Michael Gaethke has worked at Water Buffalo since the day it opened in April 2007. Accidentally, he started his bartending career at Mayfair Theater’s bar and restaurant where he worked as a server.
"Both a server and a bartender called in on the same day, so I got thrown into bartending," says Gaethke. "And I loved it."
Gaethke went on to work at Palms – now Onesto – for three years before coming to Water Buffalo.
"I love this place. The clientele is chill, the food is great and I love to make and serve drinks," he says.
OnMilwaukee.com: What is your favorite part of this job?
Michael Gaethke: Lately, since I’ve become a father, I enjoy the social aspects a lot. I take care of my daughter all day before I come here, and I love it, but it’s great to interact with grown ups after being with an almost-2-year-old all day.
OMC: Has parenting changed you a lot?
MG: It has. It’s challenging. Good challenging. And I go to bed earlier now. I used to finish my shift, go out until bar time every night of the week. Now I finish my shift, go home and go to bed because I have to get up at 6 or 7 with my daughter. Sometimes I push it and will go out, but I often have to pull a Houdini because I can’t stay out too late anymore.
OMC: What are your least favorite kids' shows?
MG: Actually, I get into her shows. "Doc McStuffins," "Sofia the First." Sometimes my fiancee and I will continue to watch ‘em even after our daughter takes a nap.
OMC: Your life sounds very satisfying and full, but what do you like to do with some rare down time?
MG: I play bar trivia. Or I go visit my friends who are working at bars. Especially PK (Paul Kennedy). I go wherever he is – Tonic Tavern. Sabbatic. Also, I’m in a band.
OMC: What band?
MG: It’s called Element 13. It’s a cover band. I’ve been in the band – I play guitar and sing backups – for about 10 years. It’s fun, we do a lot of weddings. "Jessie’s Girl," "Brown-Eyed Girl." A little bit of everything. We aim to please and get people dancing. We also play a lot of festivals.
OMC: Are you scheduled to play any festivals this summer?
MG: Yeah, so far we have a couple of dates at State Fair and a couple others that are in the process of being firmed up.
OMC: What is your favorite drink to make?
MG: I love drinking and making a classic Old Fashioned.
OMC: Do you like beer?
MG: I love beer. I’ve been drinking it for a long time and I love how much I’ve learned about it on the job. I’m really into porters right now. I love trying new things.
OMC: Did you grow up mixing drinks for your parents or grandparents?
MG: No, parents didn't drink. Well, my dad drank a little, but not much. Although the first time I tried a beer was one I took from my parents’ fridge. I thought an MGD (Miller Genuine Draft) was a soda. I took a swig and then ran outside and told my dad, "This soda is terrible!"
OMC: What’s something about Water Buffalo people might not know?
MG: This is a huge "first date" place.
OMC: Can you usually identify a first date couple?
MG: Absolutely. It’s usually pretty much the same. Awkward at first, but if it’s a match, it moves into great conversation.
OMC: Were you born and raised in Milwaukee?
MG: I was – on the Northwest Side. I went to Milwaukee Lutheran and then I moved to the East Side to go to UWM.
OMC: What do you like about Milwaukee?
MG: I really love Bay View. I liked living on the East Side but my van got towed all the time so I needed to live somewhere with a great scene and my car wouldn’t get towed.
OMC: Where would you like to travel someday?
MG: When my daughter is older I want to take her to Disney World. I want to go a lot of places: France, Australia. Right now, though, we’re focusing more on our life here. My fiancee is in grad school and we’re getting married next April.
OMC: What’s something that you want to accomplish in your life?
MG: Oh, so many things. I would like to conquer my fear of heights. I get vertigo if you put me in a tall building. I would like to go sky diving some day and break my fear.
OMC: I saw a Groupon for skydiving recently …
MG: Oh, no. I’m not saying I want to sky dive now. I’m saying I want to do this when I’m like 60 and I’ve watched my daughter grow up and then, maybe, it would be OK if I splat.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.