BROOKINGS – “We’ve finally opened, after being established in 2018,” said Eric Miller, chef and director of operations for Wilbert’s Alehouse, with a hearty laugh.
“We’re open for reservations only, 5 to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.”
Reservations can be made into the future, and some lunch-group reservations are being taken on a case-by-case basis.
“Very soon, as soon as I get a few more staff on hand, we’ll open on Sunday night. We’ll open from 11 (a.m.) to whatever, every day of the week. That’s the goal here soon,” Miller said.
While the eatery closes at 9 p.m., watering hole service remains open.
For now the capacity for seated dining is 48, a reduction brought on by the demands of coping with COVID-19, such as social distancing. There is a larger room, soon to be set up, that could accommodate overflow diners. A best-case post-coronavirus scenario would allow serving up to about 130 patrons.
Miller said that Wilbert’s has no dress code per se; he trusts his customers to dress according to what would be appropriate for the occasion they’re celebrating.
Meanwhile, Wilbert’s staff of 35 employees continues with its catering business, for events such as wedding receptions and fundraiser events.
Keeping it local
“I’m doing as much local as I can, and then regional and international,” Miller said of his approach to victualing Wilbert’s.
Its menu is touted as featuring hand-cut steaks, small plates to share, succulent lamb entrees, and comprehensive beer, wine and cocktail lists. Beef will come from South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska; trout will come from a local trout farm.
“We’re going to offer good steaks and seafood. Fresh, fresh, fresh,” he added. “I’m going to hit the Farmers Market on Saturdays.”
Miller will also be patronizing Berndt Family Produce, Elkton Locker & Grocery, and the Hy-Vee Bakery.
Wilbert’s will serve wines from Schadé Vineyard & Winery in Volga and With the Winds Vineyard & Winery in Rosholt. Beer and ale for Wilbert’s 10 taps will be purchased from Wooden Legs Brewery in Brookings, August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm, Minnesota, and Ben’s Brewing Company in Yankton. The bar will also have a complete liquor selection.
Wilbert’s is one of a three-part operation under the Den-Wil Hospitality Group umbrella as the Wilbert Square Event Center, 931 25th Ave. Located at the center itself are the Comfort Suites University, 100 units, and Wilbert’s Alehouse, billed by Den-Wil as “Brookings’ newest upscale dining establishment with a full bar.”
A hospitality pro
Miller, a native of Sisseton and now living in Watertown, brings a wealth of culinary arts and hospitality training and experience to Wilbert’s. He’s a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Minneapolis; following that he did an internship in Rome.
He then came back to the United States, saved up his money and went a second time to Italy “and worked over there.”
He followed that with an Italian restaurant in Seattle. Then came Minneapolis, where he worked at Jax Café. He was with the Minervas Group, which sent him to Kahill’s Chop House at the Marina Inn in South Sioux City, Nebraska.
He taught culinary arts and hospitality for the Job Corps, in Denison, Iowa; his students had a 97.6 percent job placement rate for his students. “I sent multiple students to advanced training in California,” Miller said.
Additional information on Wilbert’s can be found by going online to www.wilbertalehouse.com.
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]