Unique bar guide: Part III
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on July 11, 2006 at 1:41 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.
This third installment of Milwaukee's most unique bars takes us to the South Side, an expansive neighborhood the charm of which lies in the way -- in many respects -- it's remained the same throughout the years. You'd be hard pressed to find a $10 martini on 7th and Lincoln, but it's still easy to find a $2 Pabst served by a feisty, 75-year-old Milwaukee bar owner. And in Milwaukee, that's pretty unique.
Koz's Mini Bowl
2078 S. 7th St.
Okay, it's the 1940s and you own a brothel near the Milwaukee River that caters to sailors. But people are getting suspicious about the constant influx of married men each night. How do you cover yourself? Build a tiny bowling alley, of course.
Thankfully, Koz's is no longer a house of ill repute, but it's still a tiny bowling alley nestled in a corner tavern. The balls are tiny, the lanes are tiny, and the pins are tiny. Oh yeah, you need a "pin monkey" (they call them "pin setters") to reset the ones you knock over. Other than that, it's real bowling on four 16-ft. lanes.
Koz's actually has leagues that play this miniature style of duckpin bowling, and the game is admittedly easy (we bowled a 270 on our first try). But the charm of the bar is unmistakable: the beer is cheap and the hard rock jukebox rocks hard.
For adventure seekers: try bowling a serious game. It's easy to get strikes, and 300 games are posted on the wall. Leave your impressions of the joint in the guest book kept behind the bar.
Most unusual artifact in the bar: the antique signs posted from Koz's shadier days. There's one particular sign instructing the call girls on how to enter and exit the establishment in a discrete fashion.
2042 W. Lincoln Ave.
While we're talking about bowling, 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, 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.
Art's Concertina Bar
1920 S. 37th St.
OK, there's no bowling at Art's, but there sure is a lot of polka. 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).They actually have a comprehensive Web site to visit for more information: www.artsconcertinabar.com.
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.
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