Hybrid blends drinks, food and good times
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Originally, Nate Fried and Bill Lison met while working at La Cage, 801 S. 2nd St. Fried, who was the general manager, and Lison, who worked on and off as a bartender at the gay nightclub for 14 years, became friends and started going out drinking together.
Fried, who is straight, and Lison, who is gay, split their time going to each other's favorite bars – some of which were LGBT focused and some of which were not.
"We asked ourselves, 'if we go out to (gay and straight) bars together all the time, why can't we do this with one bar?'" says Fried.
Lison was already looking around for a bar at the time, so the two friends started to contemplate opening a bar together that was inclusive enough to welcome both gay and straight drinkers.
In March 2010, Lison and Fried opened Hybrid Lounge, 707 E. Brady St.
The definition of "hybrid" represents the mission of the bar and restaurant – a place that combines two or more types of something which, in this case, means customers.
"We're pretty laid back here," says Fried.
About a year ago, Hybrid started offering food under the direction of chef Brian Krieger. Dinner is served from 4 to 10 p.m. daily and brunch is offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
The dinner menu includes starters such as tater tots, wings and cheese sticks wrapped in egg roll skins as well as entrées like homemade pizzas, sandwiches, wraps and salads. There's also a Friday night fish fry.
Every menu item is under $10, with the exception of the "Bill," an all-beef patty with bacon, jalapeños and pepper jack between two grilled cheese sandwiches, which costs $12.
"We have quite a good menu for a bar," says Lison. "We haven't had a single complaint."
The brunch menu items also ring in under $10 and include french toast, omelets, croissant sandwiches, biscuits and gravy and the "B.E.L.T" – bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato served on Texas toast with a side of tater tots.
"The brunch is really starting to catch on," says Lison.
Every Tuesday night, Hybrid hosts karaoke which attracts a diverse crowd, from 21-year-olds to an 80-year-old crooner who once sang on Broadway. The bar also offers dart leagues on Wednesday nights, DJs on the weekends and Happy Hour specials every night of the week including a 2-for-1 on Fridays.
The space, located on the corner of Brady and Van Buren Street – in a building crafted in the late 1800s – once housed the popular Indian restaurant Dancing Ganesha.
Since taking over, Lison and Fried have made major changes to the environment, which includes two adjoining rooms. The southernmost room had a drop ceiling and fake walls, making the space feel very enclosed. The new owners removed the ceiling to make it much more open and airy.
Fried and Lison also added new hardwood floors made from reclaimed wood and the walls are adorned with black-and-white photos of vintage Milwaukee, including Downtown scenes and old brewery shots.
"It's still a work in progress," says Fried.
Because the bar and eatery is perched on the far west end of Brady Street, the owners say they feel both a part of – and apart from – the iconic entertainment-focused scene.
"We're more of a gateway to Brady Street," says Fried. "And we have a great rapport with our neighbors on Brady Street as well as on Van Buren. We share a lot of customers from Angelo's. And Angelo (the owner) comes over for fish fries all the time."
Above all, Fried and Lison want to create an environment that's comfortable for anyone regardless of their race, gender or orientation.
"We just want everyone to get along and have a good time," says Fried. "If you're gay, great, if you're not, we don't give a sh*t. This is an inclusive pub where everyone is welcome."
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