Cold beer on a hot Milwaukee day

Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub: Best Milwaukee bar food yet

If you’ve been wondering what the best place is to get bar food in Milwaukee, perhaps in the entire state of Wisconsin,  I’m happy to report that I have the answer for you today.

Well, maybe not. In truth, I have no real authority to speak on this topic as I have not sampled the bar food everywhere else in the Badger State or even so much in Milwaukee (and I’m not in the mood to start a rumble). But I have eaten plenty of bar food elsewhere on my travels and I am married to a former Wisconsinite, and so I feel that I can reliably report to you that what is served at Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub is superlative. (Full disclosure, I was given it for free. Yet if I’m completely honest I will admit that I would pay much more than what they charge for it.)

The restaurant is located, along with the Brewhouse Inn and Suites hotel, in the former Pabst Brewery. And really, could there be a better place for a bar than that? With high ceilings and distressed walls, it’s comfortable, historic, just this side of hip, and has decor above the bar that may have been designed and constructed by Amy Sedaris.

Jackson’s is a great place to bring the kids. For one thing, they have a really nice patio in the back where you can play a few rounds of beanbag toss while you wait for your food. (Or, in the winter, you might play darts inside instead.)

Then, when the food does come, if your son has ordered chicken tenders (that scourge of children’s menus everywhere) what arrives at your table is not those pallid brown uniform things that after difficult experience you’ve come to expect but a pile of the most complex, dimply, spicy-smelling battered friend chicken you’ve ever seen complete with a side of ranch, blue cheese, or barbeque sauce. And for the first time ever since your child started ordering chicken tenders you find yourself moved to try them and he will just be fending off your greedy fingers for the rest of the meal. Because they are seriously delicious.

Or maybe instead you’ll move on to that Holy Grail of Wisconsin bar food, the fried cheese curd. I’m not actually a fan of this salty treat, but my husband Matt is and he felt moved to say that these fried cheese curds are the best he’s ever had. And I’m pretty sure he knows from fried cheese curds, since he spent the first twenty four years of his life in Wisconsin. It’s like a law or something that you grow up eating them.

My favorite at Jackson’s was the jalapeno poppers. The peppers they start with are huge and fresh with a real crunch. They are then stuffed with pepper jack and cream cheeses, beer battered and deep fried. A side homemade jalapeno marmalade completes the symphony of textures and flavors. Oh yeah, I did just write “symphony” when describing a jalapeno popper. They are just that good.

A delayed flight messed up our plans to have a full lunch at Jackson’s and we didn’t arrive until late in the afternoon. But we really enjoyed hanging out on the patio and drinking some Wisconsin craft beers – they have 13 on tap. Had our schedule gone as it was supposed to I know I would have tried one of their pizzas – they sell one called the Porky Pig that comes topped with pulled pork, bacon, sausage, ham, and pepperoni.

I’m telling you – this place doesn’t mess around.

What really sets Jackson’s apart is how good everything tastes. The owner Mark Zierath told me that’s because “97 percent of what we serve is homemade and we make everything fresh and by hand – nothing is frozen.” It’s certainly true that the quality of the ingredients shone through in everything that we sampled.

So even if you’re not staying at the Brewhouse, I recommend making Jackson’s part of your Milwaukee itinerary. For one thing, they offer generous happy hour specials – domestic beers for two bucks, imported and craft beers for three – Monday through Friday from 3 until 6 and all day on Sunday. And after you’ve had your fill of beer and cheese curds,  you can stroll over to the hotel and check out the copper vats where Pabst Blue Ribbon used to be made. Perhaps doing so will inspire you to head back next door and order one. For old time’s sake.

I hope you enjoyed the photos in this post; they were all taken with my phone and shared on my Instagram account (click on them and they link back there). I’m really loving this social media photo sharing tool lately. If you are too, please leave your handle in the comments below and I’ll be happy to follow you.

And I’m not the only family traveler loving Instagram these days – a great group of bloggers has started a weekly Instagram travel-themed get together, and I’m all in. Be sure this week to check out this Instagram tour of New York City. If you’re a blogger who would like to participate, get all of the details here.

And if you enjoyed this post, you might just want to see my other Milwaukee stories:

Many thanks to Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub for providing the complimentary drinks and food. My opinions about cheese curds, jalapeno poppers, and bar food are all my own.

Reader Responses

12 fellow travelers had this to say

  1. Ooh, Mara, your posts are making me really want to go to Milwaukee!

  2. What a cool place to eat – I love the ship with sails made from beer labels! All of the food looks amazing but I have never heard of fried cheese curds – one more item on my list of foods that I must try some day!

  3. Hungry. Now!

  4. I have to admit I’ve never thought of visiting Wisconsin, it seems that every time I travel to States I end up in New York or in the West Coast, but you definitely made me curious about Milwaukee. Thanks for sharing these images and participating in the Linky this week!

  5. We’d love to have you back! Chef Roca is the best! Mark & Jim make Jackson’s the huge success they’ve become. Thanks for the shout out Mara!

  6. That food makes my mouth water – so delicious-looking! Thank you for joining us on #IGTravelThursday!

  7. Wowzer, that chicken looks amazing – would love to go there and try these :)

  8. I love to go to places with beers on tap. I find when I travel, little places like these are golden. Thanks for linking up with us this week.

  9. I’m enjoying these recent posts of Milwaukee as we lived here as newlyweds for four years. My husband is also a fan of those cheese curds ;-) Milwaukee is such a great city and easy to get around, especially with children.

  10. I absolutely love Milwaukee but it’s been FOREVER since I’ve been there. This post brought back many fabulous memories. Love it! Thanks for linking up on Skimbaco….glad I found your blog!

  11. That food looks amazing, I really want to go to Jacksons now :)

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