Blackthorn Pub - A Sunday Funday

I look forward to Sunday mornings each week. In my opinion it's the best day of the week, because I am able to go out, enjoy myself, and then come back home to relax for the rest of the day. Brunch is constantly on my mind from Friday afternoon until I wake up on Sunday morning. Lately, since I have been to so many different places around the city, I find myself looking for new places to visit to do reviews. This is what happened one recent Sunday morning.

Having so many new places to check out around the city, I made up a short list of restaurants that I thought would be a good spot for me and some friends to check out for brunch. Blackthorn Pub was top of the list, since I really love Irish Pubs. Since opening in May of this year, I have not heard much about the pub, but they approached me on Twitter and asked me to come and visit them one Sunday morning. I thought this would be fun to check out another completely new place.

Arriving downtown, I pulled up to the corners of Mason and Jefferson and found an open parking spot. Blackthorn Pub sits on the corner opposite of George Watt's Tea Shop and the Pfister Hotel. The entire corner of the building is windows that look into the dark, rich wood interior. There are TVs on almost every wall surrounding the large bar, and on my visit, the Packers game was on them. Looking around, there weren't that many people in the restaurant, but then again, they did just start offering brunch.

Out with me for brunch on this occasion was Andrew and my friends Tony and Nicole. We were quickly seated once we arrived and took a moment to look around. There was something that just didn't seem right. Showing on the TV was the Packers game, but the sound coming out of the speakers was a shark show on a different channel. This apparently took some time to fix, although it was funny to hear seagulls and waves crashing while we were watching the teams go head-to-head at Lambeau.

Our server came to our table and took our drink order. Andrew and Nicole ordered the bloody mary ($5), while Tony and I chose the mimosas. We ordered coffees and water for the whole table as well. Our server came back after a couple of minutes to tell Tony and I the bar did not have champagne to make the mimosas. We decided to order screwdrivers (orange juice and vodka) with a splash of Sprite ($6) instead. Within a couple minutes, our server came back to the table and served Andrew and Nicole their bloody marys. Andrew thought they were good, but a little spicy for his tastes. Nicole thought they were good and spicy enough for her. The drinks were served with a nugget of cheese, beef stick, olive, pickle and lemon wedge. The drinks did look good and were served in branded "Blackthorn" glasses. Tony and my screwdrivers came to the table a couple of minutes later with our waters as well. No waters for Andrew and Nicole. They had to ask for them again.

Normally, I try to take the photos with all the drinks in them. However, this time, the coffee was not coming out to the table in enough time. So I took the photo above without the coffee. Actually there was coffee that was served (two at a time), but the glasses were covered in drips and were obviously not washed before being filled and brought to the table. We kindly asked for new coffee cups. Once coffee did come back out to the table, we had been at the table for almost 30 minutes and had already ordered our food. Once coffee was brought to the table, Tony asked for some cream and sugar, Splenda preferably. Our server brought out what appeared to be a soup cup filled with milk and some sugar and Equal. Tony wondered, was he supposed to pour the milk into his cup? Instead, we all just spooned milk into our coffee. At this point, our brunch became comical: wrong sound for the football game, drinks being delivered two at a time with long pauses in the middle, dirty coffee cups and now milk in a soup cup.

But that was only the beginning. Our food started to come to the table after about a 45 minute wait. I had ordered the Blackthorn Plate ($9). The dish is described to be an egg, hash browns, corned beef hash, toast with a choice of sausage or bacon. I decided to try the sausage. What was presented to me was a mish-mash of different items thrown on the plate. The corned beef was burnt and over cooked, and it was sitting next to cold hash browns. The egg was cooked over hard, as I had asked, but it was broken up in pieces and falling off the plate. There was no sausage on the plate. That item must had been completely forgotten. I had a couple of bites of it, however at this point of the dining experience, I was not pleased.

Andrew had ordered the Classic Benny ($7).  He had the choice of the corned beef hash, bacon or sausage for a side and chose the hash. His plating was even more ridiculous. Rather than cramming all the items on one plate as the kitchen had done with my food, Andrew's food was divided onto two separate dishes. Once he tried the Benedict it was cold, and the has was over cooked and burnt for him as well.

Since Andrew and I had been served first, we waited for Tony and Nicole's food to come to the table. This wait took almost five minutes. We could also see our server standing at the other side of the bar standing with the other staff chatting while we waited.

By the time Tony and Nicole's food came to the table, I did not have a chance to take a photo. They dove into their food—which was served 50 minutes after we had walked in the door.

Nicole had ordered the "Omlette Built by You" ($8). She chose to have sausage, mushroom and cheddar omlette with a side of hash browns and toast. However, once she started to eat, she noticed that there was no sausage in her omlette and the mushrooms were not cooked. Rather than wait longer for a new one, she said something to our server and just ate what was in front of her. She also had to ask for her toast to be delivered to the table.

Tony chose the Thorn Cakes ($6) with a side of bacon. Once his food arrived, there was no maple syrup, butter—just a plate with three plain pancakes on it (the menu said four) and a side of cold bacon. Tony asked for the bacon to go back, heated up and asked for syrup and butter. What finally showed up to the table was a small plastic cup of maple syrup and chunks of cold butter. That bacon never did make it back to the table.

In the meantime, none of our drinks had been refilled or refreshed. We were all low on one drink or another, and so we flagged down the hostess as she was walking around. We explained about our dining experience and asked for more drinks. Our server came back to the table and re-took our drink order. Andrew asked for another bloody mary along as did Nicole, however Andrew wanted his not so spicy. We all wanted warm-ups on our coffee.

Our server came back to the table with two bloody marys—both of which had no spice. Nicole was not happy at this point, since her bloody was one of the redeeming point of the morning for her.

The owner came over to our table as we neared the end of our meal and told us that the food and coffee was on him. We only were asked to pay for our drinks. He did present us with a gift certificate and asked us to come back. The gift certificate was for $15—half the dollar amount of what we ordered. We kindly asked for the check and waited for our server.

She handed us our bill and we were shocked. The ticket had Tony's pancakes on it and $8 bloody marys, not $5. The total was $56. We flagged down our server to come and check on the prices and items on the bill. Once she returned, our total bill was $35. We settled up the bill and headed home.

I understand that every restaurant has off days, and sometimes minor errors can be overlooked. However, this dining experience was a "perfect storm" of problems. From cold food to dirty cups—inconsistent service to missing food items, this was probably one of the worst brunches I have ever had. The one glimmer of hope: we only had to pay for what we enjoyed, the bloodys and screwdrivers. Without them, the whole experience would have been lost.

What have been your experiences at Blackthorn Pub? What are some other good entrees? Respond below in the comments!

All the details you want to know: (on a five star rating)

Blackthorn Pub (*)
750 North Jefferson Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 837-5511
Blackthorn Pub on Urbanspoon

Brunch hours:
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Atmosphere: * (poor)
So bright with all the windows to have such a dark wooded interior. Also, the TVs were too loud with the wrong audio from what was on the screen.

Food: * (poor)
Cold, missing items, burnt, inconsistent

Service: * (poor)
Slow to serve food and drinks, did not pay attention to drinks or presentation of food

Drinks: * (poor)
Mimosa - no champagne (*)
Bloody Mary - good, but not made consistently (*)

Price: n/a
Did not pay for a brunch, just a Sunday Funday of booze and with some sort of food.


JenInTosa said...

Wow... I guess that's why I've never heard of Blackthorn Pub & Grill...

Tony said...

As a hospitality/restaurant professional, I will say that this was up there as one of the worst dining experiences of my adult life... a rollercoaster of emotions- amused, angry, frustrated, mildly inebriated to drown out how upset I was, etc...
The one redeeming factor of the day- considering we got all our food for free, I took the money I would've spent on brunch and bought myself a cute new argyle cardigan!!!

Anonymous said...

This mirrors a similarly horrific experience at the Hi Hat. Note to self: don't go to the Blackthorn.

tom said...

maybe this can be a learning experience to turn around or they will find out the hard way, bad service will put you out of business real fast.

I bet the owner/manager had a nice talk with the staff after reading this review....they did invite you after all!!! OUCH

Joe said...

Just like JeninTosa i have never heard if this place. Now I don't care to...

Blackthorn Pub & Grill said...

The management and staff of Blackthorn sincerely apologize for the experience you had at our establishment. For circumstances beyond his control, our head chef was not available this past Sunday. The food of our head chef normally stands on its own as a work of art.

As for the service, we have taken this review as a candid reflection on how we are doing and plan to make the necessary adjustments to ensure this experience is never duplicated.

To all those that have yet to try us out - if you have seen this review and would like to give us the benefit of the doubt - mention this article during your next visit to us and you will receive 10% off your total food bill.

Chris G. said...

Thanks, Blackthorn, for commenting. This brunch experience wasn't the best, but I thank you for taking the time to read the review and make the needed changes. I will be back for a follow up review at some point in the coming weeks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the writer for being honest. I had a similar poor experience my first time trying Black Thorn (poor service on a Sunday). I decided to give it another shot and actually suggested to some friends that we try it (a few weeks later), only to be let down and embarrassed for suggesting it. Poor service again, our server was seemingly on another planet and the music was so incredibly loud we could not hear across the table even if we were yelling....There are too many great places with good service in MKE to go back and give this another shot. Bummer!

John Fischer said...

I've been there for lunch 3 times and the service has always been average to poor. The food is okay, not bad, but nothing special. The staff seems more concerned with socializing amongst themselves than making sure you're taken care of. I gave it a few times because I knew they hadn't been open long, but I'm done.

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