Photographs by Shea Stewart
Brewski’s Pub & Grub is a new sports bar open on Main Street in downtown Little Rock.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Maybe somebody alerted Brewski's Pub & Grub staff that giant-size Jenga was a terrible idea.
Because on a second trip to the new downtown Little Rock sports bar, the despicable, oversize tower of wooden blocks was absent.
Good. Too bad they were there on a first trip, when a nearby table of people was playing the game, which involves sliding wooden blocks out of a tower of blocks and placing them at the top of the tower, creating a progressively taller but wobbly structure that soon crumbles.
Each time the tower collapsed from their high-top table, the dining area was filled with a deafening, shocking boom as wooden blocks went scattering across the dining area.
By the third time the table started the game, I was seriously hoping aloud that when the Jenga tower fell, the roaring tumble of the foundering wooden blocks also would sweep their pile of nachos to the floor as well.
"Die nachos! Die!" I thought.
I get it. Sports bar are loud. People yell and scream at the TV screens. Groups of friends laugh aloud. At least one game broadcast is always blaring. Sometimes there's music. But I don't think sports bars -- on top of the deafening layer of sounds -- need the shock-and-awe crash of oversize Jenga blocks falling with an almighty, thundering crack.
Hopefully, the giant Jenga is gone for good, because beyond a couple of minor problems, my dining experiences at Brewski's Pub & Grub were good and even great at points.
Great? The Juicy Brewski ($11.76), a take on the famed (if you watch Travel Channel or Food Network) Jucy Lucy, a cheeseburger with the cheese stuffed inside the beef patty instead of on top.
Two Minneapolis bars -- Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club -- hold claim to inventing the burger, and Brewski's take is exemplary. A ½ pound, succulent burger, The Juicy Brewski's core is a blend of cheeses with peppers that mirrors the restaurant's queso, with the peppery cheese sauce gushing from the tender Angus beef. Stabilizing the not-too-messy burger was a fluffy but durable brioche bun.
My only problems with the meal were that somewhere in the ordering process of topping the burger with mayonnaise, lettuce and onion, the promised bacon was left out. Plus, I was charged 25 cents for the onion.
The burger is one of seven at Brewski's, and The Juicy Brewski is not even the weirdest one. That would be the Frito Pie Burger ($11.76), which is served open face and topped with shredded cheese, chili, Fritos, diced onion and sour cream.
But maybe the weirdest burger is the Nacho Burger ($11.76), a patty smothered with tortilla strips, beer cheddar cheese sauce, pico de gallo, pickled jalapenos, sour cream, guacamole and lettuce. Then, there's also the Quesadilla Burger ($11.76), which includes the burger patty and fajita-seasoned peppers and onions served between flour tortillas with shredded pepper jack, sour cream, guacamole and salsa on the side.
For burger lovers searching for the usual, there's The All American ($9.76), a simple burger topped with cheese and available with all the fixings.
The five sandwiches on the menu are a little more straightforward, and include an excellent chicken sandwich titled Free Bird ($9.76), a grilled chicken breast which holds its moistness and receives texture touches from bacon and Swiss cheese.
Yes, the Pabst Blue Reuben ($11.76) is a classic Reuben dipped in a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer batter and deep fried, much like the Southern version of the Monte Cristo. While it dances dangerously close into fair food territory, the sandwich works, with the thick and crunchy batter protecting the soft and flavorful layered corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Here, instead of Russian dressing, 1000 Island is served on the side.
On a Brewski's trip I didn't attend, resident Democrat-Gazette Philly cheesesteak expert -- and Philadelphia native -- Eric Harrison ordered the Brewski's Cheese Steak ($11.76), a sandwich he described as "huge and reasonably tasty, even if it's not in any way authentic." The fluffy bun was overloaded with shaved steak, and grilled onions and green peppers (the latter not being authentic) and covered in a thin beer cheese sauce which tasted good but didn't make the sandwich cheesy enough, he reports.
The burgers and sandwiches at Brewski's are served with fries worthy of praise -- crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and sprinkled with a savory seasoning. But a dining companion asking for bottled ketchup for his fries gave rise to another minor problem. He poured a much, much thinner ketchup from the bottle, almost like the ketchup had been watered down.
The menu also includes meals, such as the Mac & Cheese & Chicken ($11.76), a bowl of macaroni and cheese topped with beer-battered chicken tenders. There are salads, too, including a Cobb Salad ($9.76) and a Chicken Caesar Salad ($11.76).
Leaving no base untouched, Brewski's also offers three kinds of tacos: steak, chicken or pork, with four street-styled tacos topped with onion, cilantro and salsa ($8.76).
And yes, there are several appetizers, including the usual-sports-bar-suspect openers such as wings (six piece, $7.76; 12 piece, $13.76; 18 piece, $19.76) and BBQ Nacho Fries ($9.76). The Loaded Queso ($7.76) is a little too thin for my taste and lacks a cheesy punch, but the chili, onions and jalapenos mixed in were a nice touch.
Better was the Buffalo Chicken Skillet Dip ($8.76), with cubes of chicken instead of shredded, but still rich and creamy with a cream cheese base and perfectly spicy thanks to the jalapenos, although the dish could've used a shot or two more of buffalo sauce.
The bar touts signature drinks such as a bloody Mary, and there also are several craft beers -- local and national -- on tap and in cans and bottles, so diners won't go thirsty.
The Main Street space has been two restaurants and a club previously, but Brewski's has claimed the space as a sports bar, with 30 TVs and two projector screens. There also are table games, including shuffleboard, a beer pong table and classic video games such as Galaga.
Plans are in play to open the sports bar for lunch after the first of the year, and Brewski's has transformed its basement space (patrons enter the main room from street level) into a music venue, karaoke spot and club open late.
Speakers for the downstairs area were being tested one weeknight visit, and it was loud, but even that booming, thumping music was better than the unexpected explosion of wood crashing to the floor.
Weekend on 11/09/2017
Brewski’s Pub & Grub
Address: 315 Main St., Suite 100, Little Rock
Hours: 3 p.m.-midnight Monday-Wednesday, 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday
Cuisine: Sports bar
Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D
Alcoholic beverages: Full bar
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
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