Unique bar guide
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Oct. 4, 2000 at 6:11 a.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.
It's not unrealistic to call Milwaukee the land of 10,000 taverns. And while Brew City's watering holes cater to every crowd, some stand out as simply unique. Here's a list of bars that will leave you scratching your head -- then ordering another round.
1686 N. Van Buren St.
When thinking about Angelo's, two words come to mind: old school. Angelo's is a small lounge, but it contains more atmosphere than Miller Park. Great drinks (including one of the most delicate and delicious martinis in town), attentive and often amusing service, and live lounge music a couple nights a week make Angelo's a great place to hang out for a few hours.
Each night, Angelo seems to find himself behind the microphone, belting out Sinatra tunes. Angie's is getting more and more popular, and therefore more and more crowded, so come early to get a piano-side seat at this tiny East Side bar.
For adventure-seekers: Have a couple of cocktails, go up and sing. Chances are they'll welcome you with open arms. Just don't sing too loudly, please.
Most unusual artifact in the bar: The photo of Angelo and Tom Jones hanging out at the bar. What's Tom doing here? We only wish we knew.
Art's Concertina Bar
1920 S. 37th St.
Art Altenburg, his 200 concertinas (they're like little accordions) and a whole lot of charm round out this remarkable South Side bar.
Polka bands are booked every Friday and Saturday, and local musicians are invited to come and play Thursday nights for "Concertina Jam Session Nite." The crowd is a diverse mix of older polka fans and young hipsters anxious to hear the music that made Milwaukee famous. Not surprisingly, the drinks are affordable and well-mixed by the bar's devoted staff (and Art, himself).
For adventure seekers: Step out on the dance floor and kick up your heels. The bands won't laugh at you, and you'd be surprised how easy it is to polka (just think: one-two-three, one-two-three, and you'll be fine).
Most unusual artifact in the bar: On the north wall, there's a photo montage of Art and his bands over the years. On closer inspection, you'll notice that Art is striking the exact same pose in every photo: one hand on the stage, staring seriously at the camera in his trademark white button down shirt with his glasses case hanging from his pocket. The only thing that changes in the photo is the color of his hair (evolving from brown to white) and the style of his pants. It's quite the study in one man's quest to operate the quintessential polka bar.
2501 S. Delaware Ave.
Somehow, At Random earned the reputation Milwaukee's best place to have an affair. Perhaps the dark lighting or the sweet, frosty ice cream drinks.
At Random's hours are, how shall we say, random. In other words, it may or may not be open if you stop by on a Saturday night. Drinks are ordered off a large, bound menu, and the bar's senior citizen waitresses bring them over at their convenience. But no worries: they taste great, and the atmosphere can't be beat.
For adventure-seekers: couples should try the Tiki Love Bowl. It's big and slushy, and though many have tried, it's not designed to be consumed solo.
Most unusual artifact in the bar: In the mirror-lined men's room, a smattering of photos of horses greet you from every angle. We're not sure what this means, but it seems vaguely sexual, though we're not sure why.
2042 W. Lincoln Ave.
Did you know that the nation's oldest functioning alley is in Milwaukee? Yep. Holler House, an historic corner tap, has a two-lane alley in the basement. And like Koz's (read on), the lanes are about as manual as they come. In fact, you have to call ahead for open bowling so the owners can arrange for a pin setter to be on duty.
The bar is family-owned, with 70-something-year-old Marcy still at the helm. She's great to talk to and full of racy stories about the bar's past. Not surprisingly, the beer (none of which is on tap) is affordable, and the regulars are friendly and inviting.
For adventure seekers: It's a tradition at Holler House to donate your bra to hang from the rafters upon your first visit. So come on down and fling that bad boy up there for all the world to see.
Most unusual artifact in the bar: It's a tie between the Polish Falcon crests above the two lanes in the basement, or the original furniture, photos and decorations in this beautifully untainted Milwaukee landmark.
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Lorrie said: I find the At Random more than just a place for a affair. The waitress is a senior citizen, but the batender is middle aged and friendly. The atmosphere is relaxing.
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