In Dining

Sobelman's on St. Paul is getting a bit of rehab, including new floors, a new back bar and coolers.

Original Sobelman's closes for renovations as new locations brew

If you're Downtown and have a hankering for a loaded bloody Mary or classic Sobelman's burger over the next two weeks, you'll want to head over to the Marquette University location at 1601 W. Wells St.

That's because the original location for Sobelman's Pub & Grill, located at 1900 W. St. Paul Ave., is currently closed. According to owner Dave Sobelman, the popular burger joint is likely to reopen for business on Jan. 16. In the meantime, the 100-plus year old building will be undergoing some extensive renovations.

Sobelman says the building, which he purchased in 1999, will see numerous improvements both to increase the stability of its foundation and correct the progressive shifting and bowing of its floorboards.

"It was built in 1889," says Sobelman, "And over the years, time has taken its toll. It's a great historic space, and I want to help preserve the building and fix things the right way."

While structural improvements take place, the pub will also receive a fresh coat of interior paint, a general deep cleaning, a new back bar and brand new coolers.

"They are all improvements that have been overdue," says Sobelman. "And when they're done, it will be like waking up on the right side of the bed, like having a good hair day."

More Sobelman's to come?

Despite the pending hiatus, Sobelman says he's busier than ever. In fact, he says he'll be spending the next two weeks tending to business at both the North Shore and Marquette locations, as well as sifting through applications for Sobelman's franchises, a concept launched in late 2015.

"My wife has made it clear that we've opened our last location," he notes with a smile. But, he says he receives constant requests from individuals who'd like him to bring a Sobelman's to their town. And so, the idea of launching a franchise option became a viable way to consider these requests.

"This has been a family-run business for years, so we want to make sure any good owner is a good fit," he says. "I don't want to mass produce things. We never want to be an Applebee's. But, we also produce a fun dining experience that's a great fit for Wisconsin, and I'd love for people in other places to get to experience that."

Sobelman notes that – although the restaurant's reputation has been built based on their signature burgers, "ridiculous bloody Marys," and sides like bacon wrapped cheese balls – it also has foundations in an ethic of customer satisfaction served up in historic locations (like the 100-plus-year-old building on St. Paul and the former Centennial Bar & Grille in Mequon).

"I've turned down I don't know how many offers to expand …" he explains. "From a location in the Bayshore Town Center to the Mayfair Collection. But our restaurants don't make sense at the mall. They make sense when they're built in great old buildings by people who believe what we believe."

And what does Dave Sobelman believe?

"I have a private Team Sobelman page on Facebook where I connect with all of our employees," he tells me. "Every day, I use the page to communicate with my staff about the weather, sports games that are going on and what the daily specials are. And I end every post with the same message, in all capital letters: 'SERVE PERFECT BURGERS. SERVE PERFECT BLOODIES. GIVE EXCELLENT SERVICE.' And that's the name of the game."


Talkbacks

mbradleyc | Jan. 6, 2016 at 5:10 a.m. (report)

I look forward to the day I can ride the streetcar past his place on the way to somewhere else.

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PROG | Jan. 5, 2016 at 2:37 p.m. (report)

I hope they overhaul the burgers, those things suck!

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