For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Locavore, the newest restaurant at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."
GREEN BAY – Over the last several years, it seems as if Lambeau Field has been a living, breathing thing. It’s grown, widened out and gotten taller. And it will continue to, as the Green Bay Packers have bought up more land around the stadium at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
Cranes and work crews, it seems, have been as constant as Aaron Rodgers over the last handful of years – and all in the name of creating one of the largest, most encompassing entertainment venues in not only the state, but the country. And that’s before a ball is ever kicked into the air on a Sunday afternoon.
With all the expansions and additions over the years, one constant has been Curly’s Pub, named in honor of Curly Lambeau, just above the Atrium.
Only 2014 is the last year you can eat at Curly’s. Yes, you heard it right – Curly’s is closing.
As renovations continue over the winter, a bigger restaurant will open on the Atrium level with patio seating, space for live music and a chef-styled menu that changes daily. The new bar will also feature 60 beers on tap – and it will not be named Curly’s – at least according to staff on site. Staff also believe it will be open for the start of the 2015 preseason schedule.
While some Curly’s favorites will migrate to the new space, the menu will change, which is why if you head into Lambeau Field you’ll order off the "Curly’s Pub Construction Menu" which tells diners "We have taken some of the classic items over the past couple of years, put them here as one last hurrah to the world famous Curly’s Pub."
Some of those classic items include the the 22-inch Polish kielbasa wrapped in the shape of a horsecollar embedded in a bun is a favorite, as is the Lambeau Heap Combo (a pound of Angus barbecue beef, Cudahy bacon, onion straws, slaw and Wisconsin cheese curds on a pretzel roll) and the Grown up Pac N’ Cheese.
I, however, went with a staple – and one the staff is confident will be saved with the relocation – the beer cheese and bacon burger, which is Angus beef, Cudahy bacon and a Wisconsin cheddar ale spread inside a pretzel roll.
Honestly, I was expected some giant burger that I wouldn’t be able to finish – but this was a perfectly sized portion, two strips of bacon and a perfect amount of the ale spread. I say perfect because it didn’t burst over the sides of the burger – which was also cooked with the bar’s signature Curly’s Ale – as you picked it up, or as you bit down – but you also weren’t wondering where it was.
Too often I’ve had "specialty" burgers where sauces or toppings are sort of heaped on, and it leads to messy hands and more of it on your plate than in your mouth.
Honestly, this burger rivals any I’ve had in Milwaukee and I was immediately glad to hear it should make the cut at the new restaurant, as I’d be hard-pressed to order something different.
Despite covering the team for three years, I’ve never taken the detour over to Curly’s to experience it, and I was impressed with how large it was (I can’t believe the new restaurant will be bigger), how immaculately clean everything, and how it wasn’t tacky.
Look – I’m in a football stadium, in a place named after a football coach. It’s obviously meant for sports – and Packers – fans. But none of the décor (I especially loved the diagram of "Hutson’s Favorite Play"), seemed so over-the-top that I felt like I was eating in an extension of the pro shop.
Curly’s stands on its own, and I’m glad to say I visited before it’s removed.
Curly’s is open through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. But, on game days, only those with tickets can dine, and the hours change depending on kickoff time. For this Sunday’s noon start against Carolina, the restaurant opens at 8 a.m. For games at 3 p.m. or later, it opens at 11 a.m. For starts at 6 p.m. or later, it opens at noon.
I’m always looking for good breakfast and coffee spots, too, and there is one literally within walking distance from Lambeau Field that I recommend – Big Apple Bagels, located at 2321 S. Oneida St.
It’s small, but you absolutely must go in for the signature "My Favorite Muffin" brand muffins, which are baked on site. I tried the cinnamon swirl cheesecake muffin, which includes the shop’s "secret cheesecake recipe." Whatever that secret is, it’s fantastic.
The muffin was sweet – but not so much that you felt like you’re eating dessert – and incredibly moist. It melts in your mouth. I added the southern tradition breakfast sandwich (your choice of sausage or ham with scrambled eggs and American cheese on your choice of bagel), which was fairly standard.
The muffins, though – the muffins! Definitely go in, get a cup of the cinnamon hazelnut praline coffee and a baked good – like the "Chocolate Avalanche" or Boston crème pie" Or, get into the fall spirit with a pumpkin, deep dish apple pie or cherry cheesecake. It’ll only cost you a couple bucks, and it’s well worth it!
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.