Hidden Gem: Studz Pub
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At age 51, Dean Ratas finally got his "bucket list" job when he opened Studz Pub, a sports bar and grill, at 6833 W. National Ave., in West Allis.
"Ever since I opened this place in 2009 I've been having a second childhood," says Ratas, in his signature booming voice. "And by the way, I'm not yelling. I'm Greek."
And although Ratas has numerous youthful qualities including twinkling eyes, seemingly endless energy and an infectious, easy laugh, he certainly runs the bar like a grownup.
"I've always been an I-dotter and a T-crosser," he says while washing glasses behind the bar, just to help out his bartender, Shelby McCormack.
Studz Pub is clean and well-cared-for and located inside a 100-year-old building with a Depression-era back bar featuring cylindrical-shaped glass. There's also a 30-year-old photo of Ratas taped to the back bar in which he's donning a curly chestnut-colored mullet, thick mustache and the words "My parents said I could be anything I wanted when I grew up so I became an ass*ole."
"I deserve that. I tend to have a potty mouth," he says.
Studz offers a simple but high quality food and drink menu. "We don't get into the new stuff here, none of that froufrou stuff," says Ratas. "It's Miller, Miller Lite, Bud Lite, Korbel, Jack Daniel's, Cuervo, Captain Morgan – you know, the classics."
The food offerings are also classics, with the pizza, fish fry, wings and burgers known as some of the neighborhood's very best. There are also daily specials, including tacos on Tuesdays and meatball subs on Wednesdays.
The pizzas are loaded with fresh meats and veggies and the half-pound burger was so flavorful we forgot to add condiments until after a few bites.
Ratas says it took two years to perfect his fish fry, offered every Friday for $11.95.
"We have it down to a system now. We get the fish on Tuesday or Wednesday, we strain out the moisture on Thursday and we change out our oil every Friday and then thinly bread it and fry it when it's ordered," he says. "We never bread it ahead of time. This is one of the reasons our fish fries come out really good."
Ratas says he knows he doesn't make a lot of money serving food – his profits come from alcohol sales – but that doesn't phase him in the least.
"I want to give my customers good, quality stuff. If we buy Italian beef I want the best Italian beef I can get. Even if I don't make any money on that Italian beef sandwich, I don't care, because I want people to be satisfied because that's why they come back."
And come back they do. Ratas knows the name of 90 percent of the people who walk through the door and introduces us to everyone.
"This place is like a box of chocolates from the Forrest Gump movie: you never know what the f*ck you're gonna get in this place," says Ratas. "And that's what I love about it. I appreciate everyone who comes through this door: black, white, green, straight, gay, a sports fan, not a sports fan. I don't care. My goal is to make people smile or laugh a little bit every day. I always say to my girls, 'If you have health, if you have friends and you have laughter you are a very rich person.'"
McCormack has tended bar at Studz for almost two years and confirms Ratas' statement. "Dean is a cut-up and he's a lot of fun, but he's also a really good, genuine and generous person," says McCormack. "It's easy to come to work for such a great guy."
Ratas was born and raised by Greek-American parents in Wauwatosa and loved sports since he was a child. "Baseball, football, basketball, tennis. I started golfing at 5," he says. "Sports are a big reason why this bar is so important to me. Why it was always on my bucket list."
After graduating from Wauwatosa West High School (Go Trojans!) in 1976, Ratas went on to work as a liquor rep for many years before opening Studz. He is the father of five children and has been married to Susan, whom he describes as "the love of my life and an incredible woman," for 20 years.
"I don't think I will ever retire. I'm gonna keep doing this and when the big guy in the sky is ready to take me, well, then I'll go," says Ratas.
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