Being an Uber driver in Milwaukee is a one-of-a-kind experience that lets Dave Begel meet some of the most interesting people, residents as well as visitors to the city. Everybody has a story and Tales of the Road will highlight some of those stories. The stories have been edited into quotes from riders. Names have been omitted or changed to preserve the privacy of his passengers.
If you are young(ish), headed out on a warm Saturday night and want to go drinking Downtown, you have your choice of four distinctly different areas and crowds to join.
All four areas feature a number of bars and dramatically different patron groups and atmospheres. Here’s what I see:
Geography: Generally bounded by St. Paul on the north, the Milwaukee River on the west, Jefferson Street on the east and Menomonee Street on the south.
Vibe: Pretty laid back. Not much traffic between bars. It seems like once you get settled at a place in the Third Ward you are in for the night. Peaceful. Pretty much a white crowd.
Dress code: For men it’s kind of young corporate type with lots of pressed jeans, some with creases, and polo shirts with the tails hanging out. No hats. Loafers without socks. For women it’s summer dresses that would be perfect for a garden party. Frothy and relatively modest. (Relatively).
Hot spots: The corner of St. Paul and Broadway features Cafe Benelux and Wicked Hop across the street from each other. Very similar. Both serve food. Both have street-side patios. Charlie’s Club on Menomonee may be the craziest in the Third Ward. Patio and lots of loud music. Good mix of gay and straight. The best grilled cheese in the entire Western world.
Geography: Generally bounded by Kilbourn Avenue on the north, Wisconsin Avenue on the south, Milwaukee on the west and Jackson Street on the east.
Vibe: Classiest of all. Most adults in comparison to the others. Valet parking in lots of places and pretty civilized behavior. Hip and cool. Lots of travel between places, crossing in the middle of the street. Be careful driving around here. Lines to get into places. Also the most ethnically diverse crowd Downtown.
Dress code: For men it’s kind of like casual Friday at the office. Colorful shirts, tucked in and a shine on your shoes. Well-styled hair. For women it’s short, shiny dresses and the impossibly highest of heels. Women take short steps when walking and spend a lot of time tugging the hem of their dresses lower.
Hot spots: Taylor’s and the adjacent Flannery’s have big crowds. Then down the street for Belmont, Mad Genie, Plum and others. You also can’t forget Elsa’s on Jefferson, perhaps the longest-running high-end bar in the city. The crowd is either sophisticated or people who want to be sophisticated.
Old World Third Street
Geography: Kilbourn Avenue on the south and Juneau Avenue on the north. Both sides of the street.
Vibe: The most raucous of the Downtown sites, but reserved enough for civilized behavior. Lots of choices along the street so there is a fair amount of traveling going on. Even though they aren’t supposed to, there is some street drinking. Also the smell of weed is very obvious. Ethnically a moderately diverse crowd.
Dress code: For men it can be just about anything. Lots of baseball hats worn backwards and T-shirts with clever or dirty sayings. You see cargo shorts. Cargo shorts! For the women there is a lot of skin with short skirts and skimpy tops. Flip flops are big, as are toenails and fingernails painted with identical colors and sparkles.
Hot spots: Ugly's and Lucille's are across the street from each other and normally have crowds spilling out. Ugly's wins the prize for the most ethnically diverse crowd on the street. Lots people also at the south end of the street at Buck Bradley's and Who's on Third.
Geography: Juneau Avenue on the north and State Street on the south. Water Street on the east and the Milwaukee River on the west.
Vibe: It looks a little like the morning district meeting for the police department. Vans, cars and sawhorse blockades. Some streets actually blocked to traffic. Cops all over the place, acting cool and trying to keep order. It’s like the Wild West out there. Shouting and groups of girls who look like they are 13 trying to pass for 21. Giggling. Groups of boys checking out the girls. This place has all the airs of a place to hook up for a night.
Dress code: For the guys it’s muscle shirt time. Show off those guns and, in some cases, midriff baring shirts to show off the abs. Lots of jeans hanging low and work boots. For the girls it’s the more bare, the more better. The shortest jean skirts you’ve ever seen and lots of the new-look shorts that show more butt than should be legal, moral or in good taste. You’ll never forget seeing a bunch of teenage girls, all wearing the shortest of shorts, the same extra tight tank top (all in different colors) wobbling along on high heels their moms bought them for prom.
Hot spots: The corner of Edison and Juneau features Trinity Three Irish Pubs and The Harp. Who knew there were so many Irish children in Milwaukee? Raucous and rambunctious. Long lines and crowds outside who act just like they were inside. Joint passing along the lines is a happy way to pass the time until you actually get past the bouncers.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.