With ruby red booths and décor dedicated to the likes of Valentine Blatz, Captain Frederick Pabst, Joseph Pabst and Frederick Miller, the new Brew City, part of the R.C. Schmidt Restaurant empire -- along with The Historic Turner Restaurant, Water Street Brewery, Oakland Trattoria, Rudy's Mexican Restaurant and Louise's -- fits in well with its neighbor, The Harp.
The menu sports more salads than at the previous location, but is, for the most part, mostly unchanged. The name sums up the menu: predominantly basic bar food, some of which is in tribute to Milwaukee's German heritage.
The appetizer list features bar starters like wings ($8.95), nachos ($8.95) and mozzarella marinara ($6.95). Entrees and sandwiches have some focus on BBQ and beef brisket, but more on down-home, chow down classics like cheeseburgers ($7.25) and a brat ($6.95).
On a few recent visits, we sampled the brisket ($12.95), a tender and smoked cut that was very good, yet yearned for something a bit more than the accompanying au jus. The french fries were very good, but our waitress stuck her finger in the baked beans as she placed them on the table.
The sausage platter ($9.95) was a fun sampling of bratwurst and knackwurst (a mild pork and beef sausage laced with garlic and onions) with braised red cabbage and gratin potatoes. Jambalaya ($10.95) carried the standard mixture of ham, andouille sausage and chicken, and the restaurant's signature pig sandwich ($7.95) lived up to its name, with pulled pork in a plain barbecue sauce.
Food here is not outstanding, but it sticks to your ribs, and if you're out and about knocking back a few beers and looking for something to fill your stomach, the menu at Brew City will do the trick.
As for beer, in addition to the Water Street Brewery beer selections, Brew City also tenders the Milwaukee classics: Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and Miller, alongside a solid selection of imports and domestics.
It should however be noted, that on two visits, during lunch, service was average or marginally above average, but on a dinner visit, our server was appalling and rude.
Along with fingers in the beans, we had to ask multiple times for water and glasses for our bottles of beer, a fruit garnish never appeared despite multiple requests, our waitress banged her tray on our table repeatedly while speaking to us, and wiped her nose during one visit to our table. When she brought our check, she read the total aloud to everyone within earshot.
Service issues aside, Brew City's transition to its new space has been a clean one, and has allowed the venue more growing space. With the continuing redevelopment of Downtown, it is refreshing to see a long-lived venue continue to thrive serving standard, blue-collar food.
Beer may have made Milwaukee famous, but it is restaurants like Brew City that have helped to keep the memories of the local entrepreneurs behind it alive.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.