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In Dining

Michael Conley, the chef at the new Dehne's Upper 90, with the pound and a half pretzel served at the gastro sports pub (PHOTO: Damien Jaques)

In Dining

Assistant chef Darvell Ecford works with the cheese sauce that will become jalapeno beer cheese sauce. It will be served with the pretzel. (PHOTO: Damien Jaques)

In Dining

Dehne's Upper 90 is the latest of many bars and restaurants to occupy the 1889 Schlitz tavern at 322 W. State St. (PHOTO: Damien Jaques)

Dehne's Upper 90: New sports bar with a chef


Back in the '70s, it was a dusty and sleepy wino bar. You could find more excitement in a convent on a Saturday night.

Since then, the historic space at 322 W. State St. has had a string of names and operators. At various times it has been the Daily Planet, the Tamarack, Lukas' on State, Stub's Pub and the Calderone Pub.

Give a warm welcome to Dehne's Upper 90, the spanking new tenant in an 122-year-old saloon built by the Schlitz Brewing Co. to sell its products back in the days when Milwaukee's breweries operated their own taverns. Many of those buildings still exist in the city's older neighborhoods, and this one has a particularly high profile because it is a half block from the Bradley Center and the U.S. Cellular Arena.

The U-90, as co-owner Jake Dehne expects his new place to be called, has set out to carve a distinctive niche among the plethora of bars and restaurants that populate nearby Old World 3rd and Water Streets. The proximity to the Bradley Center and Arena makes being a sports bar a forgone conclusion for any saloon that opens at 322 W. State.

The idea is to put a different spin on the concept. "We didn't want to offer the usual food, burgers and deep fried mozzarella sticks," says Jake's brother, Seth Dehne, the U-90's other owner. "We wanted to hire a chef, not a cook," adds Jake.

They got that in Michael Conley, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York and the former head chef at The Knick. His most recent position was executive chef at Tuckaway Country Club.

Conley created a menu that features such entrees as bacon-wrapped scallops finished with a lemon thyme beurre blanc ($20.95), twin tenderloin medallions with a red wine demi-glace ($19.95), and wild mushroom ravioli topped with roma tomatoes, wilted spinach and a fresh herb and roasted garlic brown butter ($15.95).

Gastro pub is the fuzzily-defined restaurant concept that has been a hot trend for several years. The U-90 considers itself the city's first gastro sports pub.

The Dehne brothers emphasize they want their bar and restaurant to be "female friendly." "Women are more health conscious, and they don't want to eat the food in the typical sports bar," Jake explains.

"They don't want to come with us guys when we go out. They aren't going to eat deep fried."

Among the U-90 menu items likely to catch the healthy eater's eye are a veggie-stuffed pita ($8.95), hummus plate ($8.95), spinach caprese salad ($8.95) and a build-your-own salad ($7.95). Half bottles of wine, a rarity in sports bars, are also likely to appeal to women.

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Talkbacks

blurondo | Dec. 5, 2011 at 5:55 p.m. (report)

There's nothing wrong with a shot and a beer joint. Jimmy's Time Out needs some competition.

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TosaJim | Dec. 5, 2011 at 4:30 p.m. (report)

Thinkabout...you're probably right...I read the menu and it seemed a little too upscale for a "Sports" bar.....I hope they do well.

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ChateauDweller | Dec. 5, 2011 at 3:56 p.m. (report)

Great food and great spot to watch a game. Congrats Dehnes!

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thinkabout | Dec. 5, 2011 at 3:28 p.m. (report)

Not sure what you mean, TosaJim. Upper 90 calls itself a "sports pub" at its own website, which boasts that sports will be on TV there at all times. It's the food that's different, so it seems the headline is accurate: new sports bar with a chef.

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MeetMilwaukee | Dec. 5, 2011 at 9:59 a.m. (report)

Just went to Upper 90 for the first time since the new ownership took over. I decided to go since Newaukee was having a social event there and there was going to be live music and drink specials. Let me just say it was way better than I had even hoped it would be! The servers meet me at the door and took my initial drink order (huge plus), Had the black and blue steak sandwich (delicious), and from there on it was a very enjoyable night at the Upper 90. I will definitely be going back.

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