Wisconsin's best bars (outside of Metro Milwaukee)
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Jan. 29, 2007 at 2:05 p.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.
When you're traveling around Wisconsin, and you need a cold one, not just any corner tap will do. There are hundreds of great bars in our state, but outside of Metro Milwaukee. Here are just a few that we can recommend, we know there are many, many more out there. Please add your own using the Talkback feature below the article.
The Bayside Tavern
4160 Main St., Fish Creek
The Bayside is owned by the MacDonald family of Timbuk 3 fame ("The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades"). It's quite possibly one of the best bars in the country, not just in Wisconsin. During the summer, The Bayside brings in top-notch local and state music, but the vibe at this Door County staple is what packs 'em in, year after year. You'll feel like a regular after a few trips, but if you stop in on Sunday night, it's always a better experience. When the tourists from Illinois have left from the weekend Up North, the locals come out for a good time. And every single time, it's a great time.
12304 75th St., Kenosha
This gigantic place located off I-94 and Hwy. 50 is a place to meet, eat, watch the Packers (or Bears -- it's close to Illinois) and listen to bands of the cover and original variety. Featured acts at the Brat Stop include the Charlie Daniels Band, Styx, B.T.O., Cheap Trick, Foghat, Guess Wwo, Nazareth, Molly Hatchett, Holland and Bad Boy. The joint is open 365 days a year -- the restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. most days and the bar until 1:30 a.m. weekdays and 2:30 a.m. on weekends. It's always busy. There is also a cheese market that is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The Chippewa Bar
803 Main St., Wausaukee
Tiny Wausuakee, about an hour north of Green Bay, may only sport 580 people and a handful of bars, but The Chip is among the best in the area. It's vaguely a biker bar, but frequently brings in DJs, residents and tourists from all over the Northwoods. The drinks are insanely cheap by Milwaukee standards, and peanuts are everywhere (think Ground Round, without the screaming kids). Another sign it's Up North? There's usually a raffle or two to win a rifle, and what goes better together than drinking and shooting?!
229 N. 3rd St., La Crosse
Great place for a beer, a shot and a pickled egg. This quintessential corner dive has been a favorite with La Crosse students and locals for decades. A dark, comfortable dive with a big oval bar.
Genna's Cocktail Lounge
105 West Main St., Madison
One of the very best bars in Madison, second only perhaps to the former Pickney Street Hideaway (may she rest in peace). First and foremost, Genna's serves up an excellent beer selection: more than 60 different bottled beers and 12 tap beers. You'll spot Chimay Rouge, Delirium Tremens, Anchor Porter and Sierra Nevada Stout. Then there's the atmosphere. Genna's is housed in an old building on a corner of the Capitol Square, so the place has an unusual, triangular shape. There are two bars, one on the first floor, another on the second. The second floor provides a slightly "seedier" but cooler vibe. A major warning: You better have an excellent fake ID if you're underage. These bouncers are bulldogs.
518 First St., New Glarus
More a restaurant than a bar, the Swiss Glarner Stube restaurant on the main drag in New Glarus has a well-stocked bar, however, and a small-town, everybody knows your name feel. So, when you sear the roof of your mouth by digging into a hot pot of fondue too quickly, there's a range of beers -- domestic and imported -- to soothe the pain. And when they're ready to drain, there's what is arguably the world's largest urinal -- sorry Leff's -- in the men's room. And nearby, you'll find the New Glarus Brewery.
Glory Years Sports Bar & Grill
321 S. Washington St., Green Bay
Connected to the Washington Street Inn and Conference Center in downtown Green Bay, this bar is located in a part of the building that served as the Packers' administrative offices from 1949-'62. Vince Lombardi's former office is now a side room of the bar.
Great Dane Pub & Brewery
123 W. Doty, Madison
"Let's meet at the Dane," is an oft-heard comment in Mad-town. Located two blocks southeast of the Capitol, the Great Dane Pub & Brewery has been serving up satisfying brews and hearty food since 1994. From 11 a.m. to bar time, the Pub offers something for everyone. During warm weather, the walled garden patio is a quiet spot to hide from the heat of the day, where as the spacious indoor dining area is always good for a group. The rathskellar bar in the basement is perfect place to play darts and hang with friends and the billiard room upstairs is all around fun any night. Beyond the bar itself, the beer is great: Devil Lake Red and Scottish Ale are tops.
123 3rd St., La Crosse
Tell your parents you're at the library. That what the sign outside this UW-La Crosse bar instructs you to do, and it's not bad advice. The walls are jammed, floor to ceiling, with old books, giving the large pub an "academic" feel. Of course, like every bar in La Crosse, it's at its best during Oktoberfest (usually the last weekend or so of September). That's when kids and alumni cram into the Library, the old-timers still wearing their "drinking gloves." It's centrally located on La Crosse's main strip of bars and always worth a cold beer -- or 10.
The Looking Glass
20 N. Main St., Janesville
Janesvillians turn "partying" into an art form. You have tons of pretty decent watering holes to choose from – and if you're lucky, a genuine, old-fashioned bar brawl will break out. You're best bet is downtown. The Looking Glass offers a strong jukebox selection and an overall "vintage" vibe. Plus, it's right on the Rock River and just got approval for an outdoor patio. (You can also venture up and down Main Street and likely find some dancing on a bar somewhere.)
212 State St., Madison
Tucked away at the top-end of State Street you'll find Paul's Club. A good lounge that has stood the test of time, two of Paul's remarkable features include a tree shooting up the middle of the bar (you decide if it's real) and their Grasshoppers made with a 1/2 gallon of ice cream (don't try ordering them after 9 p.m.).
Stadium View Sports Bar and Grill
1963 Holmgren Way, Green Bay
Located a block east of Lambeau Field, the Stadium View is a gathering spot for Packers fans before games, during games, after games and even on non-game days and nights. The menu features daily specials, including a Chicken Booyah, a local soup delicacy and the obligatory Friday night Fish Fry.
1633 E. Racine, Janesville
Another great option – especially for Badgers fans – in Janesville, is Stokes. It boasts a W-shaped bar, and there's also a Breathalyzer contraption on the wall … but accuracy of test result are not guaranteed.
Top Hat Club
1139 Main St., Green Bay
Just about every city is America has been trying to get in on the martini lounge craze, and no, not even Green Bay is an exception. The Top Hat Club on Main Street is the closest thing Packertown has to Milwaukee's popular Hi Hat Lounge. Cheesy name coincidence aside, this place is a sure bet for a night on the town in Green Bay. The vibe is fun and energetic, the music is surprisingly good and the prices are incredible. For what would easily be a $9 to $12 martini at the Hi Hat is graciously cut in half at the Top Hat. Here, if you've got $5, you've got yourself one of a large laundry list of a colorful, extremely potent martinis.
zappa said: i second the bayside tavern in fish creek. not only one of the coolest bars in the state, but one of the best bowls of chili as well.
Michelle said: Cleo's in Appleton is legendary. Best atmosphere of any bar anywhere. A must-see if you're ever in the area.
saloon du bay fan said: Saloon du Bay in Knowlton, WI - On the outside, it looks like a dive bar across the street from a cheese factory. But, I consider this bar "great" because it caters to both factory employees and the local upper-middle class living on Lake du Bay (actually a flowage of the Wisconsin River). The Saloon's great food, including pizza and fried cheese curds, incorporates ingredients made across the street. Two of the six taps are Central Waters microbrews (Junction City), and they also have a great bottled beer and wine selection.
Jess said: Del's Bar in LaCrosse is known for it's Bloody Marys ... the best I have ever had!!!
La Crosse Resident said: The Library? Jeebus. You're kidding me, right? Why not just put Hooters or one of the Brothers chain locations on the list while you're at it?
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