My Downtown Dining Week experience did not have an auspicious start: after spending the morning salivating over the lunch menu at Matador Taco & Tequila Bar (and passing a taco truck redolent with the scent of barbacoa en route to the restaurant), it’s safe to say I was in the mood for some tortilla-wrapped deliciousness. Unfortunately, when I arrived for lunch, Matador was shuttered and dark. It remains to be seen what time one must arrive in order to partake of their lunch specials.
Lucky for me, The Pub Club, another Downtown Dining Week participant, is right across the street. Also lucky for me: their four entree options included a plate of tacos. Done, and done.
The Pub Club — part pub, part club, as the name informs — opened in January of 2015 with its eyes set on solving the (real or imagined) problem of the itinerant nightlifer: Milwaukeeans shouldn’t have to travel between restaurant and night club on a night out, the owner surmised. While the restaurant remained firmly in pub territory during my lunch visit, I was able to enjoy their festive parklet patio, festooned with recycled wine and whiskey barrels.
My lunch date and I first selected our appetizers, choosing from Smoked or Baked Wings, Smoked Gouda Sticks, Spinach and Artichoke Rangoons, or a glass of Tap Beer or House Wine. We made the choice easily, based on the simple principle of our shared love of fried food: we got the sticks and Rangoons. (We also share an interest in “Tap Beer or House Wine,” but it was a work day, after all, and I had to write this review.)
The Gouda Sticks, rolled in fried Wonton wrappers, were appropriately melty and as smokey as their name suggests, a more grown-up take on the traditional mozzarella stick. The Pub Club’s Rangoons, sweet and crunchy, were what I imagine might result from a tryst between a Chinese restaurant and bistro with a good happy hour.
For our main entrees, my dining buddy tried the Open Face Steak Sandwich and I, obviously, chose the Pork Tacos. The steak sandwich came with surprise fries, which already predisposed us to liking it. The meat was tender and smokey (I’m sensing a theme here), and it paired well with the sauteed mushrooms. My tacos arrived in a no-frills row of three. The cucumber lent an unexpected crispness, the hoisin was perfectly drizzled and the jalapenos added a very nice kick — though I would not recommend this meal to the faint of taste bud; jalapenos have one job, and they do it quite well.
The grand finale of our lunch was a generously-sized brownie, moist and teeming with nuts, served with blueberries, blackberries and a dollop of whipped cream.