I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. A first look at Snack Boys, 814 S. 2nd St., made me want to do a bit of both.
The bar and restaurant, which features a menu of snack-sized plates and an extensive list of wines and playful cocktails, officially opens to the public today at 4:21 p.m. And if you believe in having fun and eating delicious things, you might want to put a visit on your list of must-do’s.
Entering the restaurant is a bit like taking a step back into a reimagined version of the 1980s that’s filled with carefree kitsch and devoid of things we’d all prefer to forget – including the Cold War, questionable fashion choices and ill-designed wallpaper borders.
Your cheeks will seem rosier underneath the pink neon lights and your lungs will breathe easier thanks to scads of macrame planters filled with philodendron and spider plants. There are also plenty of Nagel prints to admire. When’s the last time you saw one of those in the wild?
It’s tough not to smile when you enter the dining room. After all, there’s a larger-than-life-sized portrait of Burt Reynolds staring back at you in all of his naked glory. And how can life be bad when you’re in the presence of a bubble-blowing unicorn?
But that’s quite enough about the decor. On the drink side, there’s a lovely wine list that features both a house red and white by the glass for $9 along with a fairly extensive international selection of rosé, sparkling, white and red wines, a variety of which are priced in the $30-50 range.
If you have a finely tuned sense of humor, you’ll get a kick out of the cocktail menu, which features well-executed yet whimsical drinks with names like La Croix Boy (a choose your own adventure featuring your choice of La Croix flavors mixed with either vodka or gin), the Ecto Wine Cooler (a cross between a wine cooler and a Midori sour) and Rod the Bod (a riff on the classic grasshopper – the cocktail, not the ice cream drink). They’re all priced in the $7-14 range.
My very attractive drink models are holding the Shay Breeze Slushie (a riff on the Malibu Bay Breeze named for Snack Boys chef Shay Linkus) and Sybaris … The Drink, a spin on the tiki classic, the Chi Chi.
And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet: the snacks.
Among the offerings, you’ll find rotating raw bar selections like East and West Coast oysters ($3 each), crab leg ($10), poke ($6), and a giant sweet peel and eat prawn ($4).
If you’re a fan, there’s also fresh uni served alongside crisp housemade potato chips ($6). If you've never tried uni before, this is a nice, low-key way to make your introductions.
Things get even snackier when you consider items like cheese fries served with cheddar powder and shreds of Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese ($5) and Chips Toodaloo featuring potato chips with an onion dip that’s as good (or better) than your mom used to make ($4).
There are house pickles (a bunch for $6) and tempura corn fritters that taste like an Asian spin on State Fair food ($4). And there are the most adorable sliders in the entire universe for $4. And yes, they’re as delicious as they are cute.
If you eat meat, you'd be (utterly) remiss if you didn’t taste the "Bone Marrow for the Dark Lord," an unctuous sweet-salty combination of creamy marrow enriched with bacon, honey powder and red pepper ($4). It's really, really delicious.
You might wax nostalgic when you eat the "What’s Up Turkey Butt," a dish that mirrors the flavors of a dish Chef Mitch Ciohon made during his time at Beta by Sabor. It features confited turkey tail, crisp potato, cheddar cheese and barbeque vinaigrette atop a bed of greens ($4).
And you’re likely to think of The Vanguard when you eat the "Chicken Fried Confit Chicken" featuring spicy DVR sauce (named for Chef Dan Van Rite of DanDan), $4.
I’m not sure what you should think of when you sample the housemade tater tots served with sour cream, chives and caviar ($10), but you should definitely give them a try.
There will also be snack-sized sweets for consumption, including things like "Cookies & Milk" with a "flan-ish" cinnamon custard and an ice cream sandwich featuring "crunchy stuff."
So put on your Zubaz and leg warmers and get over to Snack Boys. I’ll meet you there.
Beginning today, Snack Boys is open Wednesday through Sunday from 4:21 p.m. through bar time.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.