The new underground: Basement bars provide top-notch fun
"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, bartender profiles, drink recipes and even a little Brew City bar history. Cheers!
Back in the day, a "rec room" basement meant paneled walls, shag carpeting, a fat television and maybe a ping-pong table. Now, people refine their basement space to create funky, family-friendly entertainment spots, often with a big emphasis on the bar.
When Lisa and Jim Dutcher bought a ranch-style house on the Southwest Side, the basement was unfinished.
"We always dreamed of having a tropical paradise getaway, especially because of Wisconsin's cold winters," says Jim.
Hence, the couple created a Polynesian Hawaiian Tiki Bar they call "Dutch's Lost Hideaway." The Dutchers hired an electrician to help with the wiring, but otherwise they did all of the work themselves.
Decorating the basement was fun and easy for the Dutchers because they own Tip Top Atomic Shop, 2343 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The store specializes in household items from the '40s, '50s and '60s, including a huge selection of Hawaiian antiques.
The Hideaway's main wall is covered in three different types of matting and bamboo, and more than 100 masks from islands like Hawaii, Fiji, the Bahamas, New Zealand and Samoa. Also, they have scores of vintage '50s Hawaiian pieces, such as a life preserver from the Lurline, a savage print and rare tiki mugs from tropical establishments like Trader Vic's, Mainlander, Judges Beyond the Reef and Tiki Bob's.
"We have many coconut monkeys, puffer fish and glass floats hanging from the ceiling, so watch your head if you're tall," says Jim.
The Dutchers spend a lot of time in their Lost Hideaway, entertaining friends, listening to vinyl albums and mixing exotic libations. Lisa's favorite drink is the Zombie (crafted from the original recipe of Chicago's Pago Pago), and Jim's favorites are the Royal Hawaiian, Old Style Mai Tai and his personal variation of Agent Orange.
"We love serving hot appetizers of fried won tons and fondue. People never leave Dutch's Lost Hideaway thirsty or hungry," he says. "The basement is like a second family room for us."
Spouses Mary Eggert and Tom Rekoske have a basement tiki bar, too.
"There's a whole subculture of people doing this," says Eggert. "We know other people with incredible tiki bars in their basements."
The Eggert / Rekoske basement lounge was inspired by tiki bars in San Francisco -- among other places -- and took two years to complete. Officially, it was unveiled to friends and family members on New Year's Eve 2005 / 2006. Eggert says the 24 hours leading up to the party were the most intense part of the construction process.
"It all came together right before the party, thanks to some help from Tom's sister and brother-in-law," says Eggert.
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No wonder why the public bars are sooo darn DEAD, these days!! KUDOS, for a great idea/theme, and for "avoiding" drinking and driving too:)
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