Sep 11, 2020

Noshing at the Norbert, West Bend, Wis.

When my work took me to the quiet and cozy community of West Bend in southeastern Wisconsin, I quickly discovered the best downtown pub and grub for comforting food and drink.  Then, I found the best place for a funky, far out far-Eastern food experience.  But if you really want to know where the finest dining and drinking experience in West Bend is, I’d have to tell you to go to the Norbert


The Norbert is one of those rare places that excels at all things trendy yet feels timeless, thus never losing its appeal.   From its location on the east side of West Bend’s historic downtown Main Street, the Norbert seems to be the hub of downtown activity on any given night.     

From the moment you walk in, the place oozes charm, sophistication and fun all at once.  If there’s one place in West Bend you want to take a first date, I’d pick here.  The surroundings, whether it’s the refurbished ceiling, the chandelier lighting or the curtains that provide a little extra privacy if wanted, make the experience feel just a little special. 

Yes, the place does seem to openly try to look trendy, and I have to admit I was slightly puzzled to run into a portrait of Audrey Hepburn inside the men’s room.

But I have to admit that re-purposing an old steamer trunk for storing hand towels and toilet paper is a pretty genius idea.

As nice as the table seating is at the Norbert, my comfort zone – especially when traveling solo – is at the bar.  And as you can see, from the sheet metal surface to the provocative art on the back wall it’s every bit as cool as the rest of the place.  The bar also seemed often to be the center of the action at the Norbert, with two bartenders constantly slinging drinks while providing highly attentive food and drink service to everyone seated at their station. 

By now, you’ve rightly realized the bar at the Norbert is definitely not your average shot and beer establishment – not that you couldn’t create a fine pairing with all they offer.  With 20 craft beers and ciders on tap (not a Miller or Budweiser in the bunch!), the bartenders and servers have to be on their game with their product knowledge.  The wine supply behind the bar is nothing to be ashamed of, either. 

As seen on the drink menu, it makes for a very respectable wine list.  But where this bar – and its bartending staff – shines is with its craft cocktail selection at the top.   


May I suggest the prickly pear paloma, for instance?  Regardless of your choice, after you try one of their signature drinks, you’ll definitely want either a second or want to try branch out with another equally enticing selection.

The food menu is entirely focused on short plates, or tapas if you prefer, but the portions are on the large end of small, so sharing three as a couple is probably just fine.  Or, if you’re dining solo like I was, choose one that reads like a full meal, and maybe complement it with another selection on the lighter side (the watermelon salad, for example, is a very popular choice).  Either way, you can’t go wrong with one of their flatbreads, which are suitable for splitting or a perfect meal for one. 

Keep in mind, this is West Bend, Wis.  So, the dishes they’re offering at the Norbert really show a willingness to be daring.  I ordered the Spanish octopus as my entrée with, frankly, mediocre expectations.  But this dish was impeccable.  I won’t pretend I’ve had octopus very often, but this seemed perfectly grilled.  Combined with a blend of artichoke, tomatoes and olives over a bed of quinoa and topped with a splash of cioppino broth, I could not have been happier with my meal.

The Norbert is not the place to go for something simple. But if you’re looking for a finer dining experience with a trendy touch of class in West Bend Wis., you need to be noshing at the Norbert.     

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