A historic building at the Capitol Square end of State Street again has a new tenant.
Owner Nathan Mergen chose to use the business address, 107 State Street, as the name of his new, upscale bar and grill.
He opened the restaurant in mid-June, replacing Freiburg Tap Haus, which lasted about a year in the attractive space. Before that, it had been home to Capital Tap Haus and later to Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus.
We’re not sure why restaurants have such a hard time in this spot. It’s a prime location, but there is a lot of competition in the area.
The restaurant/bar combo’s new home is in a handsome room with a long bar on one side and dark-wood booths along the opposite wall. The narrow space has an attractive back bar, a pressed-tin ceiling, features lots of exposed brick and wood, and has front windows that look out to a patio along State Street.
107 State Street’s classic Wisconsin tavern look and feel comes with a small menu that offers a handful of appetizers, a few salads, six sandwiches and five entrees, along with nightly specials.
The food is reasonably priced, considering the area, with most appetizers at $10 and entrees between $12-$25. An order of braised beef meatballs ($10) includes a baguette and three large meatballs poached in tomato sauce.
The menu features mostly burgers and melts, along with meaty entrees such as a grilled hangar steak ($22), grilled chicken and shrimp ($18) and a thick pork chop ($23).
Nightly specials include a “meatless Monday,” a Friday fish fry ($14.50) and roasted prime rib with a Caesar salad on Saturdays (price not listed).
The bar offers a fine list of draft beers ranging from popular IPAs to American lagers. It also has a nice selection of wine including reds, whites and even sparkling wines. A single-serving bottle of Prosecco, however, was pricey at $12.
A friend and I visited the restaurant on a slow Tuesday night and were among a handful of customers. 107 State exudes a European feel, my companion observed, noting the professional servers and bartenders were middle-aged men as opposed to college students working side jobs. The service was fine, but it was not a challenging night to serve food and drinks.
My friend and I enjoyed the general atmosphere but didn’t care much for the music that played a bit too loudly on the sound system.
We also had mixed feelings about the food. A $14 summer beet salad was a bit of a letdown, especially considering its price. But our entrees were better.
The salad came in a large portion, easily enough for two, and we asked for a second plate for sharing. The salad consisted mostly of beets and arugula with a dried cherry or two, and it was topped with sherry vinegar and olive oil dressing. The dressing was flavorful, as were the beets and arugula. The cherries might have added something, but one or two weren’t enough to have an impact.
A smoked Andouille sausage sandwich ($12) came on a roll with coleslaw and brown mustard. It was messy but tasty with a spicy kick. French fries that came with the order were crispy and fine.
An order of marinated and grilled chicken and shrimp got high marks for the shrimp in particular. They were crispy and strongly flavored, and that made the chicken seem a bit dry and bland in comparison. The order included two large pieces of chicken breast and five prawns served upon a bed of greens. (We later noticed the entrée is listed at $15 on the menu, but we were charged $18. Since we had paid and left before noticing the discrepancy, we let it slide.)
The menu doesn’t list desserts, but by the time my companion and I had devoured our orders, our appetites were sated.
The tavern at 107 State Street is appealing and comfortable. We hope it has better luck than its predecessors and survives in the area’s competitive dining scene.