By Dave Mikolajek Special to Published Sep 14, 2012 at 8:59 AM

Gosh darn, it feels like a while since I've done this. Combining a rather heavy hoosegow hiatus with a major move nearly made my spring pub crawl fundamentally unfeasible.

However, now down in weight and back stronger than ever, my peeps, let me open with some kudos to a few friends in the industry.

First, I want to congratulate the beautiful and dynamic Michelle Hoff (BelAir Cantina) for a job well done competing in the recent Campari Cocktail Competition at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. Second, a big pat on the back goes to my good pal Brian "The Wing King" Felten (TomKen's) for maintaining his Wing King title by winning Milwaukee's Wing Fest for the second year in a row.

I can't recommend enough for you all to stop at TomKen's some Monday night to enjoy many of Brian's wings and get served a nice cold one by his little brother, Brad "The Struggler" Felten. And lastly, a nice applause to the dear Tina Urch for her very successful "Femme Adorn" event held at the Hamilton earlier this spring. I was there and it was very nice show held in a very nice place.

And now onto the pub crawl ...

About a week after my extended vacation in Franklin (where I was able to brush up on my cribbage skills with new friends Moose, Wojo and Waldo), I made a few phone calls and put my crew back together for a new tour. This time we used a shuttle generously donated by O'Brien's Pub. We started a good dozen strong with three more joining along the way. We visited O'Brien's Pub, Wally's Racers Inn, Anna's Tap and the Full Moon Saloon.

O'Brien's Pub
4928 W. Vliet St., (414) 453-6200

Joey from O'Brien's and Mark from Jackson's Blue Ribbon came to see me one night at the Bluemound Inn and Joey offered the O'Brien's shuttle with a driver to the crew for our next pub crawl. I graciously accepted and our first stop was invariably O'Brien's, where the gorgeous Jenny Smith slings the swill. Life is good when there's an attractive lady behind the wood at a corner bar and there's usually one to be one found at this place. Just ask the Ace Face (if you know him). 

Joel "Joey" Klamann and Brian "Bud" Eft purchased the former Bingo's from the legendary Jon "Bingo" Berta in 1998. Prior to that, the building housed Hare's owned by Tom "Taco" Kroenig and Dick Krouse. Before that, it was John Does, owned by Johnny "The Big Cat" Jonas, Dave Domack and Dick White. And even before that, it was a fine dining restaurant owned by the Stollenwerk family.

I met Wisconsin Club bartender Ron Meyer at O'Brien's back in the day. Ron's a great barkeep when he's not on the golf course. Up until about seven years ago, O'Brien's was your basic corner bar. Not too nice, not run-down. But then Joey and Bud invested their time and money into an extensive remodel giving it a more Irish cottage kind of feel. Sure, the place is much nicer now, but very importantly, it hasn't lost its character and charm. As a matter of fact, my friend Jose "The Puerto Rican Santa" Claudio (Tres Locos, Hector's) said to me, "College, this place is too nice for you and your group!" I've always enjoyed Jose's honest sense of humor. 

O'Brien's also has an extensive pub fare food menu – one of the best in town right now. So, the next time you find yourself in the Washington Heights neighborhood after catching a flick at the Rosebud or enjoying a perfect meal at either Cafe Perrin or Juniper 61, stop over at O'Brien's for a brew. Take a look at the menu, too. I trust you'll like it.

Wally's Racers Inn
5525 W. Lisbon Ave., (414) 444-2565

The first time I ever went to Wally's was nearly nine years ago with my friends Maggie, Tommy and Sean O'Donoghue. There seemed to be about eight other O'Donoghues there, too, that day, and it felt like being a part of one big happy family. Then, I met some other patrons, friends, and Kathy the marvelous bartender. Kathy, by the way, tended bar at Gallagher's (47th and Vliet Streets) back in the day.

Wally Jahnke, a former race car mechanic, opened Wally's in 1975 in Milwaukee's Uptown Crossings neighborhood. Thirty-seven years later, the bar is still doing just fine, especially during the day. Friends and family meet here on a regular basis and you can tell that everyone looks out for one another.

Mike's A Little Bit Country was called "Wally's" before Mike went in, but that was a different Wally.

Wally's was the second stop on our tour, and it was the perfect place for everyone who didn't know each other well to get acquainted (or reacquainted) while lubricating their moods. The patrons at the bar were very kind to us and Kathy was the perfect host.

A special touch to the time was when Maggie O'Donoghue showed everyone the pictures remaining on the bulletin board from her 21st birthday party at Wally's – which was, well, over 15 years ago, we'll say. Thanks for the suggestion, Mags.

Anna's Tap
1838 W. Grant St., (414) 643-9564

On every pub crawl, there's always that one place where everyone is able to meet up and the group comes together as a whole. Local DJs Bree and Jason met us here. Nomad talent Sara Welsh met us here. This made the group slightly large for a small bar, but then you have your smokers outside, and everything was spread out fine. Plus, about half the group was walking back and forth to Not Nancy's to revisit an old pub crawl stop.

It also helps when a bartender is as awesome, attainable and attractive as Anna's Tap's Amanda. She orchestrated a terrific time which we will all remember. She was on top of her game and I bet she could bartend anywhere in this not-so-sober city, but this is her family, so she is here. Thank you, Amanda, and please tell your friend (my former hoosegow homie) Louie that CD says "What's up."

Amanda's cousin, Samantha Ritchie, has been the proud owner of Anna's for five years now after her mother and best friend, Helen, passed away in March of 2007. Before Helen owned it, she bartended for the wonderful Anna, who previously owned the bar for over 40 years. Helen began bartending for Anna in 1985 and was later her caregiver until Anna's death at the age of 89. Samantha tells me, "Anna had no shame on telling people like it was. When I was younger, I thought that was the funniest thing in the world."

Samantha didn't intend on being a bartender/owner this long, having an associate degree in human resources, but her mother's legacy was more important to her. And five years later she's still going strong, even through a tight economy and a changing neighborhood. I met a couple of her neighborhood regulars and they love Samantha, her staff and her place.

I love this place. One afternoon, Newport's Franky Creed and I stopped here and we bumped into Milwaukee legend Sassy behind the bar. We couldn't believe it, and I hear Sassy goes to visit Frank at his place on occasion.

The patrons are friendly too. I feel safe here and Sam concluded our conversation saying, "I thank my mother every day for leaving me with such wonderful friends. She left me in good hands. God bless her soul."

Full Moon Saloon
4631 W. National Ave., West Milwaukee, (414) 313-0129

I can't help but to begin by saying that John Gasterich, a.k.a. "Little John," a.k.a. "LJ," is probably the coolest new bar owner friend I've made since meeting Jim Kotowski over at Not Nancy's. After five minutes, I felt like we were brothers. This guy is so real, so cool, but hopefully not too green to let any dark sides of the bar culture get the best of him. It can happen if you're not careful, but I have faith in my new friend.

LJ (not to get confused with other LJs, "Liquid Johnny" or "Liquid Joe") is a motorcycle mechanic who opened up the Full Moon Saloon, which is shotgun blast sound away from the Double Barrel Saloon, on April 15 of this year.

Prior to LJ's existence here, the building housed Mollica's bar. I went to Mollica's once to meet up with my guy Jackson Dordel and I just couldn't believe all the dust and rust and trust me, man – I thought I'd never walk back into that building again. But then, biking through the VA one day, I saw something new. I saw a poster advertising a new bar on the door. So, to no surprise, I locked up my bike and checked it out.

I just couldn't believe what I saw. I saw a pretty girl behind a brand new wood bar. Good start. And then, as my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw brand new everything everywhere in a room I thought at one time had absolutely no hope. Aside from the brand new wooded bar, there were new wood walls. There was even a brand new wooded ceiling, which LJ refers to as "bowling alley" wood.

There are two big flat screen TVs on the wall behind the bar to watch the Brewers. LJ loves baseball, but this isn't a sports bar. LJ loves motorcycles, but this isn't a biker bar either. What this is is the kind of bar that welcomes anyone who respects his fellow man (or woman), digs good music and maybe likes to watch a little baseball on TV.

My crew had a nice time here, were actually a bit surprised at how nice and new it was, and vowed to return. I've been back a few times. I'll be back again soon.

Dave Mikolajek Special to
Dave Mikolajek is a longtime Milwaukee bartender and loyal reader.