.
Burgers come with homemade chips—in my case, stale homemade chips. For an upcharge you can get french fries, but they were incredibly overseasoned with what seemed like seasoned salt mixed with mild chili powder.
Many of the small plates sound fantastic and fun, but the burgers fell flat, especially for the price. Do yourself a favor and sample some of the 53 tap beers while noshing on some snacks instead, preferably on the large patio overlooking the river.
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