By Amy L. Schubert Food Writer Published Aug 02, 2010 at 1:07 PM Photography: Whitney Teska

When long-time bar owner of Steny's, Jerry Stenstrup, decided to open The Dubliner, an Irish-themed gastropub on National Avenue, I was somewhat skeptical.

First, the name caused some confusion in the community, wondering if this was the rebirth of Ann James' former establishment at 922 S. 2nd St. -- it's not -- and second, with so many failed Irish pubs in the Walker's Point area, was a gastropub (read, elevated ambience and high quality food) really going to make a go of it?

Two recent visits to The Dubliner, 124 W. National Ave., somewhat quelled my skepticism. In a clean-lined, lovely renovation of what was formerly Switch, The Dubliner is contemporary and comfortable without being pretentious. Service is friendly and informative, and the space houses a stone fireplace within and a lovely brick patio outside lined with ferns and other hanging plants.

Although I don't know that I'd call The Dubliner a gastropub, food here is a step above bar food with a nice selection of appetizers, sandwiches, pub classic influenced entrees, salads, and weekend breakfasts.

On a dinner visit, I sampled The Dubliner dip ($7), essentially a Reuben with the bread on the side, and the epitome of comfort food. Our bowl was steaming hot with gruyere cheese, small pieces of tender corned beef, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut and served with slivers of toasted Irish stout bread. A cup of country potato and leek soup ($7) was rich and creamy with pieces of carrots and red potatoes, and just enough flavor to keep it interesting.

Veal and portabella mushroom meatloaf ($14), flavorful and tender, was ladled with a thick, white onion gravy. A small serving of mashed potatoes and a heap of squash, carrots and zucchini came with the plate. Shepherd's pie ($10) was easily enough for two meals and was a hearty, comfort food-style dish served with piles of mashed potatoes across the top.

The only complaints with both dishes were they lacked seasoning -- something easily corrected with the table's salt and pepper shakers -- and that they were served at too hot of a temperature. When I took the shepherd's pie to go after our meal, it was still steaming in the takeaway container. All things considered, though, I'd choose being served too hot of a meal over cold or tepid food any day.

On weekends, The Dubliner serves Irish ($11) or American ($9) breakfasts. The Irish rendition offers the traditional spread of white and black pudding, bangers (Irish sausages), rashers (Irish bacon), two eggs over easy, grilled potatoes, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes; while the American version pairs the eggs with cherry wood bacon, bangers, potatoes and freckle bread.

Both versions hold their own, although on one visit, we had to ask for the tomatoes and mushrooms on one of the Irish plates, and we missed the absent baked beans usually served with this plate. The Dubliner's bloody Marys, however, were raveable, and with such a relaxing setting, this may make the short list for weekend brunch stops with an improvement in consistency.

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