Finding new flavors in a familiar setting
The Depot restaurant finds footing with help from its roots
Restaurant review by Josh Koerner
In 2020, Titletown Brewing Company consolidated its operations in the Larsen Canning Buildings where it had expanded in 2014, and the Depot location closed.
However, it was soon leased to a new operator and The Depot Gastro pub opened its doors.
Staying true to its roots, The Depot didn’t change as much as one might imagine. The building itself remains authentic to its railway roots, and the menu features many of Titletown’s most popular entrees – like the spicy elk burger, fish and chips.
There are also some new items, with just as much flavor. The pork belly burnt ends appetizer is a dream with its sweet bourbon and honey glaze. The tender meaty morsels stand just fine on their own, the sour cream and fresh greens serve as an important part of their flavor profile, offering a surprisingly diverse flavor in a bite sized package. Also impressive is the jalapeno shrimp pasta. The creamy pasta sauce in this dish balances the jalapeno spice just enough to make the dish inviting for those with lower spice tolerance, but still lends enough of the pepper’s flavor to make a wonderful compliment to the shrimp. The jalapeno flavor is further accented by tender, earthy spinach and the welcomed acidity of roasted tomato. When it all comes together, the finished product is exquisite.
The Depot’s show stopper, however, is their addition of a weekend brunch. While the brunch menu is somewhat limited, they do offer imaginative specials. My favorite so far has been their Monte Cristo. Whoever had the idea to sub in zucchini bread has officially ruined other inferior French toasts for me for the remainder of my life. The mustard aioli and smoky swiss are also notable highlights as the classic sandwich marrys sweet and savory into a beautiful sandwich experience.
Let’s be honest, though; if you’re coming to The Depot’s brunch, chances are you are coming for the drink special. With bottomless mix-and-match specials on their flavored mimosas and bloody marys, they are sure to further themselves as a weekend destination.
Find footing during a pandemic
So how was The Depot able to pull itself from the dust of a pandemic and still hold true to its predecessor’s roots? Well, much of it was thanks to the involvement of three men: Brent Weycker, Robert Wojtkiewic, and Shawn Zambarda. Weycker was among the initial group of investors that opened Titletown in 1996. When the Titletown Brewery combined, it seemed like the old depot was destined to become office space. Weycker, however, said he didn’t have the heart to watch corporate drones slave away in the business he helped build, so he bought the building, bringing on Wojtkiewic to help run the restaurant.
Opening as The Depot Gastro pub, Wojtkiewic tried to keep the menu true to the classics everyone knew and loved, adding a bit of his own spin for flavor. He said the road ahead has not been an easy one. With pandemic pressures, a green staff, a community resistant to change, and harsh early reviews, Wojtkiewic said, rebuilding the restaurant’s reputation was a long, arduous road. Luckily, that is just the type of thing Zambarda specializes in.
Zambarda worked for Titletown for 20 years before taking over Stella’s in 2018. At the time, the De Pere restaurant had been going through a steady series of changes both in name and ownership. In the wake of Zambarda’s intervention, he said. Stella’s became known for its welcoming community, hands on management style, and great food. He said, their once chaotic service team, now visibly demonstrates their teamwork and cooperation.
With a job well done, Zambarda said he then turned his attention from his thriving De Pere business back to the station he called home all of those years ago.
“The whole experience has been amazing,” Zambarda said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better community to support me. Since I came back to The Depot, I’ve watched as my regulars from Stella’s fill in the bar here.” It’s small chats like this Zambarda said, that he has earned the love of his customers.
Josh Koerner grew up in De Pere and has a passion for local food. To know more about his passion for food you can check out his Facebook Page, Josh Eats Green Bay