Chow Down In Milwaukee

Restaurant Reviews

The Explorium Brewpub at Southridge Mall

This Monday I found myself strolling through Southridge mall with the love of my life, Margie. We were looking for some last-minute Christmas gifts and ended up discovering how good we must have been as well. All this looking for gifts for others and finding gifts for ourselves led to a great deal of hunger.

It is with good fortune that in addition to a food court, Southridge mall also contains a sit down restaurant, The Explorium Brewpub. It is nestled in the upper level of the mall on the side with Macy’s. When you enter Explorium you are greeted with a wall of merchandise. To be seated you must veer to the right and find the hostess desk. When we arrived, it was rather busy for a Monday evening. In no time at all we were shown to a table and asked what beverages we would like. I appreciated the promptness of the service. Margie stuck with her usual water and a Pepsi. I, however, could not resist the Coconut Rum BA Stout. It is described as an imperial stout aged in coconut rum barrels, then finished with even more organic coconut that is roasted in house. Rum? Coconut? If there was a beer that was perfectly crafted for me that would fit the bill!

The actual brewing operation can be viewed while seated in the dining area. This adds a certain sense of both adventure and intrigue knowing your beverage was created mere feet from where you are seated. In addition, Explorium has what they call a ‘Mug Club’. Yearly membership is $120 and $40 for renewals. With that fee you receive your own mug (several of which are hanging in the restaurant) first mug fill, a t-shirt and a crowler can of your favorite beer. I did not join, but I can see these benefits plus other included discounts could intrigue a regular beer consumer.

One nice feature that Exporium does offer is a choice of sizes for your beer. This includes a great 4 oz size in case you are not confident in your choice. I chose this option as I had not planned to have a libation, but could not pass up a stout, which is my favorite beer, aged in coconut rum barrels and featuring more organic coconut. Considering all the times coconut is mentioned, the flavor was quite mild. It was a bold stout but finished well. It certainly would be a choice I would get again.

Our server, Kristina, was pleasant, friendly and well informed. She was also very honest. If she had not tried a dish or a beverage, she would let us know. She also added what her guests seemed to enjoy. Every question we had about food, beverages or the establishment itself she would answer. If she did not know the answer, she would tell us so and run off to discover the answer. In my visits to conduct food reviews I am always impressed with good customer service.

Margie cajoled me into ordering Fried Cheese Curds. These were described as a heaping pile of proper Wisconsin-style beer battered curds fried and served with a side of ranch dipping sauce. I must confess to not being able to discern the difference between proper and improper cheese curds. I can tell you I would definitely put these into the former category. My issue with fried cheese curds is they tend to be heavy and greasy. These were neither. The batter was light and the whole curd seemed to just melt in your mouth. The ranch sauce was good as well. We also ordered a side of buffalo sauce. I would recommend this as it gave the curds a little extra flavor. Although not needed, it made them even more delicious. We finished them and were left wanting more. That was the last thing I expected when ordering fried cheese curds.

Next Kristina came to take our orders for entrees. Again, she was very helpful with answering our questions and all of the changes made to our dishes. More on that in a moment. She informed us of all our side options and when our order was complete, she repeated it back to us to make sure everything was correct. You could not ask for much more.

Margie ordered the Reuben Sandwich. House-made corned beef sliced thick and pilled high on grilled marble rye bread with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and melted swiss. She chose cheddar mashed potatoes as her side. When the sandwich came, we discovered they were honest about the cut of the corned beef. It was thick, but very tender. I felt the sandwich could have used more sauerkraut and certainly more thousand island. The rye was light and buttery. Toasted to perfection it kept the sandwich together quite well. The potatoes where thick and tasty. It also came with a monkey dish filled with bread and butter pickles. Personally, I prefer dill, but these were good as far as bread and butter pickles are concerned.

I ordered the BLAT Burger. This was a fresh burger topped with crisp honey cured bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. It came on a brioche bun. The bacon did not match the description. It was not crisp, but I was grateful as that is how I prefer my bacon. I also added onion. I was told by Kristina that Explorium offers 3 different kinds of onions, pickled red onion, raw red onion and caramelized onions. I chose the raw and could not have been happier. They were the perfect compliment to an already amazing burger. It was cooked medium just as I had requested and was quite juicy. Although filled with so many delicious ingredients, the burger held together quite well.

For my side I chose French fries. This is odd for me as I prefer to sample other options. The reason I went with fries is that at your table they place a nice jar of malt vinegar. I cannot resist French fries with malt vinegar on them. The fries were thick, just south of what could be considered steak fries. You received a generous amount to enjoy as well. They were not dry and tasted delicious. I would like to explore the option of truffle fries next time I visit.

After our meal was done, we did not have to wait long for our check, but never felt rushed. We did see on the next table a wonderful platter of nachos that are the special on Monday. We will be returning with more people to try them as they are a generous portion as well. At The Explorium Brewpub we were greeted with a spacious yet rustic setting, amazing service and great food. It is slightly pricey, but I feel worth what you spend. They have daily specials and brewery tours that would be interesting to explore. If you find yourself at Southridge mall and in need of refueling for your shopping experience, I would recommend visiting The Explorium Brewpub. I also want to thank my grandma Marlene for encouraging this visit with the wonderful gift card she gave Margie and me.

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