Let’s do Lunch: Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub

15 Mar

Considering what seems like half of the search hits to this blog have come from queries related to my earlier posts on the impending opening of Sprecher’s Restaurant & Brewery, I figured it was high time I made an appearance to get the lay of the land.  Sunday lunch with Pops seemed like a good time to see what they’ve done with the former Houlihan’s space.  Now I’m not sure I ever went to that particular Houlihan’s but based on the Wisconsin Dells location I’m sure it was lots of booths and dark wood and lamps and appeteasers.

The location, on John Q. Hammonds Drive in Middleton, is pastoral meets office park and the building itself is your standard national chain-style box.  Inside, they’ve done a respectable job of creating a comfortable dining and drinking atmosphere with a mix of table and booth seating and display cases of German beer glassware flanking the large U-shaped bar.  Several flat-screen TVs in the bar area were showing typical Sunday afternoon sports fare, namely golf and World’s Strongest Man re-runs on The Deuce.  The walls of the bar area were adorned with impressionist-style “paintings” depicting scenes from around Madison including Camp Randall and the Memorial Union Terrace.  It’s a nice reminder that even though I’m in a bar/restaurant between a field and an office park that I’m still technically in Madison.

Their selection of Sprecher beers on-tap was surprisingly robust with 14 offerings including year-round, seasonal and special releases in addition to 4 draft sodas (even more beer and soda available by the bottle).  In my post-racquetball tournament body coma, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Doppelbock was my poison of choice today.  Served in a snifter, this doppelbock went down silky smooth thanks to the softness imparted by the oak and bourbon and finished with a vanillin’-laced malty sweetness.  I’m glad to see them really committing to carrying the entire Sprecher catalog.

The menu spans the familiar territory of soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches, with a selection of flatbreads and entrees ranging from steak and ribs to a “Thai Peanut Bowl”.  The eclectic menu evokes similar wide-ranging ethnic-fusion dishes present on the Great Dane’s menu which also includes a peanut stew and Ahi tuna salad.  The lightness of the latter dish appealed to my weary digestive system and overall “morning-after” disposition.  It mimicked the Dane’s rendition in the execution of its sesame-seared tuna, peanuts and crispy wonton strips, but veered from the Thai theme with the inclusion of a chile-lime dressing and jicama.  It was crisp and refreshing, if somewhat less inspired than some other versions I’ve had.  My dad opted for the Sunday brunch buffet which included a selection of standard breakfast meats and sides, prime rib and a design-your-own-omelet station.  He was feeling a little under-the-weather and didn’t end up indulging with his usual gusto, but said it was otherwise satisfactory and comparable to similar brunch buffets around town.

I think the place has potential to do great business with the built-in office park crowd and nearby lifestyle shopping centers and the Sprecher brand name certainly carries a certain caché among those who dabble in the craft beer scene.  It would certainly be a place I would stop in after work or drop by if I was in the area, though I doubt its location would land it on my regular nightlife rotation.  I can’t help but continue to think of Sprecher’s as a sort of Great Dane Lite for the Far West Set, which is certainly no major slight to Sprecher’s as they could pick far worse establishments from which to draw inspiration.  I foresee some post-shift Sprecher-sipping in the near future now that I have a decent beer spot between my two places of employment.

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