By Dave Mikolajek Special to Published Dec 09, 2011 at 3:02 PM

This past Nov. 4, my crew of former and current bartenders and bar owners indulged in an early-morning tour of a few of the third-shift bars that are still open here in the area.

We started things off right at 7 a.m. by meeting and eating at Blue's Egg before heading to Monreal's Encore for the use of the shuttle. After boarding the shuttle, driven by Joe Janz (original Liquid Johnny's proprietor), we went to Valent's, Ollie's, B&B Tap and the Needle Inn before making our way back to the Encore for a delicious lunch, consisting of the original Monreal family recipes dating back to their very first restaurant in the early 1960s. Nick Monreal cooks and serves up that great food for lunch every Monday through Friday.

3853 N. Richards St., (414) 961-1494

Every once in a while when I'm looking for a certain type of tavern or a tavern in a certain type of area, I turn to either my liquor rep friends, my Beer Capital guy Brian Miller or a 5-0 friend or two for advice. They've all helped me and I thank them. In this case I learned of this third-shift bar from my friend Maggie who works for Johnson Brothers, a liquor distributor, right next door to the bar.

Our first stop of the morning was Valent's and it quickly reminded me of an old restaurant with about a dozen wooden tables with chairs. There were quite a few plants hanging here and I have to admit that it didn't have to same feel as most of the corner places we go to on these tours. Then when I began to talk to the bartender (and owner's daughter), Jane Milach, I learned of the truly rich history this building had when it was indeed a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to the employees of American Motors and Capital Stamping. American Motors closed. Capital Stamping moved. A few retirees I spoke to blame the union strength back in the day.

Gus and Ann Valent opened Valent's in 1946. Ann grew up in her family's restaurant, Kegel's, which I believe has the very best fish fry in Southeastern Wisconsin. Ann spent many years then cooking at Valent's and her husband Gus did the bartending. Gus passed away in 2002, and about two years ago now, Ann shut down the kitchen.

Today, Valent's still opens early and we were all pleased to meet Jane as she was a wonderful host. Some corner bars I will admit can be quite depressing, but the cleanliness of this place mixed with the many plants and Jane's friendliness made this a perfect and very pleasant first stop.

100 W. Maple St., (414) 384-1558

Located in the heart of Milwaukee's Clock Tower Acres neighborhood, this very small corner tavern is affordable and fun and lets you crank out some absolutely awesome old-school tunes on its CD jukebox. Before we knew it, we were singing and dancing along to Donna Fargo, Freddy Fender & the Texas Tornados and the Rolling Stones.

Just like that, everyone began to have a lot of fun. Sweet Jane from the Riverfront Pizzeria bought a round of microwavable pork rinds and Timmy Capper (former owner of Colonel Hart's, Puddler's Hall and Tavern on the Green) couldn't stop laughing. Me neither. I've seen a lot of bar snacks in a lot of joints (they have 62 different kinds at Gerry's Diamond Tap), but I've never seen these before. And they were pretty damn good – seriously.

Louise Burdue has owned this bar for 18 years now after hanging up her career at Boston Store in their payroll department. "My husband always wanted a bar, and then he passed away," she told me when I asked her how she got into this business. And in this business, I believe you have to be good or you won't make it as long as Louise has. Louise and her staff command a certain type of respect too. You won't see any trouble here.

Before Ollie's, this building housed Fresh Start and The Pit. When it was under those names, it was quite the popular third-shift bar. But in recent years, Louise claims that there just wasn't enough early-morning business, so she shortened her hours. She doesn't open until 10 a.m. now. I see it as a sign of the times because there just isn't that much third-shift production here anymore.

My retired biker buddy Jim blames the union leaders for asking too much back in the day which forced companies to either shut down or move. Either way, from 10 to about 11, my crew had a very enjoyable time and have fond memories of Ollie's.

B&B Tap
3021 S. 13th St., (414) 643-8333

The first time I was at the B&B Tap in Milwaukee's Polonia neighborhood was about 18 years ago with my cousin, who lived a few blocks away, to shoot some stick. It was alright – seemed like your basic old-timers bar. It was nice, clean, and the people appeared to be friendly. Today, on the other hand, it seemed even nicer, cleaner and friendlier. I give that credit to Patty Westphal.

Patty Westphal has owned the B&B Tap for 16 years now after taking it over from her father-in-law, Bill. It's been called the B&B Tap for 44 years now – wow! Before owning the bar, Patty worked as a travel agent for 14 years. "I like working for myself," she says, while her dog Chico sits on a bar stool nearby. Chico has had his own bar stool for 15 years now, and he almost reminds me of Patches over at The Newport not too far away in Bay View.

Frank Creed from The Newport joined us at the B&B, as did Bobby Gull from the now demolished Bobby Gull's Trackside Inn. It was the current and former bar owners that really seemed to love this place that day ... and they were the ones who put up a fight when it came time to leave. Now that really says something about a place if such professionals like this really don't want to leave. And it wasn't just the place they (we) loved, it was Patty too. She has a kind charisma that makes you want support her and her business. And a good business she had that morning too. The place was crowded even without my team of tavern troubadours.

It was nice that there was a perfect little pool room still in the back so some of my peeps could easily flow to. Tom Julio (Sabbatic) played pool with his friends Missy Lane and Sweet Jane. Tom being alone in a small room with two women surprised no one. But back to pool, I have to mention the recent Barhopping with College Dave and Friends Inaugural Billiards Bonanza, held at McGuire's in wondrous West Allis.

Congratulations to Mike Jaciuk (Tonic Tavern) for winning a close contest over Roy Henning (Up & Under). We had a field of 16 participants with a special appearence by retired barkeep Jeff Pintar (Rodeo's, Tompter's, Angelo's).

The B&B Tap is still very much a third-shift bar. Their hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Patty says, "We still get a lot of third-shift workers here, including people from Charter Manufacturing and Milwaukee Valve. We also get firemen and workers from Oakland Gyros."

Needle Inn
7100 W. National Ave., West Allis, (414) 476-8599

The first time I was at the Needle Inn, it was called Jesion's Needle Inn East. My Copenhagen II softball sponsor Scotty Jesion's (Scotty's Perfect Timing, 6500 Bar) father owned it. He also owned Jesion's Needle Inn West about two and a half miles away, which is now O'Connor's Perfect Pint.

About six years ago, Chris Arms bought the place and I went to check it out under the advisement of my buddy Mark Wozniak, who used to tend bar at Zaffiro's with my good friend Frank Lococo. Frank still works down there serving up the best pizza the East Side has to offer. However, the Needle Inn is on the West side, and my favorite pizza out there is clearly Balistreri's.

Before Chris bought the Needle Inn, he was a geologist. He changed professions because he was bored, wanted some sort of change and was sick of having to travel so much. I don't blame him – sounds like a sales job I once had. And believe me, the bar business is not boring by any means if you know what you're doing and you're involved with your operations.

The Needle Inn is still very much of a third-shift bar by opening at 6 a.m. for the guys who come in after their shifts at either P&H Mining, Target or Masterson, to name a few. Regular customer Dave "Bubba" Spitzer tells me, "I've been coming here for 20 years. It's been a third-shift bar for 32 years and they've been good to the third shifters."

Chris told me that the smoking ban hurt him for a while. His business even dropped about 40 percent for a while unfortunately. But on a good note, the morning we were there they had a pretty good crowd.

We hung out for a while and Tom Julio tried one of the $4.50 burgers that our gracious bartender, Jane, made him. Tom claimed it was one of the best burgers he'd ever had, so I had to go back and try one myself. It was seriously delicious – almost like the sliders at the old Five & Dime.

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