Belly up to The Bully

Editor's note: Unfortunately, The Bully has closed. Click here for more information.

When a landmark restaurant closes and a new place opens in the same spot, it’s a bit difficult for patrons to transition from old to new. People are prone to contrasting items or wishing that things were “the way they used to be.” Sure, we all miss The Billy Goat and its peculiarities, but The Bully, the new restaurant and pub at Boyle and Vandeventer avenues, is so different than the space’s former tenant that you won’t even be able to compare it.

The Bully’s menu offers 12 distinct sandwiches, three appetizers, daily soups, a handful of salads and desserts. Let’s start with the fried artichokes. The kitchen has flash-fried the meatiest part of the vegetable and created a succulent appetizer that won’t fill you up before the main course. They’re served sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and with a tart house-made rémoulade that you’ll want to pour on everything else you eat. The hummus, served with pita points, was also excellent. It has a thick consistency (not whipped or liquidy), has a great garlic-to-chickpea ratio, and is easy on the lemon and the salt, which is impressive for homemade hummus.

The wings, described as being “like none other” are just that. Marinated in a “ton” of jalepeño and garlic, these thick-skinned drums and wings are meaty and zesty. On our visit, though, they were cold in the middle, so on one hand you have quality meat and finger-licking flavor, but the rushed preparation morphed a potentially perfect appetizer into a letdown.

You know it’s a going to be a good burger when the waitress doesn’t ask how you’d like it cooked. This tasty half-pound of beef is ground in-house daily, topped with the fixin’s on a honey butter bun bigger than your head, and dressed with any additions you’d like to make: cheese, bacon, mushrooms (a house specialty) or onions. This is one of The Bully’s messier eats, but even the scraps that fall from the sandwich are worth savoring.
The pork sandwich is different from typical pub fare, with grilled loin slices rubbed in coffee grounds, chile powder and other seasonings, served on a hoagie with melted Cheddar and a creamy coleslaw. The coleslaw’s presence on this sandwich is required, as it cuts the spiciness and boldness of the coffee grounds and creates a smooth, balanced flavor that should be appealing to most palates.

The Pretzel is one of the more interesting options. Imported all the way from Gus’ Pretzels, this pretzel of generous proportions is piled high (almost too high) with your choice of ham or turkey, cheese, and then covered with the house beer-caraway mustard. The latter is spicy, hoppy and tart, and is almost too much if the taste of caraway doesn’t suit you. But it makes this sandwich one of the more unique things on the menu, so at least get the mustard on the side.

The portabella sandwich is great if you’re not into the meat side of things. Served like a large Philly sandwich, the grilled mushrooms (in lieu of the steak) are sautéed with green peppers and caramelized onions, mixed with cream cheese, and then placed on a toasted hoagie roll. It covers all the bases, from salty to sweet and crunchy to soft.

One of the menu’s few misses is the Hickory Stick, a grilled beef hot dog, split and served under caramelized onions, melted American cheese and bacon. While all the ingredients together should compose a delicious, truly American dish, they create an overwhelmingly salty sandwich that is extremely disappointing.

But don’t pass up the huge handful of house-made chips (your choice of barbecue or regular – we recommend a mixture of both) that comes with each sandwich. They’re thin, crispy and crammed with flavor.

A different soup is available each day of the week, and there are several salads to choose from: Caesar, Greek, chef or The 1449 Wedge. And don’t forget to end your meal with one of the delectable, made-in-house desserts (try the doughnuts).

Like any new restaurant, The Bully’s got a few kinks to work out (not the least of which is the inconsistent operating hours). But it’s already a go-to joint when you’re after something delicious and cheap. The best part? They’ll give you a gooey butter cookie if you’re nice.

FILLING UP FOR $20 OR LESS

Dine-In-Ability: There’s plenty of seating and the kitchen is in the dining room, so sit a spell.
Try It, You’ll Like It: The fried artichokes with yummy rémoulade and the coffee-chile pork sandwich topped with coleslaw.
Feast or Famine: A variety of eats, from wings and hummus to salads and soups, means there’s definitely something for everyone.
Where: The Bully Restaurant and Pub, 1449 S. Vandeventer Ave., 314.534.2855
When: Mon. – 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tue. to Fri. – 10:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Bar – until 9 p.m.)