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John Hawks Pub's British Comfort Food

River views, comfy bar add to the charm

Apr. 5, 2012
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John Hawks is a British-themed pub that has long been one of Downtown's most popular places for casual fare. Robert Bell founded Hawks in 1971 in a spot two blocks away from its current location. The move to today's spot on Wisconsin Avenue, which occurred in 1990, allowed the pub to expand to larger quarters in a new building. Last year Bell sold the business to Brian Ward, owner of Ward's House of Prime. Ward has made a few changes to the interior and the menu, but John Hawks largely remains the same.

The setting is still pleasing, as you enter the lobby, cross the marble floors and head down a wide, carpeted stairway. Further inside you will find dark woodwork and many booths. For those who prefer more light, there is a wall of windows and an outdoor dining terrace overlooking the Milwaukee River. This is one of the RiverWalk's prime spots.

Before the ownership change, the menu could have been described as “barely British.” And while that still holds true for most of the appetizers, salads and sandwiches, the back of the menu offers British pub fare in a section titled “Comfort Food.” Here you will find the likes of pot roast, chicken potpies and fish & chips.

Also, the appetizers do offer a pair of Scottish eggs ($7.49) and curry chips ($5.49). The eggs are hard-boiled and coated with a layer of pork sausage. The chips are wedge potato fries with a curry that is gentle and mild, yellow with the color of turmeric.

A few soups are offered as well. French onion and chicken with dumplings are joined by a soup of the day. Chicken with dumplings ($2.99-$4.99) is a sound choice, with plenty of small dumplings.

The “Comfort Food” section also offers a tasty shepherd's pie ($12.49), a big, hearty bowl filled with ground beef, peas, carrots and onions over garlic mashed potatoes. English curry is prepared as a vegetarian dish ($9.99) or with chicken ($12.99). The vegetarian offering features zucchini, carrot and onion served over a choice of rice pilaf or English chips.

Another choice is the entrée of baby back ribs ($13.49-$19.99). Tender meat falls from the bone and the Guinness barbecue sauce has a sweet tang.

The sandwiches lean toward American fare, with a Reuben, pulled pork, bratwurst, chicken breasts and Angus burgers among the choices.

In a new touch from the owner, there is Ward's prime rib ($10.49). Thin, well-done slices of prime rib are piled on a hoagie roll with onions and mushrooms and melted provolone cheese. It's a local take on a Philly cheesesteak.

Lunchtime attracts the Downtown business crowd. For those in a hurry, there is a small deli with pre-made sandwiches.

Evenings tend to be more casual. A game room makes the place family-friendly, and the bar is a good spot for adults to enjoy a pint of Guinness.

When the weather is warm, the RiverWalk terrace is the place to be. On a clear day you can look across the river and spot the bronze statue of Gertie the Duck.

John Hawks Pub

100 E. Wisconsin Ave.

(414) 272-3199


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