When Linda Sackett was a girl, her Milwaukee firefighter father was assigned to the fire station on 1st and Virginia. He would sometimes come home complaining of a poor night's sleep.
The lack of shut eye was not due to alarms clanging in the wee hours. A noisy tavern a block away at 1st and Florida kept him awake. A few months ago his daughter bought that tavern.
Sackett purchased Slim McGinn's Walker's Point bar and eatery and is calling it O'Lydia's. Lydia is the nickname by which most people know Sackett. The O' in the restaurant's name is a signal that she is retaining McGinn's Irish pub theme at the bar and in the kitchen.
That means the menu still features Slim's signature reuben rolls ($7.25) and Irish dip ($8.95), Irish beef ($7.25) and Irish soaker ($4.50). The dip is shaved prime rib with au jus on a French roll, while the beef and soaker feature a gravy made with some Guinness borrowed from the bar.
The Irish beef is served on a toasted kaiser roll, and soaker consists of that Guinness gravy poured over bread or garlic mashed potatoes.
"Slim made a big footprint here," Sackett said, noting that he had owned the bar and grill since 1995. "Keeping it an Irish pub was a no brainer."
Sackett has introduced changes. She lowered bar prices and added menu items, including the Country Western Turkey sandwich ($8.95) and the Cuban sandwich (8.50).
The turkey sammy comes with a sweet potato spread and bacon grilled on sourdough. The Cuban's fixings are smoked pork, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, onions and Dijon mustard on sourdough.
If you're a sucker for sliders, they are served in three varieties – burgers, Irish beef and meat loaf – and are priced at three for $4.95 or six for $8.95. You can mix and match them.
Onion rings ($4.95), mozzarella rolls ($6.75) and wings (10 for $8.95) are among the offerings on the appetizer menu. Shepherd's pie ($8.25), a veggie melt grilled on the customer's choice of bread ($7.75) and a leg of lamb sandwich ($9.50), along with burgers, soups and salads, are prepared in O'Lydia's small kitchen. Danny Miller, formerly of Weissgerber's Gasthaus, is the kitchen manager.
Three or four weekly dinner specials change every Monday, a fish fry is served on Fridays, and Sackett emphasizes nightly value meals. On Wednesdays, for example, diners can choose between all-you-can-eat pasta with sausage or chicken for $5.95 and a boneless porterhouse steak for $16.75. Those deals include a side, bread and soup or salad.
"I'm a firm believer that the only way a local place can make it is by offering good value with great food and service," the new owner said. O'Lydia's also serves a Sunday brunch that will expand to Saturdays when the weather improves.
Sackett entered the restaurant business at the age of 19 when she and her late husband bought a Dunkin' Donuts on 26th and Silver Spring. She subsequently worked as food and beverage manager at the former Grand Milwaukee Hotel, and she managed the old Brown Bottle Pub.
The late 19th century Cream City brick building that is now O'Lydia's began life as a Pabst tavern, owned and operated by the brewery. Only one brand of beer was originally sold there, but Sackett has 16 on tap, and she offers a happy hour from 2 to 6 Monday through Friday and all day and night Sundays.
With a Florida room added to the structure, O'Lydia's seats 106 at tables and another 14 at the bar. An outdoor patio is open in good weather, and a second floor banquet room is available for groups.
Watch for shuttle service to Summerfest, Irish Fest and Downtown sporting events.
Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.
During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.
Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.