When greeted with a wall of bourbon barrels previously used for beer aging and a vast array of taps upon entering Stubby’s Gastrogrub it becomes immediately apparent they love their beer. Co-owner Brad Todd has held a variety of different jobs through the restaurant business from dishwashing to managing at Bar Louie but it wasn’t until his time at Buckley’s that he really got into craft beer, giving him the idea of opening a “large-selection beer bar” with Brian Zarletti.
Todd and Stubby’s love their beer so much that it’s in their name: Gastrogrub and Beer Bar, but what’s up with the “53”. Well, they love their beer so much that the 53 in their name represents the number of taps they have to choose from! Ok, so maybe they only have 52 taps…open to the public. That 53rd tap line is reserved for Stub Club members and, more often than not, features a pretty exceptional or rare beer. The varied line-up contains 15 staple taps; ones that don’t often leave, while the remainder change on an average of every 1.5 days. This means that you can expect something new every time you head to Stubby’s! As self-proclaimed “Beer Travel Agents”, Stubby’s selection of beer can allow you to travel the beer world from your barstool.
If you thought wine was the only thing that could be cellared, you’d be wrong. Beer, depending on a few variables, can be matured as well, and Stubby’s is one of the first commercial places in Milwaukee to have a beer cellar from which one can select beers. The reserve bottle list is lengthy, and like their detailed tap menu, varied: completely different styles, breweries, and so on.
As fate would have it, the location Todd and Zarletti had their sights set on was not only prime for a beer bar, but also food. Not in the original plan, the “grub” part of the name came from the fact their desired location already had a perfect kitchen layout. This addition to the plan brought on the idea of gastropub fare; comfort food but with a gourmet twist. Their menu items appeal to both the masses as well as foodies. The recent addition of head chef Brad Clark also brought about a slight change in the menu; a bigger focus on locally sourced ingredients and diversifying the menu based on the culture of Stubby’s many surrounding neighborhoods.
Gourmet Comfort Food
Take one look at their beefy (yep, that’s an intended double entendre) menu and you might be overwhelmed. With the quality of their food and how delicious everything is, I often find myself in the same situation, trying to decide between a few incredible options, so I’ll help you out with a few necessary staples:
The Inside-out Scotch Egg – prepared wonderfully and in a way you’ve never seen before!
Big Sticks – If you like bacon (and who DOESN’T?) and French fries wait until you try this concoction!
The Overachiever Ruben – The name says it all. This massive Ruben will satisfy the burliest, hungriest of men.
Subby’s Burger – “Topped with cheddar cheese, thick cut bacon, and pulled bbq pork. Garnished with onion straws, lettuce, tomato and pickles.” Said best by one of Todd’s friends, “If I want the Stubby’s Burger, I have to plan my day around it when I wake up.” This is by far and away my favorite menu item and one of the best burgers in Milwaukee!
And those are just a small sampling of the incredible items on their menu!
Service is a passion for Todd and Zarletti because at Stubby’s, it’s all about making people happy and encouraging a down-to-earth personal feel; their food might lean towards the gourmet side but this is a place when no one’s nose will be raised. It’s one thing to have great food and a few beers on tap, it’s another to take the time to train the staff about the beers, and Todd does just that. When new beers are on tap, everyone is encouraged to try them and learn at least one thing about the beer. Additionally, styles are taught to the staff in tasting sessions as well so they can appropriately pair whatever might be on their frequently rotating taps with that certain menu item that’s calling your name.
At Home Gastropub
Creating the atmosphere for Stubby’s was a laid back, hands on experience for Todd, all part of the plan for it’s down-to-earth feel. Working with the layout from the previous tenant, Bayou, Todd utilized the existing massive bar and made it the focal point of the entire space. An internal “tap island” houses their 53 taps that are protected by the strong and functional concrete bar. Flat TV screens, “specials chalkboards”, and an impressive crown of tap handles surround the soffit, showcasing the expansive history of beers and providing entertainment.
The rustic elements from the reclaimed barn boards to the bourbon barrels boast the gastropub’s laid-back atmosphere. The entryway wall of bourbon barrels also provides some privacy, dividing the space between public and private dining. For the warm summer nights, leave the TVs behind and, enjoy your craft beers while relaxing on the large patio overlooking the river!
Pick a day and eat light because with all Stubby’s has to offer, you might find yourself feasting on more than a delectable burger or sandwich. And if you’re having as hard of a time selecting a beer as you’re having with food, Stubby’s also offers a variety of beer flights from themed to custom. Plan on indulging.
Andy and Tricia Guy
Stubby’s Gastrogrub • 2060 North Humboldt Avenue • Milwaukee, WI 53212
Thanks to Brian West, Publisher, Alcoholmanac Magazine, for the appetizing pictures!