The transformation was what struck me most when I walked into Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub in the Brewhouse Inn and Suites, built in the renovated Pabst brewhouse and millhouse, 1215 N. 10th St.
My first memories are hazy ones from Pabst Brewery tours 30 years ago. But the most recent mental picture was drawn for me on a summer 2010 visit to the former brewery. Back then, inside the dilapidated brewhouse and millhouse, it was hard to imagine how the transformation could ever really happen.
But, much like the great work it did transforming the old Peckham Junior High/Jackie Robinson Middle School into senior housing, Madison’s Gorman & Co. really made some magic here, creating modern venues while preserving facets of historic buildings.
The most stunning preservation work is in the lobby and the second floor of the hotel, where the old brew kettles shine a lustrous copper and where a number of striking staircases have been preserved, as has a sprawling stained glass window tribute to King Gambrinus.
In the restaurant, there are high ceilings, nice touches like shiny tin decorative panels along the bar. There’s a great patio and, make a mental note, Blue Ribbon Pub runs a free shuttle to Brewers games.
The menu is basic pub fare with sandwiches, salads, apps, pizzas – all reasonably priced, especially when you consider you’re eating in a Downtown hotel. Burgers are $8.99, for example, and the swordfish sandwich is $12.99. Sandwiches come with a choice of sides, and on my visit we tried the fries, which were crispy and good, with skin-on, and onion strings, which were good, though their saltiness guaranteed I wouldn’t finish them.
The saltiness, and the fact that the portions are extremely generous. The swordfish sandwich had a large piece of fish on a giant bun. Add the cup of slaw, a pickle spear and all those onion strings and, honestly, two could have shared the plate.
My favorite was the cheese curds appetizer. The curds were delicious, if a tad greasy and while I didn’t find the buffalo sauce a pleasing complement, I enjoyed dipping into the cup of ranch that also accompanied the curds.
Service was friendly and good, despite a few minor hiccups. I’d say right now, while the menu won’t win any awards for inventiveness, Blue Ribbon Pub offers a good value in a fun environment, and a great place for a happy hour beer and shuttle out to Miller Park on game day.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.