"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, bartender profiles, drink recipes and even a little Brew City history. Cheers!
Today Milwaukeean Greg Landig officially gained possession of the tavern formerly known as The Monkey Bar, 1517 S. 2nd St. But long before he was a bar owner, Landig was a bar critic.
"My motivation came from going to bars and immediately seeing what's wrong with them," he says. "Then I'd figure out what I would do instead."
Though previously pro bono, his amateur tavern reviews are now starting to pay off.
He's transforming years' worth of mental notes -- and the old Monkey Bar space -- into The Bomb Shelter, a beer-centric bar that pays tribute to the classic corner varieties that flourished during a time when locally-brewed beer seeped from the city's pores. He hopes to be open by St. Patrick's Day.
"There are so many bars that are disappearing," he says, noting the transformation of Art's Concertina Bar and the loss of Milwaukee's lounge of lounges, Bryant's. "I feel like we're losing all the fun things."
And by "fun things," he means charming chotchkey-filled hangouts that highlight Milwaukee's distinctiveness -- polka, bowling, brats, beer -- not clubby cookie cutters offering 20 varieties of flavored vodka.
"I don't want to bash those bars," he says. "They're trendy. But I'm not 22 anymore and I want a place to hang out with my friends."
Landig, 42, says The Bomb Shelter is perfect for people his age, but fun for those in their late 20s and 30s, too. (Retro is still in, isn't it?)
But what guests will find here is more than strategic, stylized nostalgia. Landig is something of a beer historian and savvy shows. "Did you know that when you drink Old Style today it's not Old Style anymore?" he asks. "It's a new formula that Pabst came out with after they brought the brand in the '90s, but not the recipe. The original recipe is still made by City Brewery in La Crosse and is called City Lager."
He's full of this kind of information.
Putting his knowledge to good use, Landig is more than doubling Monkey Bar's tappers to 16, plus a single tap tower for Schlitz, complete with era-appropriate glowing globe.
"I want to have Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and High Life on tap," he says. "Where else are you going to find that?" Fittingly, he's scavenged a collection of Schlitz and Pabst schooner mugs; their wide mouths, he claims, allows aroma to escape properly.
Other tap selections include brews from Lakefront, Sprecher and other Wisconsin-made beers, including Buffalo Water Brewing's Bison Blonde, which is brewed at the Ale House's facility in Walker's Point. Be sure to ask about his beer flights, which come with a big soft pretzel.
The décor also demonstrates a return to Brew City's foundations. With the exception of the existing cream city brick, the bar's interior is undergoing a massive makeover with new paint, new carpet, new bathrooms, re-felted pool table and enough vintage neons, lamps and signs to light up the 2nd Street corridor of the Walker's Point neighborhood. There might be an accordion or two. There will definitely be a shot ski.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”