"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs -- including guides, the latest trends, rapid bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
A former horse stable set back from Kinnickinnic Ave., the Tonic Tavern isn't much to look at from the outside. Inside, though, cool, simple lines and a retro paint scheme are highlighted by reclaimed wood tables and trim cut from the original loft.
The bar is the brainchild of Paul Jonas, a long-time fixture in the Milwaukee nightlife scene (he's also part of The 5-Card Studs). That means Tonic features occasional live music to go along with its notoriously stiff drinks. Jonas also brings in DJs, and Sunday night is Tonic's local singer/songwriter series.
Menu: You won't find specialty drinks at this no-nonsense tap, but Tonic does serve nine craft beers on draft. Currently, the cocktail lounge has about 60 bottles in its repertoire, too, and Tonic keeps it local with Sprecher, Lakefront and Rehorst.
Price: Inexpensive to moderate. More expensive than some "shot and a beer" places in Bay View, but on par with its neighbors. Tap beers range from $3 to $5. Rails cocktails are $4, while call and top shelf are about $5-6. Tonic also runs happy hours with two-for-one rails and domestic bottles, and late-night happy hours, too. Every night, Tonic features a special, like $3 pints or $5 glasses of wine.
When to go: The huge patio is perfect in the summer, but an indoor fireplace keeps it cozy in the winter. This is the kind of bar you can hunker down in and keep the conversation flowing until bar time.
Dress: Casual. If you get too dressed up, you're missing the point.
Don't miss: In an era in which bartenders are increasingly generic, Paul "PK" Kennedy is an exception. This veteran barkeep not only mixes means drinks, but every night is a veritable stand-up comedy routine. PK jokes his bartending motto is to "protect and overserve."
Parking: On this part of KK, it's surprisingly ample. If you can't find a spot right in front of the bar, you'll get pretty close. And if it's packed, there's a public lot around the corner on Lincoln Avenue.
Not pretentious, and in no way a Bay View tap circa 1996, this place encompasses everything that is Bay View today. Stylish, yet not too flashy, neighborhoody and comfortable. The staff is amazing, with, like the article says, PK leading the way in both professionalism and wit. Tom Julio also a staple, always inventing tasty drinks and naming them on the spot, in honor of the customer, for those that require a little something more than the usual. For a guy who's been around to a few establishments, domestic and abroad, I would not stutter for one second in recommending this place to diplomats and vagrants alike. Don't miss the Sunday night singer/songwriter series. It showcases some of the best local talent you'll find, week after week. Cheers.
Tonic is great, especially when manned by the masterful Paul Kennedy. The drinks are always top notch (good pour) and the conversation is fun. I always meet interesting people and am told I had a good time the next day after getting PK'ed. Be polite and have fun when at Tonic and never point at PK, as he will tell you "You never point anything at a Kennedy". Josh is also a great bartender to go see as he is usually sporting new and interesting facial hair styles! All in all a great Bay View spot.
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