Downtown Abbey

new Menomonie pub offers cozy, old-world vibe

Betty Nikia, photos by Timothy Mather

TASTY ATMOSPHERE. For pub food, the Abbey offers three sandwiches – Hot Ham, Hot Italian Beef, and Pulled Pork, all served with a choice of signature sauces, including poppy seed and horseradish.
TASTY ATMOSPHERE. For pub food, the Abbey offers three sandwiches – Hot Ham,
Hot Italian Beef, and Pulled Pork, all served with a choice of signature sauces,
including poppy seed and horseradish.

A new pub has risen from the metaphorical ashes of Ba Da Bingz in Menomonie, opening its doors on Jan. 24. The Abbey Pub & Grub at 414 Main St. E. gives nod to elements of monastery style, as well as Irish and English pubs. Co-owner Abbey Schmaling says, “It took us eight months to completely gut and restore the main floor.”

The pub was scheduled to open in 2012, but some structural issues needed attention. Much of the demolition was done by the owners with the help of family and friends. The concrete bar top and stamped, acid-stained concrete floor were freelanced and embedded with heated coils. One of the coils runs along the front of the bar for maximum belly warmth. The renovation revealed some pleasant surprises, including the newly exposed brick wall dating back to 1883, and old rugby photos and dated copies of The Stoutonia found in the walls.

The DIY approach to the project and Abbey’s time at UW-Stout in industrial design contribute to some signature characteristics in the pub. Old doors have been flipped horizontally and turned into tables, including one for large groups in the front with a cozy pew at the end, which looks out over Lake Menomin. Peaked archways curve between the bar stools and the main table area and provide deep-set window coves. The wide black chandeliers look like they were just dropped off from the blacksmith’s shop. “We brought in most of the old antiques from southeastern Wisconsin. That is where I am from,” says Schmaling. “So one door is from a mansion in Lake Geneva. Another set is from an old church in Chicago.” The arch and cabinetry behind the bar are also joined together with mixed elements from both an antiques dealer in southern Wisconsin and pieces from Dell’s Architectural Antiques in Eau Claire. Once the snow melts, Schmaling says that they will be remodeling the patio for outdoor dining. After that is done, they will focus on renovating the basement.

While creating the business, they posted an online design contest for the logo, which brought in submissions from around the world. “The winner (Gia Kenza) is actually from Indonesia.” Schmaling says. They don’t want to be strictly tied to a theme, so the logo more subtly reflects hybrid elements of monasteries and the feel of pubs in Eastern Europe. Someone asked if the wait staff wear monk’s robes and habits, but The Abbey is not a “theme” pub a la Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. It is a contemporary interpretation of historical elements, tempered with the modern conveniences of four flat-screen televisions and an onsite ATM, which creates a sense of place and belonging. “People keep trying to put ‘Irish’ in front of the pub, but it’s not specifically Irish,” laughs Schmaling. “I let them think what they want.”

The Abbey offers a limited menu, which remains small for now, and plans to expand it as space and budget permit. It includes three sandwiches – Hot Ham, Hot Italian Beef, and Pulled Pork. They are served with The Abbey’s signature sauces (poppy seed dressing or horseradish sauce – Cajun and regular), a choice of cheese (Swiss, pepper jack, provolone, or cheddar), kettle chips, pickle wedge, and their very own interpretation of a Tequila Berry salad – a broccoli-cauliflower coleslaw with bacon bits that has the tiniest allusion to strawberry. Sidenote: my mom and I stopped in to try the food and it is officially “mom-approved.” The two-person consensus is that it’s delicious classic comfort food which avoids being overpowering as bar food is often wont to do. We are also in love with the coleslaw because it is fresh and has no onions.

In addition to the pub grub, The Abbey features 16 tap beers including Lucette and Lazy Monk. There is also an expanded selection of whiskeys and scotches for more discerning clientele. Increasingly popular is the everyday special called Squirrely Times: a take on the Old Fashioned made with Early Time whiskey, Squirt, and bitters.

“We want to provide a warm, clean environment for people to socialize,” says Schmaling. “So far we have had a local, young professional crowd for happy hour and early evening, and the college crew after 10pm.”

If Chelsy Broussard is any indication, the customer service is tops. “It’s been like a breath of fresh air since this opened,” says Broussard. “It’s been really fun and Abbey is so great to work for. We’re really excited to be open.”

The Abbey is at 414 Main St. E. in Menomonie and is open 11am to bar close Mon-Sun, with a Happy Hour from 4:00-8:00pm. For more information and daily specials, check out their Facebook Page at The Abbey Pub & Grub or call (715) 235-5100.