"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Hornitos, OR-G, Party Armor, Red Stag, Absolut, Fireball and Malibu – 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, bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Brew City Bar Tab takes a patron's-eye look at the Milwaukee area's diverse selection of bars, clubs, pubs, taverns, lounges and more. Stay tuned each week for bar reports, reviews and other content to help you explore and discover the city's bar scene.
Bars generally have a certain place in the world of love. They can be heard about in the familiar answer to "How did you two meet?" or used more overtly as venues for finding Mr. or Ms. Right Now.
For as many of these as there are, Milwaukee also holds plenty of cozy, couple-friendly spots for the already attached to spend a romantic evening out. And whether it’s the charm of a classic cocktail or a secluded booth for two you’re after this Valentine’s weekend, you won’t have to look far in this town for the perfect destination.
Bryant's Cocktail Lounge
1579 S. 9th St., (414) 383-2620
Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge, Bryant’s has been mixing up old-school recipes, sinfully good ice cream drinks and inventive house creations since 1938. The building itself has a storied past, starting with its tavern beginnings and culminating in the floor-to-ceiling slice of vintage class it is today.
After a fire gutted the original interior, Bryant’s received a full remodel. It’s this ornate lounge façade that customers still see today – or at the very least, get a good impression of. The lounge is comfortably dim, which doesn’t offer the best view of the ornate wallpapers or sleek furniture, but it makes for an intimate gathering place and a relaxing backdrop for one (or two, or three) of the bar’s myriad offerings.
You won’t find these drinks on a menu, though – Bryant’s is famous for having done away with this classic ordering style. Instead, bartenders and waitresses take your order based on what flavors you like, what kind of glass you want, which liquor you prefer, all of the above or something else entirely. Newbies may find this overwhelming, but it’s best to embrace this unconventional method as an opportunity. The bar is stocked with ingredients for over 450 different Depression-era, pre-Prohibition, ice cream and tiki drinks (many of which are house-made secrets), so even on the microscopically slim chance your drink isn’t to your liking, you still have over 449 delicious options to choose from.
2501 S. Delaware Ave., (414) 481-8030
Bay View’s answer to the cocktail lounge, At Random is a whole different kind of bar animal with an entirely different set of old-school charms. Its name is one of the most fitting around, if only because it fits on so many levels. For starters, the bar keeps loose hours of 7 p.m. to bar close Wednesday through Saturday, but they’re known for opening/closing early/late on their own whims.
Their whims are also a bit quirky. The mostly elderly ladies who make up the waitstaff are friendly, entertainingly offbeat and at times just downright zany, but it’s all harmless fun and adds to the bar’s appeal. They’re the icing on the At Random cake – a cake that just happens to be fully decked out in Christmas lights, holiday kitsch, old-timey clowns, fake fireplaces and other eccentric assemblage. Finish it off with a dusting of swing and jazz tunes and you have a lounge that just has to be experienced to be believed.
By the time you get a chance to look at the drink menu, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s a book of laminated printer pages. The large-print type details description after description of elegantly simple ice cream drinks, plus classic cocktails and assorted hot drinks. Everything is well done here, and the giant ice cream drinks pack an especially sneaky punch. You’ll likely have to wait a little for your drinks, but there are clearly plenty of distractions to keep you and your company occupied.
718 E. Burleigh St., (414) 372-7880
While Bryant’s and At Random each have its own unique draw, Two in Riverwest is specially designed with pairs of lovebirds in mind. It’s a bit "underground in plain view," as its hours are sporadic. Finding out when they’re open is a simple and quaint process, though – just call. Phone duty is delegated to Two’s more reliably open sister bar, Art Bar, located next door. Two itself doesn’t have a listed phone number, so as not to disturb the constant stream of love songs being pumped from its old-school jukebox near the back.
Not much more than a glowing "2" and a lighted heart from the outside, Two’s interior is a veritable love oasis, with pink and red accent lighting and other love-themed decor. The bar stretches along most of the space to give low-key couples and singletons alike a place to sit and chat, and a loungier space in the middle of the room welcomes small groups to relax. The biggest attraction at Two, however, is the lineup of cozy couples’ booths that run the length of the place. With just a candle, room enough for you and your special someone and a beaded curtain for semi-privacy, Two’s booths offer an amorous balance between its private seating and outside lounge atmosphere.
It’s best to grab a menu and peruse your options early – especially if you’ve brought along a plus one – because there are a number of specialty cocktails available, plus share-able PG-13-named cocktails made for two. Order at the bar, make your way to a curtained booth and enjoy your racy drink and some not-so-racy PDA – there’s nothing romantic about public indecency.
Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with OnMilwaukee.com, her occasional forays into the awesomeness that is the Brew City have turned into an overwhelming desire to discover anything and everything that's new, fun or just ... "different."
Expect her random musings to cover both the new and "new-to-her" aspects of Miltown goings-on, in addition to periodically straying completely off-topic, which usually manifests itself in the form of an obscure movie reference.