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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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In Dining Reviews

A traditional Wisconsin fish fry is available every Wednesday and Friday. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Erv's is the kind of place that has a solid bloody mary for lunch, and seems to beg you to drink something like an old fashioned with dinner. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Whether going for lunch or dinner, Erv's has you covered. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

In an area dominated by chain resturants, Erv's Mug is an independent alternative. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

Erv's Mug offers a unique option in Oak Creek


In Oak Creek, there remain only a few independent restaurants where local owners still serve up something unique, both in atmosphere and in food selections, and one of these places, Erv's Mug, 130 W. Ryan Rd., Oak Creek, has built its reputation serving up both for over 30 years.

Beer memorabilia covers the walls and ceiling at Erv's Mug. Along with mirrors and lights, it covers every square inch not already taken up by a window or the fireplace. And during the holidays, staff and volunteers layer decorations in and around the memorabilia for a cheery and pleasantly gaudy effect. My most recent visit was in early January, and as we sat below an inverted, lighted Christmas tree and amid feet and feet of tinsel, we couldn't help but smile.

With a great, beef broth-based French Onion soup (cup, $2.50; bowl $2.95 -- note that the cup doesn't come baked with the traditional gruyere cheese), and a very decent steak sandwich -- the latter has become increasingly hard to find in recent years -- Erv's makes for a great lunch spot.

The steak sandwich ($10.99) is center-cut tenderloin piled high with shredded onion strings and a side of chipotle mayonnaise. The large menu offers just about every type of sandwich or salad you might crave at the noon hour -- and some selections you may not have thought of yet -- like "An Affair" with corned beef, roast beef, cole slaw, Swiss cheese and French dressing on rye, or a triple-decker "Black Beauty" with corned beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, horseradish cream, lettuce and tomato.

For dinner, I was less impressed with Erv's.

Our server seemed distracted, and the kitchen was not as on point as it was at lunch. But, Monterey steak bites ($9.99) made for an interesting appetizer, with tender bites of steak with mushrooms and garlic butter layered beneath melted Monterey jack cheese. The bites arrived, wisely, with a breadstick to sop up the steak juice and garlic butter left over when the last solid bite was gone.

Calamari ($9.99) was ever-so-slightly overcooked, leaving the squid with a rubbery texture that the accompanying marinara sauce couldn't completely mask. I was, however, pleased to see that Erv's also offers a pan-fried version of the calamari with garlic, capers and red peppers, that may be worth another visit to sample.

I ordered the perch fish fry ($15.99) which came with a cup of the French onion soup, rye bread, choice of potato and cole slaw. The perch was hand-breaded and just slightly heavy, but overall, not a bad fish fry. A prime rib sandwich ($10.99) with horseradish sauce, was also very decent, and more than enough for even the hungriest of diners.

At the end of our meal, our waitress chuckled at Erv's substantial dessert menu, saying that no one who eats there ever has room for dessert. True to its kitschy style, Erv's strongly recommends desserts to go.

With their museum-like beer memorabilia, rotating holiday decorations and their simple, fun history (the menu features the family's story), Erv's is a good destination spot if you're looking for something different and light-hearted, and just want a good, solid lunch.


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