All this month, we revealed to you -- one by one -- the winners of the 2010 OnMilwaukee.com readers' poll for the best bars in Metro Milwaukee. Now that all is revealed, here is a tally of the winners (as well as our editors' picks), in one handy list. Cheers!
Best bar district: Bay View
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bay View
t's hard to find a neighborhood in Milwaukee that's reinvented itself as quickly as Bay View. While long-time residents will tell you that the nightlife has never been lacking with mainstays like The White House, Frank's Power Plant and the Cactus Club, newcomers like Café Centraal, Bay View Brew Haus and Tonic Tavern have further cemented the area as our readers' choice for best bar district -- and we agree.
Best bar games & trivia: Club Charlies
OnMilwaukee.com editor's choice: Landmark Lanes
Club Charlies doesn't have a pool table or an entire room dedicated to video games, but it does have a killer trivia night. Every week beginning at 7 p.m., Charlies bartender Colin Boynton hosts Taco Trivia Tuesday, in which he leads one of a handful of teams to trivial victory while promoting the bar's $5.99 taco platter special. Boynton makes up his own questions, rather than using generic Internet trivia. The games end around 9 or 10 p.m., and the winning team leaves with a $50 gift certificate; second place gets $25.
Best bathrooms: The Safe House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Branded
For the umpteenth year in a row, the Safe House received the most votes for Milwaukeee's top bar bathroom. It's not surprising -- among women, at least -- because, after all, it's the only ladies' room in Brew City featuring a large poster of a naked Burt Reynolds with a metal heart positioned over his man parts. (Just don't try to sneak a peak under the heart otherwise the lights flicker throughout the bar / restaurant and everyone will know you're curious about Burt's endowment.) As for the men's room, don't be fooled by the two doors. Behind one, there's a brick wall and a sign that says, "Whoa!" The other door leads to the actual rest room, where there are two stalls labeled "FBI" and "CIA."
Best beer list: Sugar Maple
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Sugar Maple
Co-owner Bruno Johnson's second bar (he also operates Palm Tavern with his wife, Adrienne Pierluissi), was a runner-up to Bomb Shelter in this category a year ago and won the big prize in ‘10. Sugar Maple focuses on Midwest craft beers and eschews the city's megabrews, though Lakefront and Sprecher are represented among the more than 60 beers on the draft list.
Best Bloody Mary: Wicked Hop
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Wicked Hop
The Bloody Marys at Wicked Hop come packed like a meal -- beef stick, shrimp, blue cheese stuffed green olive, marinated mushroom and piles of mozzarella cheese that took the shape of thick Japanese noodles. And that's just the garnishes. The drink itself isn't a fire-eating contest, but rather a bold, flavorful mix of spices that tastes more savory than spicy, making it an accessible beverage for even the mildest palate.
Best bowling alley bar: Landmark Lanes
OnMilwaukee.com editors' pick: Bay View Bowl
Few things are more identified with Milwaukee than bars and bowling. This year, for the first time, we decided to combine them into a category for our annual readers' survey. The results weren't exactly surprising. Landmark Lanes, the 83-year-old icon located at 2220 N. Farwell Ave., captured first place by a comfortable margin.
Best bar in Bay View: Palomino
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Burnhearts
With 23 entrants in this category, the winner had to be good. Good is an understatement for 2010's top vote getter: Palomino, 2491 S. Superior St. It's not the oldest bar in the neighborhood, but it's one of the first to pull in drinkers from all over the city. Flanked by Cactus Club and Club Garibaldi, it's a key part of the neighborhood's little triangle of cool.
Best bar on/near Brady Street: Wolski's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Nomad World Pub
The competition is pretty tough on and around Brady Street. Wolski's is a classic Milwaukee tavern that's known for its free popcorn, dartboards, bumper stickers and down-to-earth vibe. At just over a century old, it has a friendly, classic Milwaukee vibe with plenty of games and regulars to keep us entertained. No one is there to judge, and everyone is there to just have a good time.
Best brew pub: Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden
Lakefront isn't a brew pub in the traditional sense; it's a microbrewery. But, you can still go there on your night out to get a drink with the gang (even without doing the tour.) The Palm Garden's Friday night fish fry is a now-legendary tradition, complete with live music from local polka band, the Brewhaus Polka Kings, Captain Rusty's fish fry and, of course, the tasty varieties of locally-made beer on tap.
Best bar to celebrate a 21st birthday: The Safe House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bootleggers
For years, The Safe House has been a prime destination for bridal parties, first dates and that all-important first night of legal consumption. Whether it's the kitschy theme, comfortable atmosphere of slushy drinks, stop in on any given night, and you're sure to find a young lady wearing a "21" tiara or even a group of gents making fools of themselves when they don't know the password to enter. One has to wonder, though, how many young women celebrated their 21st birthday by catching a glimpse of Burt Reynolds', err, package...
Best chain bar: Bar Louie
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' choice: Bar Louie
A lot of folks prefer to "buy local" and feel a natural bias against national chains. Consistent service and performance, which are hallmarks at Bar Louie, go a long way toward changing that perception. They also help keep locally-owned joints "on their toes." When there is competition between bars -- no matter who owns them -- the customers often win.
Best club: The Mad Planet
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: The Mad Planet
Mad Planet -- owned by Rosemary Silagy -- opened almost 20 years ago. With its eclectic crowd and funky motif, the Riverwest stop is a people watchers' wonderland. Punks, goths, hipsters, bachelorette parties and everyone in between mix it up on a regular basis inside the spacious bar -- or outdoors on the tree-canopied patio. Yes, every Friday night is still '80s Night at The Mad Planet, and yes, it's still packed until closing time with folks looking to shake it to some retro tunes. After all these years, The Smiths still don't get old. When it comes to booking live bands, the venue takes a much more up-to-date approach. Local, independent acts play here regularly, as do bigger national bands.
Best "cougar" bar: Victor's
OnMilwaukee's editors' choice: Victor's
For the second year in the two-year lifespan of the category, OnMilwaukee.com readers selected Victor's as the prime hunting grounds for cougars -- older women who like to "mingle" with younger men. Victor's has been around for three decades. Owner Vic Jones believes his large dance floor is part of the reason why so many "cougars" come to his establishment. "Places that have a dance floor -- like Victor's -- make it easier for women to meet men because they just have to ask them to dance," says Jones.
Best decor: Branded
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' Choice: Maxie's Southern Comfort
Situated neatly in the motorcycle-themed Iron Horse Hotel, Branded draws from the theme to combine an industrial feel in a classy, upscale and cozy setting. Described as "vintage modern," folks in business suits and leather can both comfortably enjoy a drink and mingle.
Best Downtown bar: Old German Beer Hall
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Milwaukee Brat House
Opened at the end of 2005, the Old German Beer Hall seats about 100 and features the beers of the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, along with lagers, darks and weisses and seasonal offerings like Maibock, HB Sommer and Oktoberfest. The bar also serves the Weissgerber family's house amber and Miller High Life and Miller Lite in bottles. Beers are served in liter, one-third liter or half-liter glasses. The Old German Beer Hall offers a Stein Club, and participating member buy a liter stein that stays at the bar. Tuesdays are Stein Night and members get discounts on beers. The beer hall's traditional Bavarian menu includes large Bavarian pretzels, bratwurst, knockwurst, smoked pork chops, carved corned beef sandwiches, schnitzel (as a special only) and three-brat chili.
Most eclectic drink: At Random
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: At Random
You can't get beer or wine inside At Random, but the Tiki Love Bowl will do the trick at this romantic hideaway.
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Balzac
Low lights, smooth crooners, comfy booths and power-packed ice cream drinks made At Random the inaugural winner in this category. Apparently, many readers make their first date a secret rendezvous, too.
Best bar for a girls night out: Lucille's Rockin' Pianos
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Cuvee
The list of choices was lengthy, but Milwaukee's female population chimed in to elect Lucille's Rockin' Pianos as its favorite ladies' night locale. Many women love to sing and dance (especially in public) and with two Yamaha grand pianos pounding out rock tunes, you can really get groovin' at Lucille's. It's probably the only place on Milwaukee where you'll experience dueling pianos like this."It's totally different from any other place you have around here. There's a lot of DJ bars in Milwaukee and a lot of small stop bars," entertainment director Peter Hernet says.
Best happy hour: Duke's on Water
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Rascals
Everybody loves happy hour. Duke's, which is located at the corner of North Water Street and East Juneau Avenue, $1 specials every day of the week and it lasts until 9 p.m. The bar, formerly Mel's, features 15 tap beers and 31 bottles and also offers an array of nightly specials to keep the good times flowing.
Best hook-up bar: Victor's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Buckhead
For three decades, Victor's has been a destination for a diverse group of eaters, drinkers, dancers and, apparently, lovers. Perhaps the accessible nooky is because of the dance floor which allows customers to easily interact. Who knows. In any case, if your pungent aftershave or pointy push-up bra isn't attracting that special one-night conquest, you might want to try Victor's.
Best Irish Bar: County Clare
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Paddy's Pub
With its immigrant heritage, it should come as no surprise that Milwaukee is home to a large number of Irish bars. There are many and each of them has its own subtle, unique qualities. In the end, though, OnMilwaukee.com readers made their choice decisively in picking County Clare. The traditional feel, enhanced with occasional live Celtic music, lets customers escape to the Emerald Isle, if only for a few hours for a pint of Guinness.
Best karaoke: Up & Under Pub
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Frank 'N Stein
Plenty of folks may consider "best karaoke" to be oxymoronic, but it's not going to go away any time soon. "American Idol" still draws big ratings and karaoke nights still bring big crowds to local bars. With free admission, the Up & Under Pub starts its karaoke night at about 9:30 on Wednesday and the fun runs until closing time. They offer $3 "oil cans" of Foster's (sure to lubricate the vocal chords of potential crooners) and cheap Cherry Bombs (sure to obliterate their inhibitions). Karaoke at the Up & Under Pub is among the bar's busier nights. Singers can use the stage, and several regulars, including UWM music students, make it a weekly event. And of course, there's that old guy singing Sinatra every Wednesday, too.
Best LGBT bar, 2010: La Cage
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Walker's Pint
La Cage is Milwaukee's oldest LGBT dance club, with two dance floors, four bars, mega video screens, drag shows, theme nights and new and retro extended-mix dance songs cranking all night long. Gay, straight or undefined, this club is a fun place to cut the rug while enjoying reasonably priced drinks. For a quieter, but still fun venue, Walker's Pint is just down the street.
Best live music bar: Milwaukee Ale House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Cactus Club
Live music and cold beer go hand in hand, which is why so many Milwaukee bars double as concert venues. On the face of it, Milwaukee Ale House might not seem like a live music venue. But ever since it opened more than a decade ago, the Ale House has not only supported local music by booking gigs to help introduce musicians to the happy hour crowd (as well as late night gigs, of course), it has also occasionally brought in national and international acts, as well. That helped lift it past Shank Hall, The Rave and Cactus Club.
Best lounge: Bryant's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bryant's
This popular spot closed for a time after the death of long-time owner Carl Malmbert, but John Dye revived the place soon after. Much to Dye's credit, the South Side favorite remains exactly the same. Save for a major scrub down, Dye kept the retro real with ultra low lighting, velvet walls, classic tunes, attentive service and signature drinks found nowhere else in the city. Whether bellied up to the bar or sharing a candle-lit corner booth, you'll find the quintessential sipping selections like the Brain Buster, the Black Magic, the Briar Patch and The Rat Pack, a drink Dye describes plainly as, "everything The Rat Pack drank."
Best margaritas: La Fuente
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Riviera Maya
In the summer, the patio at La Fuente is packed with drinkers looking to soak in a little sunshine and a dose of tequila. Its lively atmosphere, fast service and potent margaritas have made it a local favorite, voted Milwaukee's best margaritas for the third year in a row. The popular Mexican restaurant in Walker's Point offers blended or on-the-rocks margaritas, with or without salt on the rim, and in a variety of flavors, including peach, strawberry, mango, rainbow, lime and raspberry. They are available by the glass, a three-margarita mini-pitcher or a full pitcher that pours five margaritas.
Best Marquette bar: Sobelman's Pub & Grill
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Caffrey's
It's becoming an annual event. Sobelman's wins this category and folks argue about whether it's truly a "Marquette" bar. Located in a former Schlitz tavern building at 1900 W. St. Paul Ave., is renowned for its Black Angus burgers -- served on tasty buns with three cheeses, jalapenos and fried onions -- and its Bloody Marys. Owners Dave and Melanie Sobelman, who have courted business from Marquette students and alums for nearly a decade, serve cold beer and good food in a clean, cozy environment.
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Metro Bar
Martini drinkers can be a passionate, opinionated (and hard to please) bunch. The keys to a great martini are ingredients, preparation consistency. Readers felt Hi-Hat does the best job in all phases.
Best new bar: Club Charlies
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Tonic Tavern
Tucked away on the one-way portion of Menomonee Street in the Third Ward, Club Charlies opened its doors last year in a brand new space with an age old concept. Step inside to find a wooden bar surrounded by several booths and tables, televised sporting events on the wall and a classic combo of beer and liquor behind the rail. The bar features great nightly specials and a six-buck lunch deal that includes pulled pork, chopped salad and sliders.
Best bar on/near North Avenue: Hooligan's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Von Trier
The iconic sign outside doesn't say "mediocre." It doesn't say "slightly above average." The sign says "super," and fans agree. Established in 1936 and remodeled in 1998, Hooligan's is a favorite place to congregate, celebrate, commiserate and communicate over tasty pub food, cold drinks and televised sports. The bar attracts a cross-section of Milwaukeeans with more than 30 micro and import beers on draft and an impressive selection of scotches and flavored vodkas.
Best patio / outdoor seating, 2010: Barnacle Bud's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Barnacle Bud's
Summer is fleeting in Wisconsin, so we're very particular about our patios. Bud's, which is a hidden gem on the South Side, is the first repeat winner in this category. This no-frills, workingman's waterfront patio can feel like a genuine escape from hectic city life, all without having to give up beautiful views of the water and skyline.
Best bar in a restaurant, 2010: Milwaukee Ale House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Water Buffalo
Mixing a lively atmosphere, a great patio (in season), an impressive slate of brewed-on-site beers and a full dining menu -- as well as live music -- the Milwaukee Ale House was a trailblazer in the Third Ward dining and nightlife scene, helping pave the way for the neighborhood to become the entertainment destination that it is today.
Best Riverwest bar: The Tracks
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Art Bar
The Tracks is a spacious volleyball and sports bar, with plenty of pool tables, dart boards, indoor / outdoor seating and large-screen televisions for game watching. During the summer months, 140 volleyball teams compete every week in outdoor sand pits. The Tracks has 17 beers on taps and the food menu includes burgers, hotdogs, deli sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, wings, a Wednesday and Friday fish fry, sliders on the weekends, ribs on Thursdays and more.
Best bar to see and be seen: Whiskey Bar
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Whiskey Bar
Bar owners are always happy to attract a crowd, especially when it's the "right" crowd. By that, we mean movers and shakers; the "beautiful" people ... the VIP contingent. Whiskey Bar has been attracting that crowd -- and regular Joes -- since it opened. Operating for less than a year in a space once occupied by Club Belize, ParkBar and (long ago) Club Marilyn, Whiskey Bar has created an upscale casual atmosphere with diffused lighting, wide leather chairs, sectionals and sofas and -- as the name suggests -- a solid selection of whiskeys.
Best bar for a secret rendezvous: At Random
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Two
You can't order a beer inside At Random, but the lounge at the corner of Russell and Delaware offers a dim lighting and strong specialty drinks that make it a good place to have an intimate evening. If you're trying to get away to somewhere where you won't be seen (perhaps even by a waitress), this is definitely the place. Keep in mind that At Random is also at randomly open, so don't be surprised if you show up and the joint is closed.
Best suburban bar: Shorewood Village Pub
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Harry's
The cozy and comfortable Village Pub has been a gathering spot in Shorewood for generations and the walls feature fascinating black and white photos dating to a time when the neighborhood -- which is near UWM -- was called East Milwaukee. You can see President Calvin Coolidge's train sitting in the station at Capitol Drive and a team of horses plowing the corner of Lake Bluff and Murray.
Best bar for a shot and a beer: Nomad World Pub
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Club Garibaldi
There is nothing wrong with frilly drinks and upscale cocktails. Sometimes, though, you have to go back to basics. At the Nomad, 1401 E. Brady St., the shot and a beer isn't just available, it's recommended: the "Prix Fix" -- consisting of a can of Pabst, shot of Jameson and a cigarette -- is an actual menu item.
Best smoke-free bar: Whiskey Bar
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: City Lounge
Whiskey Bar enters the history books as the last winner of this category, which will disappear when the state-wide smoking band goes into effect in July. Though he opened Whiskey Bar a year before the ban, owner Mike Vitucci says his high-end decor -- he uses warm, diffused lighting and wide leather chairs, sectionals and sofas to create an intimate setting good for lounging and conversation -- played a part in his decision to be smoke-free from day one. "When you see the leather furniture and the light shades, you're not going to want to trash that (with smoke)," he says. For smokers, there is an adjacent outdoor patio space facing Jackson Street that seats 60.
Best snacks: Paddy's Pub
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: AJ Bombers
Milwaukeeans love a good drink and can be quite loyal to their favorite watering holes. That said, when you spend enough time at any given bar, you're bound to get hungry, eventually. From popcorn, to peanuts to pretzels, the city-wide choices are savory and enticing after a few brewskis. But perhaps no other place nails the cravings on the head so well as Paddy's, thanks to its bountiful nightly offerings of peanut M&Ms and Chex Mix. We're hungry just thinking about the divine sweet and salty combination, but we love AJ Bombers for the peanuts.
Best sports bar: Fanatics
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Karma
A repeat winner in our survey, Fanatics wins fans with 42 high-definition screens, including a 180-inch video wall in the "stadium" section. It has a game room. It has a luxury box. It has a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and chicken wings. That combination allowed it to defeat runners-u like Hooligan's, Zim's and Major Goolsby's.
Best strip club: Silk Exotic
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Crazy Horse
This was the first year for this category and Silk, located in the building that once housed the Attic West nightclub, won by a comfortable margin. Silk offers a variety of nightly specials and an array of entertainers in what is described as a Las Vegas-style atmosphere. The editors chose Crazy Horse, formerly known as Heartbreakers, which has undergone extensive renovations and is attracting a steady stream of customers to West Allis.
Best theme bar: Safe House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Dogs Bollocks
Apparently, Milwaukeeans are dying for a place to hide out. The 43-year-old bar and restaurant features a trick entrance requiring a password, a cloak-and-dagger room and a menu featuring clandestine cuisine like the spy burger and a Bond's Bomb dessert. The bar features concoctions like the Spy's Demise, served in a Safe House pint glass.
Best Third Ward bar: The Wicked Hop
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Milwaukee Ale House
A cool location. Great sidewalk seating. Tasty drinks. Good food. A nice happy hour. What else makes The Wicked Hop a favorite? According to OnMilwaukee.com food writer Amy Schubert, "It's the animated, lively staff, the cocktails, the seemingly omnipotent televisions airing sporting events, and a who's who of Third Wardians, who seem to know everyone else's name."
Best view: Roots
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Roots
Despite competition from Blu in the Pfister Hotel and the riverfront vistas of Milwaukee Ale House, Roots prevailed with readers and editors alike. Sitting inside or on the patio, diners can see west to the Marquette campus, east to Lake Michigan and all of Downtown. Recognizing its prime location, Roots' design includes floor to ceiling windows and doors that swing open in summer to expose the interior dining room to the incredible view that sweeps out from the patio.
Best Walker's Point bar: Slim McGinn's Irish Pub
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Steny's
What's not to love about the old Irish pub? It's literally open every day of the year and in the summer and fall, the outdoor patio is a nice, relaxing oasis along the bustling 1st Street. Slim's doesn't disappoint with its fine variety of sandwiches, appetizers and homemade soups. Nightly specials, steaks, chops, prime rib and all-you-can-eat crab legs and barbecue ribs all make this a place to put on your "to dine at" list.
Best bar on/near Water Street: Trinity Three Irish Pubs
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: AJ Bombers
As you can guess from its name, Trinity houses three bars: Gallagher's, Foy's and Duffy's. All of the establishments have the same food and drink menu that includes Guinness, Strongbow, Harp and more. Gallagher's is also a Jameson bar, decorated with dozens of bottles of Jamo.
Best bar in Wauwatosa: Leff's Lucky Town
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Club Tap
The food is good. The beer is cold. But, Leff's Lucky Town isn't flashy, fancy or very remarkable. And, the customers in Wauwatosa like it that way. Located in a historic building that once housed a silent movie theater and a shoe store that fronted a Prohibition speakeasy, Leff's is a heavyweight in Wauwatosa and fosters goodwill among customers by sponsoring teams and charitable endeavors.
Best wine list: Pizza Man
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Dream Dance Steak
With more than 500 selections by the glass or bottle and a dozen Wine Spectator "Awards of Excellence," Pizza Man has won "best wine list" honors by large margins in this category several times and 2010 was no exception despite a fire that destroyed the building Jan. 19 and was ruled arson. Pizza Man owners Mike and Deanna Amidzich say they plan to reopen Pizza Man in a new East Side location. In the meantime, its fans can celebrate this small victory as the bar and restaurant once again secures its ruling title as Milwaukee's favorite wine list. It's a gentle reminder of how great an institution the East Side icon has been to Milwaukee wine enthusiasts over the decades.
Best bar of yesteryear: The Social
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: L.A. Freeway
Though it's been closed for less than two years, The Social -- which operated at 114 E. Pittsburgh St. -- remains a "sentimental" favorite among OnMilwaukee.com readers. Maybe it was the mac 'n' cheese or the s'mores. Maybe it was the tasty cocktails. Whatever the reason, for a second straight year Kevin Sloan's The Social bested other choices like Timer's, Shorewood Inn, Century Hall, Club Marilyn and Luke's Sports Spectacular.