Welcome to Bar Month at OnMilwaukee! For the entire month of March, we're serving up fun articles on bars, clubs and beverages – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
It’s almost time to get your first sip at Campsite 131, the new Third Ward bar from Hackbarth Hospitality Group.
In fact, your chance is coming up very soon. The new Camp Bar offshoot, located at 131 N. Jackson St. will host its grand opening on Friday, March 1 beginning at 2 p.m.
You can expect all the rustic creature comforts and warm hospitality found at each of the Camp Bar locations in Shorewood, Wauwatosa and the Third Ward. But Campsite 131 is smaller. It seats about 80 in its cozy 2,000-square foot digs.
And it’s just a little bit shinier. It’s devoid of taxidermied bears and squirrels, and you won’t find a wall of vintage signs or strings of Christmas lights. It also sports a menu that embraces not only the spirit of the established Camp Bar brand, but also an impressive selection of wines, craft beer, new cocktails and mocktails.
In fact, you can think of Campsite 131 as Camp Bar’s sister. She was born and raised in the Northwoods, so she appreciates the joy of cozying in with friends and waiting out the long, brutal winter. If given the choice, she’d take a glass of wine over a bottle of beer most days. Her nails are well-manicured and her taste in shoes is impeccable. But she’s fun and down to earth, so just about everyone wants to be her friend.
And, gosh darn it, she’s beautiful.
Walk into Campsite 131 and you’ll see the family resemblance immediately. There’s wood. Lots of wood. Some is dark and sleek with a spit-shined finish, while others are grey-washed and weathered or raw and rustic.
You’ll find stark white twigs in the rustic chandeliers and dark rustic boards in a chevron pattern form the backdrop for a display of mounts gleaned from Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The bar features a live edge and a top that's been stained to a dark sheen. The accompanying bar stools are the same comfortable style as those at Camp Bar; but they sport a grey weathered finish and fabric backs donned with grey and burgundy stripes.
Meanwhile the back bar and the lower half of the North wall are lined with petite kiln dried birch trunks, offering up the look and feel of a silent, serene forest.
An airier motif flows down the middle of the bar, where the wood stains become lighter and stools with white twig-like bases and black and white hectagonal fabric seats form landing pads for casual conversations over glasses of pinot noir.
The bar is gorgeous inside. But it will be equally lovely during the summer months when Campsite will roll out a patio that wraps around two sides of the building.
Wine, beer, cocktails & pinsa
On the beverage side, Campsite will offer a bit of something for everyone. In addition to the classic Camp Bar old fashioned (and a few new iterations), there will be a brand new menu of both cocktails and mocktails and a curated list of bottled and canned craft brews from across the state (plus Miller Lite and Coors Light, the latter of which is Co-owner Paul Hackbarth’s go-to beverage).
In fact, Campsite’s biggest departure comes in its emphasis on wine, which will be available both by the glass and bottle.
"Our list is very moderately priced and approachable," notes Adriana Ramirez, director of operations for Hackbarth Hospitality Group. "Our focus to start will be on wines that people recognize and love to drink. We’ve got a really great list, so we’ve also worked really hard to incorporate wine into a variety of our cocktails."
Examples, she says, are a margarita made with rose as well as number of riffs on the classic mimosa. Moving forward, Ramirez says that she and Campsite general manager Christa Esparza will also be introducing wine flights and a wine club.
The bar will also offer ice cream drinks: a brandy Alexander and grasshopper to start, plus a selection of fun seasonal ice cream drinks in the summer.
On the food side, Campsite will maintain a similar model to Camp Bar Third Ward, offering a small menu of appetizers (think Milwaukee Pretzel Company pretzels, mozzarella sticks and other similar fare) along with a brand new offering: Cranky’s pinsa, Roman street food-style pizzas made with a unique flour blend that results in a light, airy crust with fewer calories than a traditional pizza crust. The pinsa will be offered with six topping variations including caprese and Wisconsin beer brat.
"Curating this concept was really so much fun – from picking out the various materials to really zeroing in on the menu," notes Ramirez. "We have a great team and we’re really excited for people to experience it."
Beginning March 1, Campsite 131 will be open Wednesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to midnight, Friday from 2 p.m. to close and Saturday and Sunday from noon to close.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.