Far from the madding crowd sits Muskego’s Bass Bay Brewhouse, which is all about doing simple food really well.
Past the windows where mini pumpkins rest on the sill, a large porch holds empty patio furniture inside the white railing. On the other side of the porch, a cluster of trees basks in the stillness. Draping branches retain their green foliage even though it’s well into October. Beyond the leafage is Bass Bay, which funnels into Big Muskego Lake. Quiet. This is not the city, and yet not far from the rows of strip malls and fast food restaurants on South 108th Street.
Bass Bay Brewhouse in residential Muskego still registered as the Aud-Mar Supper Club when we searched for directions on an iPhone. The 3.25-acre Aud-Mar – which was in Bass Bay co-owner Ryan Oschmann’s family for decades – closed in 2007. Oschmann and his business partners – his mom, Laurie Oschmann, and friends Andy Meinen and Kurt Fogle (former pastry chef for SURG Restaurant Group) – banded together to bring some action back to this part of the sticks. They tapped Joe McCormick – who’d been executive chef at a couple of SURG properties – for a menu implementation quite unlike his most recent gig at Umami Moto.
A menu should fit the space, no? The supper club/comfort food axis fits quite well, though you may wonder why a chef who trained at Chicago’s French Pastry School would sire a supper club. But Fogle is no one-trick pony. (Ask him about chicken sandwiches.) Plus, he and Oschmann had been talking about opening a resto for a dozen years or so.
In October, the property was still being remodeled (a project expected to finish by late 2015/early 2016). Not fancy, the upstairs dining hall is floored in concrete and accented with wood beams. Simple table seating joins the wraparound bar. Saturday service was to be added Nov. 21 – Bass Bay is a popular spot for weddings – but they’ve been plenty busy evenings Wednesday through Friday, and Sundays for brunch. It’s easy to see why. They’ve nailed the menu. Really good bad food is an art form. Pulled ham shows up repeatedly and is perhaps not enjoyed more than in the poutine – fries, cheese curds and Jones ham smothered in black-pepper gravy, then further gluttonized with a runny egg ($10). A trio of brat sliders ($11) seems abstemious in comparison, but no less solid: a bratwurst patty topped with butterkase cheese, kraut and mustard on a pretzel bun. For something dainty and carnal, the fried cheese curds with ranch dressing ($9) fill the urge quite simply.
The fried chicken sandwich Fogle honed is exactly the way he likes it – a hand-breaded breast with mayo and dill pickles ($10). No arguments; it’s a tender, satisfying sandwich, but Bass Bay’s chicken fried chicken is hard to beat, especially with good, thick mashed potatoes, crisp-tender green beans and that black pepper gravy ($14). It’s even hard to put really good mac and cheese next to that. Bass Bay’s is certainly four-cheesy flavorful on its own ($9), but you can add pot roast, smoked bacon or fried ring bologna, among other accompaniments ($3-$4).
The hangover burger ($13), its beef patty ground in-house, outdoes itself on both the nightly and brunch menus. It’s perhaps a bit intimidating in the morning, but the beef is blitzed with cheddar and pepper-jack cheeses, bacon, a runny-yolk egg and cheesy hash browns. The hash browns are, I think, put to better use as a brunch side – baked into thick squares with crumbled corn-flake topping. It is “stupid good.” Fogle reserves those words for the “chicken and the egg,” the wowsa bad-good-food combo of a buttermilk biscuit, sausage gravy, fried egg, and chicken fried chicken ($11). You may need a stretcher at this point.
Someday, Bass Bay Brewhouse will brew its own beer. (The current list is heavy on Wisconsin craft selections.) It’ll be hosting more nuptials, and bringing out more suburban and city people to gaze at the view, and give them a reason to shop for a larger pair of pants. But after all, this is Wisconsin.
Bass Bay Brewhouse: S79 W15851, Aud Mar Dr., Muskego, 414-377-9449 Hours: Dinner Wed-Sat; Brunch Sun. Prices: $9-$29. Service: Attentive, welcoming, casual. Reservations: Accepted. On Fridays, only for six or more.