"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Absolut, Avion, Fireball, Pama, Red Stag and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Originally, Nate Fried and Bill Lison met while working at La Cage, 801 S. 2nd St. Fried, who was the general manager, and Lison, who worked on and off as a bartender at the gay nightclub for 14 years, became friends and started going out drinking together.
Fried, who is straight, and Lison, who is gay, split their time going to each other’s favorite bars – some of which were LGBT focused and some of which were not.
"We asked ourselves, ‘if we go out to (gay and straight) bars together all the time, why can’t we do this with one bar?'" says Fried.
Lison was already looking around for a bar at the time, so the two friends started to contemplate opening a bar together that was inclusive enough to welcome both gay and straight drinkers.
In March 2010, Lison and Fried opened Hybrid Lounge, 707 E. Brady St.
The definition of "hybrid" represents the mission of the bar and restaurant – a place that combines two or more types of something which, in this case, means customers.
"We're pretty laid back here," says Fried.
About a year ago, Hybrid started offering food under the direction of chef Brian Krieger. Dinner is served from 4 to 10 p.m. daily and brunch is offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
The dinner menu includes starters such as tater tots, wings and cheese sticks wrapped in egg roll skins as well as entrées like homemade pizzas, sandwiches, wraps and salads. There’s also a Friday night fish fry.
Every menu item is under $10, with the exception of the "Bill," an all-beef patty with bacon, jalapeños and pepper jack between two grilled cheese sandwiches, which costs $12.
"We have quite a good menu for a bar," says Lison. "We haven’t had a single complaint."
The brunch menu items also ring in under $10 and include french toast, omelets, croissant sandwiches, biscuits and gravy and the "B.E.L.T" – bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato served on Texas toast with a side of tater tots.
"The brunch is really starting to catch on," says Lison.
Every Tuesday night, Hybrid hosts karaoke which attracts a diverse crowd, from 21-year-olds to an 80-year-old crooner who once sang on Broadway. The bar also offers dart leagues on Wednesday nights, DJs on the weekends and Happy Hour specials every night of the week including a 2-for-1 on Fridays.
The space, located on the corner of Brady and Van Buren Street – in a building crafted in the late 1800s – once housed the popular Indian restaurant Dancing Ganesha.
Since taking over, Lison and Fried have made major changes to the environment, which includes two adjoining rooms. The southernmost room had a drop ceiling and fake walls, making the space feel very enclosed. The new owners removed the ceiling to make it much more open and airy.
Fried and Lison also added new hardwood floors made from reclaimed wood and the walls are adorned with black-and-white photos of vintage Milwaukee, including Downtown scenes and old brewery shots.
"It’s still a work in progress," says Fried.
Because the bar and eatery is perched on the far west end of Brady Street, the owners say they feel both a part of – and apart from – the iconic entertainment-focused scene.
"We’re more of a gateway to Brady Street," says Fried. "And we have a great rapport with our neighbors on Brady Street as well as on Van Buren. We share a lot of customers from Angelo’s. And Angelo (the owner) comes over for fish fries all the time."
Above all, Fried and Lison want to create an environment that’s comfortable for anyone regardless of their race, gender or orientation.
"We just want everyone to get along and have a good time," says Fried. "If you’re gay, great, if you’re not, we don’t give a sh*t. This is an inclusive pub where everyone is welcome."
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.