Greendale — For Southridge Mall shoppers, or for those who view the complex for its nightlife, Explorium Brewpub serves up a new choice.
Upon entering from inside the mall, a host stand is off to the side. Owner Mike Doble said that was designed so there is no "gatekeeper" for those wanting to just go to the bar.
Explorium, which opened Jan. 25, takes up about 6,000 square feet on the upper level of the mall, 5300 S. 76th St. The brewpub features about 80 dining seats and additional 10 at the bar. When the weather cooperates, an additional 100 seats will be offered outside.
The outside area includes lights, music and a firepit area where customers can smoke a branded cigar offered from an in-house humidor. Doble said the firepit space is away from the food service area, and trellises will be put in to create a windbreak. However, if the smoke becomes a problem, he said it'll be restricted to later hours.
"We're all about the guest experience," Doble said. "It has to be pleasant for everybody."
Inside is a full-service bar with eight core offerings, eight seasonals and eight from local breweries as well as some originals from Explorium.
Additionally, the brewpub will offer eight wines on tap: four red and four white. There's also a full liquor bar.
For designated drivers or those who don't want to drink alcohol, Explorium has many offerings such as on-tap cider, fermented tea, iced tea, cold-brew coffee and soda.
"We've got some interesting stuff that a nonalcoholic consumer can drink," Doble said.
Along the walls are large windows that show brewers at work making beer. Grains are pumped up from the basement with a conveyor system for the on-site brewery.
"People can see what's going on, but we have it behind glass so the brewers can stay focused on getting their jobs done," Doble said.
He called it a "logistical nightmare" to get the on-site brewing set up, but said it was worth it.
"There have been some challenges, but I couldn't be happier," Doble said.
Brewery tours will be offered on Saturdays. One offered during lunch time will be a basic hour tour and cost $10. In the afternoon, a second, more in-depth, tour will be offered which will include a presentation. Doble said the second tour is more technical and may benefit people like home-brewers who can learn how Explorium brews on a commercial scale.
When it comes to food, the standout feature at Explorium is the fire pizza oven. In addition to pizza, other typical offerings include pretzels, wings, flatbreads and burgers.
"It's a broad-spectrum American menu," Doble said.
Because Doble wanted to offer more than mostly fried options, hummus, a mixed cheese and meat tray, and yogurt cheese is also offered. Some of the main menu items include fish and chips and a chophouse menu.
Doble's favorite item is the mussels. Explorium offers three varieties, but Doble's favorite is the curry version based off an old family recipe.
Doble called the pricing mid-range.
A pub in a mall
Doble said he was called to look at the mall space, even though he was originally looking for a historic building. He said he has a friend who owns space in the food court and the more he thought about it, the more sense it made. Explorium offers a text wait list system and Doble said while people wait for a table they can shop rather than just sit around.
"There's a great built-in customer base, and it's very easy to find," Doble said, adding that most know where to find Southridge Mall.
The mall itself closes at 9 p.m. but the brewpub will remain open later. In general, Explorium will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with possible midnight closures on Friday and Saturday if customer count warrants, Doble said. The menu will be slightly restricted later in the night, but a happy hour will be offered from 9 to 11 p.m. with beers a dollar off.
Doble said he's hired about 60 people so far. A week of training has taken place with a few soft openings to "shake out the kinks." He said a few menu items were adjusted based on feedback and experiences during training.
Exploring name options
This is the one and only Explorium Brewpub. Doble said he formerly worked at the Tampa Bay Brewing Co., which his family also owns and runs. He said Explorium was loosely modeled after the Tampa Bay Brewing Co., but has been decorated and branded differently.
He said he and his wife wanted to create a warm and inviting, true pub feel and spent weeks trying to come up with a name. Their first name choice was already taken, so after a few more weeks, Doble's wife awoke in the middle of the night with the idea of calling it the Exploratorium, which was eventually shortened to Explorium. Doble said the idea was to tie it into reaching out and exploring new tastes.
"If you explore something different, try it and taste it, maybe you'll find you like it," Doble said.