The Brown Bottle is one of Milwaukee’s best-kept secrets. It’s a historic gem, which first opened in 1938 as a meeting place for visitors at the end of Schlitz Brewery tours. And, despite its regal, historic detail, it's not the least bit stuffy in terms of its menu. Nor is it the brewpub (serving junk burgers and cheap beer) you might expect.
After the Brown Bottle closed more than a decade ago, Libiamo operated in the space until 2012. The Brown Bottle reopened there in November.
But, it’s also hidden away in Schlitz Park, making it a restaurant you’re likely to pass casually on your way across town. Fortunately, it's also a restaurant and bar with plentiful parking that's absolutely worth the effort to locate.
So, if you haven’t been there, here are eight great reasons why you should:
1. The patio
When you’ve got a pretty patio like The Brown Bottle, it’s hard to keep the crowds away on a summer day. The outdoor space seats about 48 at four-top tables on a bricked-in patio just outside the restaurant entrance. But, it gets even better. The formal patio is flanked by a grassy knoll that’s decked out with Adirondack chairs and yard games. So, grab a drink and have a seat. Pets and children are more than welcome. As a bonus, there’s live music on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m.
2. Beer Club
Back in the day, The Brown Bottle had a beer club. And the newly reopened restaurant has re-introduced the concept as both an homage to the past – and a bonus for beer lovers. Just tell the bartender you’d like to join, and he’ll secure you a punch card with 50 numbers on the back, each of which corresponds with a different beer on The Brown Bottle beer menu. Kick back with a Schlitz and a free appetizer to get started. Then, whenever you visit and try a new beer (options include Bell’s Oberon, Milwaukee Brewing OGii, Goose Island Matilda, Casper White Stout, Shoofferhofer Grapefruit Weiss Oskar Blues Old Chub, Yabba Dabba Chai Tea Porter and more), the bartender will punch the card, noting which brew you tried (conveniently, you don’t need to remember your card, since they file it for you behind the bar). When you reach milestones on the punch card, you’ll receive cool spiffs like a Brown Bottle hat and T-shirt. Once you complete your punch card, you’ll get a custom Brown Bottle mug, which you can bring back to fill with any Wisconsin tap beer for just $3.
3. Happy Hour
Stop by on weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. to enjoy $2 Schlitz, $4-5 Wisconsin taps, and bar bites like Margherita flatbread ($10), butternut squash wontons ($8), chips & dip ($5), seared deviled eggs ($6), Schlitz beer nuggets ($8), beer cheese soup ($6 a cup; $8 a bowl) or Wisconsin cheese or charcuterie plates ($14/$16).
4. Daily food and beverage specials
In addition to happy hour specials, Brown Bottle offers daily patio specials from 3pm to close. Specials include:
- Mondays: $5 margaritas, $2 tacos and $5 nachos
- Tuesdays: $0.45 wings and tall boy buckets of beer for $10
- Wednesdays: two-for-one glasses of wine and half-off appetizers
- Thursdays: two-for-one Wisconsin taps, $6 sliders and $6 loaded Brown Bottle chips
- Fridays: Schlitz taps for $2, build your own burgers starting at $10 and fish fry for $11.95
- Saturdays: $5 classic cocktails and $16 for the Old World Meat Plate, featuring Usinger’s meats
5. Bucks sightings
The Bucks’ corporate offices are in the same building as the restaurant, so both coach and player sightings are common at the restaurant and bar.
6. Upscale steak on Saturdays
If you’re a steak lover, you owe it to yourself to visit The Brown Bottle on Saturdays when it offers up its chef’s choice seasonal steak special for just $25. And you can trust former Bacchus chef Ben Hudson to come up with something delicious. For instance, a week or two ago he served up an 8-ounce marinated bavette steak with creamed fennel and asparagus, roasted smashed fingerling potatoes and buerre rouge.
Remember that patio? Yeah. It’s the perfect place to catch a comfortable seat for lakefront fireworks (and the Irish Fest display is coming up pretty quickly).
8. The calm and quiet
The restaurant’s "tucked away" location makes it a pretty effective respite from the grit and growl of city life. So, it’s a great spot to escape for a bit – after work, or after play. Of course, after the Bucks stadium goes in just down the street, Brown Bottle isn’t likely to stay a secret for long. So, get there now, before there’s a line at the door.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.