"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!
In New York and Los Angeles, it’s easy to keep track of celebrities, where they shop, eat, get gas and so forth. All you have to do is follow the paparazzi.
In Milwaukee, it can be a little harder, but we have our share of celebrities and well-known people, too. In keeping with Bar Month here at OMC, we decided to find out what the favorite haunts were of some of our local stars.
Phil Witliff, former coach of the Milwaukee Admirals: "Have to go with Major Goolsby’s. When I first came to Milwaukee to play for the Admirals, that is where we would go to rehydrate after games. It is also where I met my wife. Hooligans would be a close second."
Jim Pickering, stage actor: "As a relatively new inhabitant of Bay View, I believe my favorite local bar nowadays is the one at Odd Duck. I think they have a great selection of the beverages I like, and having gone there twice without (stupidly) a reservation, Tami (his wife, fellow actor Tami Workentin) and I have wolfed down some really good food while sitting there as well."
John Malan, Today's TMJ4 metrologist: "My favorite bar is Sobelman's down in the valley on St. Paul. It is always crowded with nice folks and fun, and you can't beat the friendly service. Also, you can enjoy a fabulous Bloody Mary that look's like a floral bouquet (try the Masterpiece), and you can eat right there with of course those tremendous burgers!"
Chris Abele, Milwaukee County Executive: "Cafe Hollander on Downer. Locally owned in my neighborhood, a great selection of beers and like all the establishments that group has, they do a really great job of building community. When you walk in, there's just this very comfortable, easy sense of belonging – like the best kind, relaxed hanging out with friends and family."
Michael Pink, artistic director at the Milwaukee Ballet: "Perhaps the best stop in town for a nightcap is Blu. Of course, the views are spectacular. I’ve also come to appreciate the live entertainment, cocktail selection and top-shelf customer service."
Patrick Curley, chief of staff for Mayor Tom Barrett: "McBob’s on 49th and North. A great neighborhood joint with very good food. Valley Inn on 40th and Clybourn is another great neighborhood joint that makes a nice pizza. Industri and Black Sheep – new spots on South 2nd – both mix a fine cocktail."
Ken Hanson, Founder & CEO, Hanson Dodge Creative and bass player for Panalure: "The Bar at Lake Park Bistro. I love the ambiance, and the bartenders are sassy and personable. The food is amazing, and they make a great martini.
The Art Bar is a real treasure. The people are warm. The art is always fun. It's rare to find so much originality in one place.
Linneman's Riverwest Inn. This place is a '60s throwback. Dylan, the Beatles and Neil Young hold a place of honor here. One the best places to hear authentic Milwaukee music.
Hotel Foster. Chill music in a warm environment. The bartenders look like they're auditioning for a "Music from Big Pink" documentary, but they take their craft cocktails very seriously.
The Foundation. It's in Riverwest, but the craft cocktails, island music and the tiki motif will astral project you to the East Indies and a Hemingway state of mind faster than you can say 'make that a double.'"
John Sieger, musician: "Tony's 4th and Florida or Virginia? I hear it's closed now, but it was the site of my bachelor party (which was crashed by bachelorettes) and many a post-band rehearsal beer and a shot (Laphroaig). Three shades of beautiful industrial green, it had a Nut Hut with delicious light bulb heated cashews. There was the affable Tony, who never looked his age, and his wife Ann, who stayed in the back room and sprang into action when a burger was ordered. Good burgers too!"
(Note: Someone has to help him out. He picked a bar that hasn’t existed for years.)
Charles Benson, Today's TMJ4 reporter and anchor: "I know this may not sound very exciting, but I have to say the Newsroom Pub is a 'favorite bar' for me. I really don't hang out at a lot of bars, but I enjoy the pub's rich history. I've been there for many Milwaukee Press Club events and have interviewed several heavy hitters from the political world and business community. I only wish I could have been there when some of the other legends dropped in."
Don Smiley, CEO at Summerfest: "Any bar at Henry Maier Festival Park during Summerfest in which I pull shifts bartending to get a feel for what’s going on. I get great feedback from our customers because no one recognizes me or knows who I am. It’s 'Undercover Boss' without a disguise! I also like the bar at Mason Street Grill for the jazz music and appetizers along with a couple of cold ones. Leff’s Lucky Town has sports, sports and more sports, plus bar food and very friendly people."
Nicole Teague, leading artist at Milwaukee Ballet: "I love a good dive bar, and luckily, in Milwaukee, you can find one on just about every corner. Hands down, my favorite bar is Sabbatic, which is near Milwaukee Ballet in Walker’s Point. Sabbatic is great because it has good music, it plays old films and there’s a pool table. It’s pretty much everything you could ask for in a bar."
Sandy D'Amato, chef and founder of Sanford – as well as arguably the greatest chef Milwaukee has ever seen: "I have always had a soft spot for Victor's. Not only was it our Sanford watering hole in the beginning, it was more importantly the site of Angie and my first official date. After 30-plus years of marriage, there was some magic happening there!"
William Callahan, Federal Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin: "First of all, I am hardly one of the best known people in Milwaukee (but I appreciate your trying to slip me into that category). Moreover, if I were to be known to frequent any particular bar, that would not necessarily be a good thing. Finally, I am now at an age where frequenting a bar (and suffering the after-effects thereof) are far too painful.
That said, there is a pretty good tavern/bar on west North Avenue, just west of 124th Street. It's called O'Sullivan's. Aside from a full bar and nice bartenders, they serve absolutely great ribs at a really reasonable price. You should try it."
Peter Sandroni, chef and owner of La Merenda: "Asking me to come up with my favorite bar is like asking me which is my favorite child. Plus, I run the risk of upsetting a number of people. But, with that said, here it goes.
Wolski's is my favorite bar. Why? Well, it's where I celebrated my 21st birthday, my bachelor party, my wife's 40th birthday and if my oldest daughter could have her way, we'd celebrate her 6th birthday there as well (that's no joke!). As a family, we will run errands on Sunday, make our way around town and then it's not uncommon to find us stopping for a quick one at Wolski's. We love Bernie, Dennis, Mike, PJ, Rainy, John, Dave, Tony and the rest of the crew. They are like family to my family."
Omar Shaikh, SURG restaurant group: "I have two favorite 'bars' that have become my go to's. My first is the Belmont Tavern because it is a relaxed environment with great drinks and service. My other favorite and new spot is Bugsy's. This is more of a speak easy but a really cool, dark and inviting place with great dancers."
Kathy Mykleby, WISN 12 reporter and anchor: "It is hard to pick a favorite bar! I’ll say Le Rêve Café in Wauwatosa. I love the atmosphere, and I love the bar. It is a zinc bar! Truth be told, Geoff (Mykleby's husband) and I like to ‘dine and wine’ at the bar of many favorite restaurants, like Bartolotta’s, Divino and Lake Park Bistro."
Ted Perry, FOX 6 reporter and anchor, and co-host of "Studio A": "A lot of good choices, but I'm going to have to go with Hooligan's on North Avenue for a couple of reasons. One is sentimental. When I moved here 21 years ago, it's the bar I sat in with the classified ads looking for an apartment so there's that sense of nostalgia every time I walk in. Second, it's a great bar to visit alone. You'll always find someone you know. Great food, good vibe and a low poser count."
Mike Anderson, veteran reporter at WISN 12: "I don't go out that much, but I would say Rollie's on Teutonia in Brown Deer for a couple of reasons. Rollie the owner is a nice guy. I've known him for years, and the patrons/bartenders are fun, friendly and entertaining."
Mike Jacobs, reporter and anchor, Today's TMJ4: "I don't get out often because I work nights. But I've always enjoyed the people watching at Elsa's, the old world charm and beer selection at Von Trier, the Bloody Marys at Cafe Hollander and Wicked Hop, the impeccable service at Lake Park Bistro – and the top shelf liquor, the reasonable prices (free), the spectacular view overlooking McKinley Marina and the exceptionally friendly bartender (me) in my own condo on the East Side."
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.