By Maureen Post Special to Published Jan 23, 2009 at 2:55 PM

Visiting friends in Minneapolis last weekend, we headed out Saturday to Nye's Polonaise and Lee's Liquor Lounge.

We ended up at Nye's Polonaise in late afternoon to settle an ongoing discussion about the Tom & Jerry vs. the Hot Toddy. Naturally, our Minnesotan friends led us to Nye's with the hope it would serve up a resolution.

For those who haven't been there, Nye's Polonaise is combination At Random, Five O'Clock Club, Art's Concertina Bar and Bryant's Cocktail Lounge. The low lighting accents green and gold metallic vinyl booths and intermittent walls are covered in red velvet flocked wall paper. In a word, it's vintage.

We stopped in early (around 3:30 p.m.) but the bar was packed with a mid-20s wedding party and an hour later, the restaurant filled with diners looking for an early meal. Opened in 1949, most staffers are well into their 60s and the only vintage item to outshine the bar is the 1940s original Polka piano.

Well, I should say vintage -- yet young and trendy.  The bar's "Rat Pack" fashion makes it one of the key locales that make the Northwest neighborhood hipster-worthy and warranted Esquire Magazine's deeming it the "Best Bar in America."

Likewise, Lee's Liquor Lounge, located just south of downtown Minneapolis, is part '70s-era bar and part Northwoods show venue. Complete with wood paneling, gleaming Grain Belt, Pabst and Schlitz signage and a blinking neon sign out front, this lonesome bar went from industrial dive to urban hangout.

Saturday's crowd made it abundantly clear, Lee's is regularly home to factory workers looking for a post-shift drink, old-timers looking to chat and Uptown hipsters keen on cheap beer.

Thinking back on the weekend, I started noting the way "vintage," especially in the restaurant and bar world, has revived itself like never before. Where the '80s and '90s gravitated toward the new (new clubs, new cars, new money); there has been a recent regression to anything and everything exuding the trendy chic ambience created by the Silent and Baby Boom Generations.

In Milwaukee, At Random, Bryant's Cocktail Lounge and Lee's Luxury Lounge all renewed their presence in this city with an inherent nod to old school style. Each opening well over 30 years ago, Bryant's (1930s), At Random (1960s) and Lee's Luxury Lounge are as hot today as ever; beckoning a bond with messengers, musicians and artists.

Similarly, The Foundation locks in on the Riverwest crowd with the same Tiki bar lanterns and wicker monkeys my grandparents hung in their 1970s linoleum basement.

PBR's re-emergence across the country indicates this shift almost better than anything else. After decades of decline, Pabst suddenly saw a rise in sales in the early 2000s. Unconsciously, the brand was suddenly embraced by droves of urban hipsters across the nation who took to the brewery's underground image and dollar-a-can promotion. Milwaukee was no exception.

And particularly in Milwaukee, there's a distinctive bridge between vintage bars of the the '50s, '60s or '70s and "vintage" bars adapting a blend of authenticity and modern trend with era appropriate lighting, seating and ambience.

The Palomino does this perfectly. Less than 10 years old, The Palomino nails the latter concept as a local dive bar painted with Western vintage yet plastered with flat screen TVs. It lacks the lounge-like aura of At Random, Bryant's or Nye's but it subscribes to a touch of retro style.

Don't get me wrong, I'm on board with the throwback to old school style. Embracing the simplicity of a bygone era when current trend is outwardly luxurious and inwardly surface is a welcomed retreat.

If anything, I think the return to old exemplifies a rejection of the new that in itself is progressive.

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.