By Drew Olson Special to Published Jul 30, 2009 at 11:24 AM

There is a scene in the 1989 romantic comedy "Say Anything" in which Lloyd Dobler, the anti-hero portrayed by John Cusack, visits a group of buddies in the parking lot of a rundown gas station / convenience store.

As his friends drink beer and offer unhelpful relationship advice, Dobler look at the group of hapless jibronies and, in a moment of clarity, asks, "If you guys know so much about women, how come you're here at, like, the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night?"

I couldn't help thinking about that scene during a recent evening at Leff's Lucky Town, 7208 W. State St. in Wauwatosa.

As I sat with a group of friends, quaffing beverages and talking trash about someone else's relationship problems, it dawned on me that we were, in a way, like the guys at the Gas ‘n' Sip. Our discourse was more mature, of course, but there was a significant similarity: we were sitting outside in a space that had been previously occupied by a rundown gas station.

Owner Chris Leffler purchased the property, which was adjacent to his bar, and removed the gas tanks and a lot of concrete. About a month ago, Leff's unveiled a new indoor-outdoor addition that nearly doubled the size of the popular tavern and opened it up to the outside.

Conceived by the Zimmerman Design Group, the new space features a bar, restrooms and garage doors that open to a 50-seat patio and landscaped area. The patio, which features subdued lighting, closes at 11 p.m. 

The project has drawn rave reviews from neighbors, who find it more attractive than the gas station, and customers, many of whom are now visiting Leff's at lunch and dinnertime rather than just in the evening.

"The new addition and patio definitely have increased our business," general manager Mike Szohr said. "Our demographics have increased, age-wise and family-wise.

"We're getting a lot of people who want to enjoy the sunshine on the patio. And if it gets too hot, they are meandering inside. The addition is blocked from the sun, but they still feel the breeze through the garage doors.

"The new area is non-smoking, so people are enjoying the fresh air."

Apparently, fresh air fuels the appetite. Szohr said that food sales have increased since the addition opened.

"We're instituting a new system to speed up the process (of serving food)," Szohr said. "And, we're exploring the idea of expanding our kitchen.

"It's a good problem to have."

Leff's serves food from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and until 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The patio, which closes at 11 p.m., allows Leff's to offer outdoor dining that has been a staple for years at Hector's, a Mexican restaurant across the street to the south and is a big attraction at the new Cafe Hollander location which is five blocks north.

"A lot of people have been to the bar at night, but they haven't eaten," Szohr said.

That could be changing. Leff's menu, is heavy with bar-food staples, features specials six days a week. (See below).

"We have some things that are popular, but we like to experiment a bit, too," Szohr said.

So far, the new addition appears to be an experiment that is working.

"It has been better than we hoped," Leffler said. "Now, we just need to have a lot of nice weather."

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.