Grill control, people. It’s evident in the Stamm Burger.
The Old Stamm House became 1847 at the Stamm House in 2015 after extensive renovation, and it’s been becoming 1847 at the Stamm House ever since. Chef changes, managerial changes, menu changes — only the slightly hifalutin name has remained.
When 1847 temporarily closed in July 2016, a year to the day after publication of Isthmus’ first review, chef Nick Johnson had already exited. There has been another chef change since the reopening in October, but the style of the new menu — less modernist cuisine and more supper club of yore — is what the kitchen is sticking with.
It’s a credit to the whole operation that none of that turmoil is apparent when dining at the restaurant. The space is cozy and beautiful, all nooks and crannies on the first floor and an open floor plan on the second. The restaurant is available for private event booking, which seems a smart use of the large space and additional bar upstairs.
A supper-clubby menu is bound to focus on comfort foods, a lot of steaks and chicken and calorie-dense side dishes. 1847 does not disappoint in this regard. A six-ounce tenderloin, though underseasoned, was ordered to medium-rare and it came out right in the medium-rare bullseye, trimmed and seared neatly. The surf to its turf — three grilled shrimp — were slightly overdone but fine.
If I can quibble, I would say that the plating is still on the fussy side from time to time. The steak, shrimp and a vegetable side dish made up an entirely adequate portion, but the billboard-sized platter made everything look small and delicate. On the other hand, a modest heap of Wisconsin-caught smelt, fried darkly but with excellent flavor, competed with battered french fries for space on a fairly small plate.
The cast iron skillet nicely hosted the generous serving of piping-hot mac and cheese. Both a starch and a vegetable side are included with all steaks; the brussels sprouts described as “crispy” on the menu were definitely not.
I’d go so far as to say the grill control is one of 1847’s strongest suits. To wit: the Stamm burger. Now, the patty itself is fine, not much to speak of. But when I read “crispy cheese curds” as a topping, I think, that’s a little ballpark concession stand for a supper club, no? And surely, they won’t be crispy by the time it gets to my table.
What I received was a large, messy burger topped with a small handful of fresh, white curds that had been set on the griddle, allowed to partially melt together and really, seriously brown up on one side. Fascinating. I’ve never seen it done like this before. It’s possible that the burger is worth it solely to experience those curds. The burger also appears on a brunch menu that’s available Saturday and Sunday.
But there are better bets that go beyond novel cheese deployment. The trout isn’t just one fillet but two with, no surprise, a crisp layer of skin on one side, alongside a mess of quite garlicky spinach. A portion of fried lake perch that briefly and erroneously landed at our table looked impressive, too. The chunky whitefish chowder delivered a hearty, warming vibe. So did the potato cheese pierogi. You don’t see a lot of pierogi around town, shame. These are seared hard and brown, toasty and hot. Made in-house, these are a nice share to start a meal.
Chicken pot pie is available as a Thursday night special, and the king-sized blanket of golden brown puff pastry on top is something to see. The filling is a touch thin, but not lacking for chicken and good seasoning. A good wedge salad is expected of a steakhousey supper club, and 1847’s, while tweaked a little from the standard, still satisfies.
The attitude, the vibe of 1847 at the Stamm House is ultimately what’s been undergoing the most renovation over the last seven months, and it’s very nearly there. The kitchen has pushed through some tough circumstances to deliver truly enjoyable food.
1847 at the Stamm House
6625 Century Ave., Middleton n 608-203-9430, 1847stammhouse.com, $8-$43, 4:30-9 pm Mon.-Thurs., 4:30-10 pm Fri., 10 am-2 pm and 4:30-10 pm Sat., 8 am-2 pm Sun., First floor is handicapped-accessible.