Courthouse Pub Restaurant Review

1001 S. 8th Street
Manitowoc, WI
Review originally posted 8/11/03

With plate presentations that rival some of the best that I have seen and service that is superior to many places that I have visited, the Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, Wisconsin is certainly a place that I could make a habit of revisiting – several times a year!

The Courthouse Pub in downtown Manitowoc

We were fortunate enough to have had a friend recommend the place to us and made a reservation prior to our short visit to Manitowoc. Located on the corner of South 8th and Washington Streets and directly across the street from the Manitowoc Courthouse, the building certainly appears unremarkable from the street. But upon entering, one is immediately aware that this restaurant is far from unremarkable.

History behind the bar

The first thing that we saw was a huge picture behind the bar of the original building, circa 1860. The deep, dark and rich tones of the mahogany bar along with the austere yet stark and clean lines of the bar tables and chairs gave a professional yet comfortable feel. According to the Courthouse Pub website: “The original two-story building was built in about 1885 and was called F. Willinger’s Beer Hall. During Prohibition the hall was renamed the Court Café, and after Prohibition the bar became the Colonial Inn.” We could sense that this was going to be one fine dining experience.

After a relaxing few minutes at the bar, Heidi and I were led to a room named Jonathan's and the Judges Chambers; seating was relaxed and well spaced. And although we had dressed up for the evening, other diners’ attire ranged from casual to formal. We were immediately supplied with fresh water, butter and warm bread and told that either Angela or Kristin would be our waitperson for the evening.

Kristin

A smiling Kristin soon appeared with a wine list and a request for a cocktail order. We, of course, complied and were soon sipping on martinis and smiling as well. As Kristin was describing the evening’s specials, I could not help but be distracted by the starched white formal shirts and black pants worn by the entire wait staff. It created a professional look that tells the diner the owner is serious about how his restaurant performs.

I snapped back to reality and realized that I had missed part of the explanation Kristin provided about one of the specials. Her polite response displayed extensive knowledge of the menu, along with the ability to speak clearly and distinctly – she was a great salesperson – was yet another sign that the owner had taken the time to properly train the wait staff.

Coconut Shrimp on a Skewer salad

We decided to try a special salad of the evening as an appetizer: Coconut Shrimp on a Skewer, lightly resting on a bed of mixed greens and surrounded by fresh kiwi and strawberries, served with a papaya vinaigrette dressing and topped with freshly grated cheese and macadamia nuts. It made my mouth water all over again just repeating it!

We also ordered the Crab Cakes: 3 small Maryland cakes, lightly spiced and served with a brilliant lobster sauce, nestled atop a bright triangular plate, accompanied by a lemon wedge and a fresh flower. Both appetizers were tremendously well presented and extremely flavorful. But wait, we hadn’t even received our entrees yet!

Crab cakes appetizer with lobster sauce

For a main entrée, Lauren and I both decided to try evening specials. Lauren’s choice was a Hawaiian Wahu, steamed in parchment paper that was tied at the ends. The fish was very light and flaky and served with Hungarian red rice and broccoli. The rice was earthy tasting and nutty. It could have been described as chewy, but that description would lead to a negative view of the rice and we both thought that, although different, it was incredibly good.

My choice was a baked Hawaiian Butterfish that was served with an incredible mango salsa and pearl-sized cous cous. Again, the plate presentations were wonderful. The tastes were simply tremendous. At the point when it was time to present our entrees, Kristin and Angela worked as a team; it seemed that teamwork was one of the trademarks of the Courthouse Pub. We observed it to be taking place throughout the room in which we were seated.

Angela serving the entree

One of the most amazing features of the restaurant was the extensive wine list – and not just because of its length. These wines, especially those that could be ordered by the glass, were wines that one does not normally find on a wine list except maybe in really big cities. Yet here they were. Where else can you get Gundlach Bundschu by the glass? And I would be remiss if I did not point to the fact that the Courthouse Pub has been presented with not one, but two Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator Magazine. We asked Kristin to select two glasses to accompany our dinners. I’m sorry that I do not recall the names of the wines but they were both superlative choices.

By the time we were through with dinner, we were both comfortably stuffed… with no room for dessert. And there were some fine choices! I did however decide to try one of the micro-brews and found it to be delicious. It was an absolutely marvelous evening. Both my wife and I take off our collective hats to the Courthouse Pub: to the excellent wait staff, the imaginative and artful kitchen staff and especially to the owner, John Jagemann. You have redefined the dining experience and have done so in exemplary style. You achieve a 5-star rating in this reviewer’s column!

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