Our first stop was at the Thirsty Pagan Brewery, a brewpub that succeeded the old Twin Ports Brewery in 2006. The building is a former creamery and became a brewery in 1999. Yet the interior, including some old time beer murals on the walls, give the appearance the pub had been operational for sixty years or more. An interesting factoid we discovered after our visit was that Twin Ports Brewing began at the Choo Choo Pub & Grill, another Superior hometown favorite we are profiling here.
Two blocks away from the Thirsty Pagan (at the corner of Broadway & Tower Avenues) is the Red Mug Coffee House (at the corner of Broadway & Hammond avenues. Like the Thirsty Pagan, the interior of the Red Mug is eclectic and gives the appearance the operation has been at this location forever. While quality coffee and expresso is their signature offering, the Red Mug serves a decent breakfast and lunch menu of pasties, cereal, soups, sandwiches, and salads. A selection of craft brews and wine is also available. Music and an art gallery add interest and atmosphere.
A more recent candidate for best burgers in Superior is the Shack Smokehouse & Grill. Our first sample of their standard burger passed the test. We look forward to returning to try some of their specialty burgers. See our review near the bottom of this page.
Thirsty Pagan Brewery
< < < In addition to its excellent micro-brews, Thirsty Pagan is known to serve among the best pizzas in the Twin Ports area. It is a nice, goopy, Chicago style deep dish pizza served hot at your table on an unique bottle cork insulated serving tray (see picture). We had the TBS (Thirsty Pagan Special) which is essentially pizza with the works: pepperoni and italian sausage plus onions, green peppers, mushrooms, cheese and sauce. Jo felt the crust wasn't as thick as other Chicago style pan pizza's . . . a fact she liked. Very good and quite filling. We had left overs from a 13 inch pizza. Thisty Pagen's Pizza fits nicely between the pie of Supreme and that of Gronks. Shamrock's pizza is greasy good with a soft crust requiring utensils to eat. Gronks' pizza is a thin, hard crust with veggies done just right and easy to eat by the slice.
The Pagan's main pub room has a corner bandstand for local musicians. On this day, most people were engrossed in conversations and enjoying their pizzas and brews, with the music very much in the background. Can be a tough gig for a musician who is used to be the center of attention..
Red Mug Coffee House
Although we were there for breakfast, I gather the Mug is a popular lunch spot too. The menu featured a number of tasty sounding sandwiches and wraps, some with panini bread, and soups and salads as well. Lots of organic, whole grain, fresh veggie, goat cheese, "green" this and that, clearly marking the place as a politically and nutritionally correct establishment, yet it also had very welcoming neighborhood feel to it. The art on the walls and the adjacent gallery plus a regular music calender featuring folk and jazz completes the quintessential Coffee House atmopshere.
While a number of customers were ordering carry-out, there's lots of space inside with a choice of oak tables with mismatched but comfortable chairs, stools at a bar suitable for laptops, and comfortable stuffed chairs & sofas. The layout invites people to stay a while and enjoy the ambience as well as food and drinks. The Red Mug also offers free Wi-Fi as well as two Internet terminals for the use of customers. We found this handy and a safer and speedier connection than what we have experienced at chain restaurants like McDonalds. This is also a small outdoor cafe area.
Looking forward to a return visit and trying one of those sandwiches.
Choo Choo Bar & Grill
Jo ordered the standard burger with lettuce, tomatoes, and raw onions. She elected the side salad for 99 cents more instead of the standard fries. I decided to try their Friday Fish Fry. The burger held its own against the best of the Anchor Bar and Gronks. The burger was nice and meaty, grilled properly, with generous portions of trimmings. The side salad was quite large, crisp, with a decent variety of vegatables. My fish fry had two large cod fillets and not overly breaded. The fries were lightly cooked, tasted more like mashed potatoes. Like the burgers, my side of cole slaw seemed homemade vs. mass-produced, with chopped regular and purple cabbage and just the right amount of dressing. By the way although they have a decent selection of burgers, there is a broad variety of entres similar to what you'd find in a supper club.
My only complaint about The Shack was their usual decent-sized beer menu was quite abbreviated. The bar is being remodeled and apparently they are short on cooler space. But the Grain Belt I had, after finding out my first four choices were not available, was a decent brew. Our friendly wait staffer, Trudy, told us she has been working there for 32 years. That lines up with it being a family run restaurant with a strong local following.
Superior, Wisconsin Camping