Who's On Third off to a solid start
Bobby Wiltgen opened Who's On Third in March in the former One Sports Lounge space and so far – despite unseasonably cold weather – it's been going well.
"I'm very happy with the amount of support so far," he says.
Wiltgen took over the place – which is actually two adjoining spaces – in January and within two months assisted in a major renovation.
He switched the main bar from the southern-most room to the north room and moved the entrance. Basically, everything except the light fixtures and the crown moulding was replaced or refurbished.
The south room is now used for corporate meetings, private parties and on weekends when the crowds are larger.
"The goal is to be a classic American, neighborhood pub but we're also a great place to watch sports," says Wiltgen.
There are six televisions and a 120-inch screen carefully placed in the main bar. "You can see a TV from anywhere in the room," he says.
But there is more on the walls than flat screens. Local art by James Hartel, who goes by Jimmy ChaCha, adorns the walls, including three large paintings that look like vintage photographs of Milwaukee street scenes and the historic Miller beer caves.
"Having a lot of art is really important to me," says Wiltgen. "Eventually, I want to replace the beer mirrors with original, local art."
Hartel is also in the process of completing a large sign featuring the bar's name and logo that will be hung on the building soon.
The small-but-solid menu was created by Wiltgen and his brother, Bill, who is finishing up culinary school. It features wings, appetizers, sandwiches, salads and macaroni and cheese. Everything is priced under $10.
"We paid really close attention to the details and have not skimped on our products," says Wiltgen.
For example, the burgers are made with 100 percent free range, natural beef and the deep fried cheese curds are made from locally-sourced cheese lightly fried in a Riverwest Stein beer batter.
"We didn't set out to have the best cheese curds, but it happened," says Wiltgen. "I found this out the hard way, though, as I was running out for more cheese curds like a crazy person because we ran out during the NCAA."
On Mondays, Who's On Third offers half-off appetizers; Tuesdays $2 tacos; Wednesdays $1 off everything and Thursdays 50-cent wings. Last weekend, the Sriracha ginger wings won first place / judge's choice at Wing Fest.
Currently, the beer menu features eight draft beers and a few dozen bottles, but it's still evolving, according to Wiltgen.
"I was trying to figure out what our customers wanted before I solidified the list," says Wiltgen. "I'm going to add a few more imports and locals, along with some summer beers."
Customers can purchase a bottle of Black Barrel Jameson for $125 and in return, get their name on a gold plate behind the bar and are invited to store their bottle behind the bar to consume whenever they stop in.
Wiltgen grew up in Waukesha, moved to Green Bay and later returned to the area to attend University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism. Prior to opening Who's On Third he worked at Trinity Irish Pub.
"At Trinity, I learned how to manage people and throw a party at the same time," he says.
Former Trinity co-worker Mike Pierce tends bar at Who's On Third and developed the Bloody Mary.
"My goal was to make it affordable and elaborate, but not too elaborate," says Pierce. "It's a great Bloody that comes with a beef stick – you gotta have a beef stick – and bacon – because who doesn't like bacon? There's also one of our cheese curds, a pickle, an olive, a lemon and a lime."
This summer, Wiltgen plans to settle into the space. He will offer live music on Wednesdays and looks forward to opening up the massive windows. He also hopes to develop a deeper busness relationship with other bars on the street, including Buck Bradley's, the Old German Beer Hall and Milwaukee Brat House.
"Third Street is where tourists inherently go. We want to get more Milwaukeeans to come down on a regular basis and enjoy the area," he says.
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