Featured chef: Brad Clark of Stubby's Pub & Grub
Brad Clark has hit every rung on the career ladder leading up to his recent appointment as executive chef of Stubby's Pub & Grub.
At 14, he was cleaning Clifford's Supper Club in Hales Corners. At 15, he was working at Culver's. At 16, it was Boston Market.
Clark became a short order cook at Bunkers old location in West Allis when he was 17. After that, his credits include line cook at Crawdaddy's, the Elm Grove Inn, Sticks & Stones and Jerry's Old Town Inn in Germantown.
The Muskego native was a saucier at Ristorante Bartolotta, the opening chef de cuisine at Miller Parkway Pub and Grill, and the executive chef when Bunkers opened in its current West Allis location. In that position, Clark got Bunkers on lists of the Milwaukee area's best restaurants.
It's a hefty resume for a fellow much closer to 30 than 40. There have been periods in the chef's life when he has been cooking at two different jobs at the same time. "For some reason I'm not happy unless I am working 70 hours a week," he says with a typically slow grin.
Clark's task at Stubby's, a member of the Zarletti Restaurant Group, is to revive a kitchen that opened with a wow when the restaurant and bar debuted in August 2010, but later sagged into mediocrity. The original concept combined a sports bar with a menu that emphasized barbecue and Southern roadhouse food.
The bar, with 53 beers on tap, arcade games and numerous large TV screens, remains loud and sporty. A menu that was installed shortly before Clark's arrival a month ago broadened the dining focus to include such diverse items as Banh-Mi ($9.95), and a black bean and chorizo sub ($8.95).
The new executive chef decided to tweak rather than overhaul the menu, and his method involved focusing on specific days. Friday was his first target.
Clark introduced five fresh fish specials to accompany the traditional Friday fish fry, and those specials are, well, special. "I don't want to do tuna and salmon, because everybody does that," he explains.
Last week he offered pan seared scallops and pork bellies braised in sauvignon blanc with horseradish infused maple syrup, on a bed of fingerling potatoes with green beans. The dish, priced at $15.95, was finished with a savory caramel sauce.
Clark was unsure of the reception his creation would receive from customers. "It's easy for a new chef to train a staff," he says. "It's hard to train customers to try unusual things."
To Clark's somewhat surprised delight, the scallops and pork bellies entree sold out. Expect to see walu, a Hawaiian fish; northern, perch, blue gills and trout on the list of Friday specials. The chef's favorite swimming creature to deep fry is skate wing, a member of the shark family.
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I think it's great. Every time I've been there the staff was super accommodating (even taking our hockey team food order one night right as the kitchen was closing and without being snide about it AT ALL-that really never happens) and the food has been excellent every time. I've watched a couple football games there and it feels like the people that work there seem to take pride in/respect the place- and I appreciate that vibe.
I like the bar more than I like the food. Always had very good service there. Big bar, lots of seating, outdoor patio, friendly staff. Given me free samples for beer that I didn't know, etc. But, for one..how does a BBQ spot not have RIBS on the menu is beyond me. Wings are solid, but very average. Need to do something to make yours unique. Had the bbq sliders there and they were phenomenal the first time. Second time, not so much. Need some better consistency. But I hope with the new chef that the food continues to improve because this place has all the potential.
We went there once and the food was fine, not great. We have always intended to return. But I am confused/concerned about the new direction of the menu. What is wrong with excelling at BBQ (rare in these parts) and pub fare? There isn't much margin for error with pork belly and scallops. And who eats walu while watching football??
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