“Finkel is Einhorn,” I yelled emphatically, but incorrectly, during our dinner at Newsroom Pub, quoting Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and suggesting that the Third Ward is part of Walker’s Point.
Though my assertion was untrue, in another context the phrase proved very telling about our ‘N’ dinner stop, Newsroom Pub (Shannon’s pick)–I’ll get to the big reveal in a moment. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Some of us had been to Newsroom before, strictly for drinks. It is directly across from The Pabst Theater and The Rep on Wells, a stone’s throw from The Bronze Fonz. Nevertheless, none of us had ever tried their food. Did they have food?
We arrived and sidled up to the bar. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the walls crowded with autographs on chalkboards from famous local and national figures of all ilk: sports, entertainment, politics and pop culture. A person could get lost for hours trying to decipher the chalk scribbles of the rich and famous.
We broke with tradition and invited our friend, Mike, to dinner with us. He said:
If you had a 30 or 40 minute wait, you wouldn’t notice because of all that is there to catch your eye.
I loved the decor and history. The staff was knowledgeable and happy to share interesting facts about the autographs, the bronzed cat and the celebrities that have graced this Milwaukee Press Club-hangout.
After I ordered my first beer from the suitable, but not-deep beer list, Shannon and Cindi broke the news they learned from the bartender: If you are eating at Newsroom Pub, you are, for all intents and purposes, really eating at mysterious Milwaukee-icon, the Safe House. Finkel. Is. Einhorn.
I’d heard there was a secret entrance from Newsroom Pub into the Safe House, but I never knew the connection ran any deeper than that. Our waitress came to get us from the bar area of the Newroom Pub and sat us in another large room just behind the bar–still technically within the pub.
She was dressed in the Safe House outfit and addressed us as spies. Adam said:
She was nice but far too enthusiastic about the spy theme. It felt like she couldn’t discern between serving a table of adults or a table full of kids. Her schtick would have probably been fun for children, but it got annoying to me after being called a spy for the eighth time.
Adam and I ordered margaritas because it was National Margarita Day–who makes these things up? They came in pint glasses and tasted exactly how you would expect a standard margarita to taste..
We ordered two appetizers. The cheese curds were polished off pretty quickly, however no one seemed to have anything glowing to say about them. Probably about the same as Culver’s, but a bit more expensive at $9.
I liked the Bangkok Chicken Satay, it had a much nicer presentation than I expected, the pita bread was warm, but the peanut sauce left something to be desired, it was too rich and uninteresting. Adam more than liked it, this appetizer was his favorite part of the entire meal. Mike liked it too, he said:
The pita bread was money and the peanut satay hit the spot. The grilled chicken was pretty good as well.
Prior to dinner, Mike and I walked into the Safe House through the back entrance, no password necessary. It was extremely busy. Mike had never been before, but when I was a child, I thought the Safe House was the coolest, most secretive place in town. It was fun reliving that on our little walking tour.
Dinner came quickly and Michelle had chosen a veggie item again. She said:
The sandwich was pretty standard, the cheese was creamy and the mushroom was flavorful. I didn’t feel too full after eating it. It was okay.
Cindi ordered a different meal, but her verdict was similar to Michelle’s. She said:
I ordered the French dip, italian style–with cheese and peppers. It was good.
One thing that stuck out to me was that the veggies, almost to an item, seemed really fresh and tasty. The pickles were especially crisp and delicious.
After enjoying the chicken satay, Adam ordered chicken for his main course. Ordering a sandwich is a great way to get nickle-and-dimed. They charge $2 to get anything beyond the most basic toppings, and another $2 to add a side. It is too easy to turn an $8 sandwich into a $12 meal. He said:
I ordered the grilled chicken breast cajun style and it was the same as most grilled chicken sandwiches that I’ve had.
Mike ordered the Friday Fish Fry with cod. He said:
I was looking for something I have never had before, but the menu was pretty small and I didn’t find anything that really caught my eye. The cost was $14, which I’m okay with, as I almost expect to pay a little more eating at what seems like a local hotspot. The cod was good but nothing you can’t get anywhere else on a Friday night.
After a hard time deciding what I wanted, I ordered something that isn’t among the usual things I order, but I too wanted to try something different. I chose an asian chicken salad. It was $16, so I expected something pretty special. The salad was good, but nothing out of the ordinary—no better than something I could get for half the price at Panera Bread, or make for myself even cheaper. The “Top Secret” ginger dressing was decently flavorful, but nothing about this salad justified the price, even the size wasn’t impressive.
TJ chose a burger. He said:
The burger was decent in size but left a lot to be desired. The patty looked to be of the frozen-patty design and the bun was very dry. It had okay taste, but I hoped for better. The $2 fry upgrade was a sham as I received about seven french fries.
Shannon took a different spin on the Friday Fish favorite. She said:
I ordered the broiled fish. At $14, it was too expensive. I know we were downtown but my parents go to a golf course in Sussex and get the same thing with an endless bottom and tastier for $15. I thought the fish itself was pretty skimpy.
None of the food was bad, but none of it was great either. That being the case, we opted to skip dessert. We had reservations at our next spot for 10:30, and we wanted to be light on our feet. Cindi said:
I laughed out loud when the waitress asked if anyone needed a “spy box” for their leftovers. That was overkill.
We all agreed that we’d be happy to stop in at Newsroom Pub for drinks. TJ said:
A pretty cool atmosphere overshadowed by a lackluster menu and food. The bar itself is great. I would not only suggest it to out-of-town guests but also Milwaukeans who have not been there. Skip the food and just go for a drink.
Ratings for Newsroom Pub were, as follows:
Newsroom Pub cumulative rating: 5.4
After dinner, we went to Milwaukee’s ping-pong paradise, otherwise known as SPiN. With more than a dozen ping-pong tables, SPiN was very busy when we arrived. Luckily, we’d been before, and we knew reservations were mandatory for Friday and Saturday nights.
SPiN is great! They’ve figured everything out, you don’t even have to chase down the ball after your friend spikes it in your face — which happened more than I’d like to admit that night — they have guys walking around with little nets collecting balls and dumping them into a basket next to your table. Waitresses take orders and bring drinks. Big screen television are mounted on the walls and on the right nights, ping-pong pros are playing gravity-defying games at the center table.
After a couple of hours at SPiN, where we were joined by our friend Ryan, we decided to head to Burnhearts in Bay View. It was late, but we weren’t ready to go home yet.
And a drink at a familiar place was the perfect way for eight spies to end a fun, mysterious night.
Visit Safe House online here.
Visit SPiN Milwaukee here.
Photos courtesy of TJ UTTKE PHOTOGRAPHY
Losing nominations for ‘N’ were The Noble (Michelle and Nick), The National (TJ) and Nessun Dorma (Adam and Cindi).
Introduction to the ABCs of Milwaukee Dining
AJ Bombers: 6.8
Beta by Sabor: 7.9
Comet Cafe: 7
Eatery on Farwell: 6.2
Fajitas Grill: 5.3
Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub: 7.5
Irie Palace: 6.2
Jow Nai Fouquet: 6.9
Louise’s Trattoria: 5.2
Newsroom Pub: 5.4
WHERE ARE WE EATING NEXT?
Well, this one is pretty obvious …