By Renee Lorenz Special to Published Aug 06, 2011 at 4:38 PM

The story of Goldilocks is pretty well known. A little blond girl breaks into a house owned by a family of anthropomorphic bears and proceeds to jack up their chairs, porridge and beds while they’re out doing, I don’t know, bear stuff. But what if, instead of being a cute little fairy tale girl with no respect for property, Goldilocks had some sense and happened to be just a little bit of a lush? Well, that’d be me.

I’ve decided to explore every bar, pub, lounge and dive Milwaukee has to offer – in sets of three, just to be cute. Check back often as I embark on regular bar tours with my self-proclaimed "magical sidekick," Jessie. And don’t worry – I’m too much of a taste chameleon to ever find one that’s "just right."

On my way out of O’Connor’s last week I couldn’t help but gaze wistfully up Greenfield to the State Fair grounds, already in the midst of setting up for this year’s fun.

It got me thinking about all the impending bad-for-me deliciousness, but it mostly got me thinking about post-fair after-bars. With a huge range of options practically inches from the grounds, fairgoers have no problem finding a watering hole after the fair stops serving.

There were plenty of worthy choices, but for the sake of continuity I narrowed it down to three: Benno’s, Liquid Johnny’s and Paulie’s.

Benno’s Genuine Bar & Grill, 7413 W. Greenfield Ave.

The slick thing about Benno’s is you don’t actually have to leave the fair grounds to drink with them. The bar has their very own Micro Alley at the State Fair, and you can grab a cold one at The Micro or Camp Amber or even stop by Wineberry for a swanky sip.

Just because you don’t have to visit the bar doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, though. Located just down Greenfield in "downtown" West Allis (a term I’ve always found funny), Benno’s a go-to bar for beer. It’s got 30 varieties of beer on tap and most of them are local, including brews from Lakefront, Milwaukee Brewing Company and New Glarus.

The bar itself has just as much variety. Its walls are fully decked out with snarky bumper stickers and license plates from all over. It’s so saturated with quirky accents that Jessie equated it to the beer tap-adorned walls of Hooligan’s.

A lot of bars have the standard sit-down video games or darts. Benno’s, though, has its very own game room – complete with a sweet old school stuffed animal claw machine.

The coolest part of the bar, however, actually isn’t technically part of the bar at all. Running along the back shelves is an old rolling library ladder, the only holdover accessory from a library that occupied the space before Benno’s called it home.

Sadly, it’s only used to reach back stock and not to store "top shelf" liquor. 

Liquid Johnny’s, 540 S. 76th St.

It was a bit of a walk from Greenfield, but Liquid Johnny’s is situated close enough to State Fair to be an easy after-stop and just enough off the main drag of popular late night spots to keep its neighborhood bar feel.

The bar has upgraded a lot over the last few years, adding new windows, sprucing up the front exterior and refurnishing the back patio. Still, the interior’s got a great classic bar atmosphere.

It’s not a big place, but Liquid Johnny’s has a decent group of regulars. Even if you’re not in there like clockwork, though, that’s no reason to keep yourself from stopping in. It’s very laid back and the bartenders are more than ready to strike up a conversation.

Liquid Johnny’s is known for its Friday fish fries, but the kitchen serves bar food daily. We caught them on an off night, but the bar also hosts regular live blues bands, too.

Paulie’s Pub and Eatery, 8031 W. Greenfield Ave.

If all you want to do after a day at the fair is head downtown, save yourself the trip and simply head across the street to Paulie’s – you’ll barely know the difference. From its daily drink specials and stocked bar to its team trivia and friendly staff, Paulie’s brings Water Street to West Allis without all the fuss and crowds.

Between the bar itself, booths, table seating area and outdoor patio, though, there was plenty of space for people to spread out. Even though things continued to pick up after we got there, I didn’t feel crowded in or have to push through groups to get to the bathroom.

Paulie’s also has a waitstaff, which makes sitting at the bar all the nicer. It’s pretty awkward having a conversation interrupted by someone squeezing between you and a friend to get a refill, and even more so if you have to practically sit in each other’s laps to keep that gap closed to ward them off.

Since it’s literally across the street from the grounds, Paulie’s holds its own special hours – opening early at 3 p.m. daily – during the State Fair. This comes in handy, especially since Paulie’s is the kind of fun-but-not-overbearing bar that’s really hard to leave. Plus, if you stick around long enough you’ll probably meet Paulie himself (even if he doesn’t always own up to the fact that he’s that Paulie).

Interested in future Goldilocks and the Three Bars adventures? Stay tuned here, or follow me on Twitter @Eenergee for real-time bar tour commentary. And if you want me to drink at your favorite bar, that’s what Talkbacks and @Mentions are for.

Renee Lorenz Special to

Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with, 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.