By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Nov 26, 2002 at 5:52 AM

There is no shortage of corner taverns in the up-and-coming Bay View neighborhood. But on the corner that's already home to two of the area's finest, the new addition of The Palomino Bar has just notched up the cool factor.

The new bar at 2491 S. Superior St. is the brainchild of the people who brought Milwaukee Fuel, Comet, Hi-Hat and the Garage, and the owners hope their recipe for success at these East Side mainstays will translate south of the Hoan Bridge.

With the full support of neighboring Cactus Club and Club Garibaldi, Scott Johnson and Leslie Montemurro modeled Palomino after the kind of bar they'd frequent as customers. "Hopefully other people will like it, too," Johnson says.

Other than a good scrubbing and cleaning, Johnson says he didn't change too much of the building, which was most recently home to Nellie's. The owners added booths and a fake fireplace, changed the lighting, but that's about it.

The interior décor will look familiar to regulars of Fuel and Comet -- artsy but not pretentious photos and paintings done by fellow Milwaukeeans. Unlike his other establishments, however, Palomino sports wood paneling, an older yet stylish bar and a couple of pool tables in the back.

Despite the tavern's name, its theme has nothing to do with horses. Says Johnson, "It was just a name that we liked, and the logo will look good on t-shirts and stickers."

If anything, the feel is slightly country and western. "But it's more 'Arkansas truck driver country western,' not 'cowboys and Indians country western.'"

"That, and it's like an Up North bar," he adds.

In only its second week, Johnson is already seeing dividends from his hunch that people would take a liking to his new effort. On a recent Thursday night at 6:30 p.m., the bar was doing brisk business, with some patrons eating dinner, but others just enjoying an after-work cocktail.

Palomino's menu is a mix of sandwiches and sides, and it's especially vegetarian-friendly, Johnson says, because the manager is a vegan. The most popular dish to date is the chicken-fried tofu sandwich, though meaty options are plentiful, as well.

"It's all my favorite foods -- Southern-style cooking and fried," says Johnson. The bar serves food until 10 p.m. on weekdays and until 11 p.m. on the weekends.

Palomino's food and drink prices are quite reasonable, though that's not surprising for the neighborhood. "We tried to keep it cheap and get people in here. We want it to be a neighborhood place."

For Johnson, who's a native Milwaukeean, Bay View was a natural choice for his latest venture.

"We've been looking around for a bar down here for a while, because all my friends have moved down here. They got priced out of the East Side."

So is Palomino bringing a little of the East Side down to the near South Side?

"A little bit," he says. "We can't really help it. But so many East Side people have moved down here looking for something like they liked over there."

However, Johnson is sensitive to how his neighbors may feel with so many new folks and businesses moving into this area.

"We weren't interested in doing something like the Hi Hat down here, though I'm sure someone could do it. This is more of an easy segue into the new people who are moving down into Bay View. Some people have lived here their whole lives, and while they don't resent people moving here, you don't want to just plop yourself down in a neighborhood. We tried to make something that locals and newcomers would appreciate."


Some may see the addition of a bar so close to two other taverns with a similar fan base as new competition, but Johnson says all three business see it as an opportunity.

"We couldn't have better neighbors," says Johnson. "We're all super-friendly to each other. As soon as I'm done here, I'm going to Garibaldi to have a drink, because I like it over there, too."

For a building with more than 50 years of bar history, Palomino is already writing a new chapter. From the looks of it so far, Johnson and Montemurro are off to a good start.

Says Johnson, "It's the perfect spot. It's exactly what we were looking for."

Palomino is open daily from 3 p.m. to bar time. For more information, call (414) 747-1007.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.