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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs Commentary

The Black Rose is dark, but cozy.

In Bars & Clubs Commentary

Still new to its East Side location, the bar has made its neighborhood even more diverse.

In Bars & Clubs Commentary

Blackthorn Pub is perfectly situated for the 9-to-5 crowd's after-work drink.

In Bars & Clubs Commentary

More modern than a "traditional" Irish pub, the bar is a blend of old and new trends.

In Bars & Clubs Commentary

Bay View's Blackbird Bar is a kitschy, fun destination.

In Bars & Clubs Commentary

The taps - and beer list in general - specialize in micros and Wisconsin small brews.

Brew City Bar Tab: A different kind of Black Friday


Brew City Bar Tab takes a patron's-eye look at the Milwaukee area's diverse selection of bars, clubs, pubs, taverns, lounges and more. Stay tuned each week for themed bar reports, bar reviews and bartender profiles to help you explore and discover the city's bar scene.

Brew City Bar Tab: Black Friday bar crawl

Brew City Bar Tab takes a patron's-eye look at the Milwaukee area's diverse selection of bars, clubs, pubs, taverns, lounges and more. Stay tuned each week for themed bar reports, bar reviews and bartender profiles to help you explore and discover the city's bar scene.

Black Friday's not my style. All the crowds, lines, noise and stress – no thank you. Frankly, I'd much rather sit back and relax with good company and a good drink.

Thankfully, Milwaukee's bar supply is as fully stocked as most retail stores' holiday season warehouses. This makes putting together a better, boozier version of "Black" Friday – and procrastinating holiday shopping in favor of a bar tour – all the easier.

The Black Rose Irish Pub, 2856 N. Oakland Ave.

Planted not too long ago near the corner of Oakland and Locust, The Black Rose has added a nice bit of Irish charm to its eclectic East Side neighborhood. While the area is known for its diverse people and places, adding this Irish pub to the mix is a move that's just a little more close to home: it shares its owners with SoLo Pizza next door, as well as Trinity Three Irish Pubs and The Harp, among others.

The bar's connection with its Irish brothers – especially Trinity – is definitely a noticeable one. The Black Rose and Trinity both share their distinctive looks: dark wood furniture, enclosed booths nestled against the wall and that cavernous-yet-cozy atmosphere.

Both bars share similar tastes in menu items, too. The Black Rose serves traditional apps, salads, sandwiches and burgers, as well as Irish-inspired fare like the Kilkenny Wrap and straight-up specialties from the old country like Irish stew and shepherd's pie. In a rather sensible move, the bar also joined forces with SoLo to add pizza to the menu.

Most importantly, this pub has plenty of beer. All the usual suspects are on tap: Guinness, Smithwick's, Harp and Strongbow (which always earns extra points in my book). Various other big brews join them, as well as some smaller names and a regular Water Street Brewery seasonal offering for a local touch.

Blackthorn Irish Pub and Grill, 750 N. Jefferson St.

Given its location, it's no surprise that Blackthorn is a popular destination for the 9-to-5 crowd. Given its healthy happy hour selection, regular live music lineup and the, ahem, attention-getting website, it's also no surprise that the crowd is the younger sort.

That said, Blackthorn is far from a shot-slamming, dancing-on-the-tables kind of place (though I can't say for certain that's an impossibility). The bar describes itself as a mix of old- and new-school Irish pub style, and it seems to have combined all the right parts. It has the size and specials of a large destination venue, but still retains the warm, open atmosphere of a corner pub.

This approach applies to the menu, too. Traditional and Irish fusion dishes are plentiful here, but so are bar standards like jalapeno poppers and BBQ pork sandwiches. And then there are things like mussels, the fish taco bowl and Atlantic burger, which add plenty of modern and inventive options.

And again, because you can't get into the Irish pub game without serving all the expected alcohol, you can expect little surprise from the tap. However, Blackthorn has devoted its share of ingenuity to its specialty drinks, as well as its listed offering of combination pints, which give the indecisive drinker the option to have two of their favorite at once (Think Black & Tan, plus all of its extended family.).

Blackbird Bar, 3007 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

There are two different kinds of kitsch: unintentional and on purpose. While Blackbird built its collection with the latter motivation, the effect isn't forced or fake. In fact, the sheer randomness of it all is almost stylish. From mounted deer heads and countless knick-knacks on the walls and a classic jukebox in the front bar to the pinball machines and photo booth in the back, Blackbird very much resembles your cool friend's basement hangout.

The comparison continues with the bar's weekly bingo nights on Sundays and Thursday Team Trivia. There are good old-fashioned board games for smaller-scale fun, too, and pull tabs for a quick diversion.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with simply stopping in for a drink. The bartenders are friendly and welcoming, and there are plenty of drinks to choose from – over 80, in fact, if you're counting Wisconsin beers alone. Obviously they're not all on tap, but it's fair to expect regular appearances from local favorites like Lakefront and Hinterland, plus micros from across the country. Add in the fact that nearly everything's priced to move and Blackbird becomes the perfect "make a night out of it" bar.

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