By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Feb 20, 2010 at 9:03 AM Photography: Whitney Teska

"Bar Month" at 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, rapid bar reviews and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!

The bar space at 1241 N. Water St. has seen its share of turnover with the last decade or so. From its days as The London Bridge at the turn of the millennium, it has morphed into The Corner, then Water's End and has finally settled into what is arguably its most successful incarnation, AJ Bombers.

Owned by Joe and Angie Sorge (Swig, Sullivan's, Water Buffalo), the bar and restaurant is a fun-loving, casual place where you'll find a great burger, good beer and friendly service to wash it all down.

Veteran bartender Matt Ryan has a lot to do with the bar's reputation for good service. He's been there since day one and loves what he does -- even when it means he's got to prepare multiple decadent and beautifully-crafted Bloody Marys, which come complete with a hearty slice of hamburger wrapped in cheese, among several other garnishes.

Patience is always appreciated in a good bartender.

This Bar Month, caught up with him to chat about his love for the industry and why it is that everyone seems to love him. How long have you been a bartender?

Matt Ryan: I've been bartending for seven or eight years, all in Milwaukee. I started at The Pabst Theater when we were just The Pabst Theater (The company's now expanded to include The Riverside and Turner Hall Ballroom).

OMC: How long have you worked at AJ Bombers?

MR: I've been here since we opened in late March 2009.

OMC: When I asked for bartender profile nominations, several people recommended you. What's your secret?

MR: I make everyone feel like they're my friend. I try to be like what I want in a bartender. I want someone who's not afraid to have a conversation. One of my biggest pet peeves in a bartender is when I'm sitting there by myself and they're over there having a conversation with their servers. Everyone is friends with their co-workers, but for me, I'm here to entertain as well.

OMC: What's your signature drink?

MR: My signature is more of the conversation, than anything. I want to make sure you're having a good time. As for me, I'm a drink and a shot kind of guy. I drink Jack and Cokes and I like shots of Jameson. But, I can get you whatever you need.

OMC: What's your least favorite drink to make?

MR: If I've got time to do it, I'll make you anything you want. When I'm really busy and it's got 12 ingredients, then it's like, "Sure you don't want a beer?"

OMC: How is it working on Water Street, one of the city's biggest drinking districts?

MR: I like working where we are. We try and shy away -- we're not Sullivan's, we're not Brothers, we're not Duke's. We're not look for that kind of clientele. We're not here to be asses to elbows deep and really busy. We're here to be able to have a conversation, get you a drink, get you a burger.

I like where I am. I've worked Water Street before and it was time to move to something a little different.

OMC: What's the most ridiculous thing you've seen a bar patron do?

MR: I have worked a lot of shows at the theaters and I've seen a man fall down the stairs, pee himself and get up and try and fight the owner when the owner is just trying to make sure he's OK. I've seen everything -- and I lot of great things, too. I met Tony Bennett once.

OMC: Have you ever had to break up any bar fights?

MR: Oh yeah. It comes with the territory. You get in between them and you separate them. The easiest thing to do is say to one guy, "He's an asshole, I don't know what his problem is," and then turn around and say the same thing to the other guy.

OMC: What bars do you go to when you're not working?

MR: I work a lot of hours, but when I'm not here or at the theater I like to veg out. I like movies. And I like to visit other friends in the industry.

OMC: What are some of your favorite Milwaukee bars?

MR: I love the County Clare; it's got the best Guinness in the city. And I try to go where friends of mine work, whether it's here, or Sullivan's or Brothers. We're all on the same street, so we try to help each other out.

OMC: What's the best part about bartending?

MR: Getting people to interact and have a good time. I want to make friends with people and I not only do that, but I also try and make you be friends with the next guy. I try to get everyone involved so that when I am busy, you guys can still have a conversation.

OMC: What do you like least about it?

MR: I'm a night owl, so it doesn't bother me as much, but sometimes when you get out of here at 4 or 5 a.m. and have to be back at 10 a.m., it gets to be a little hectic. But, I can't complain. I got my college degree and I like doing what I'm doing. This is what I chose to do.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”