Editors' note: This is the first installment in what we hope will be a regular series written by Dave Mikolajek, a longtime bartender and friend of OnMilwaukee.com.
Mikolajek -- aka "College Dave" -- will embark on an evening pub crawl to four places; smaller local establishments that, for the most part, are just a bit off the radar and haven't gotten a lot of attention.
A NIGHT WITH "COLLEGE DAVE"
Dale's of Milwaukee
6132 W. Capitol Dr.
Dale opened his most recent location on Capitol Drive in 1976. Before that, he owned The Hillside, currently known as Treats, on the East Side. Dale's is known for two things: soup and a collection of clown pictures and beer memorabilia.
In 1992, Dale wrote a book containing 200 soup recipes and sold 5,000 copies. As for the clown stuff, Dale, a Shriner clown who goes by the name "Happy Happy," told us "The stuff on the walls is probably worth more than the walls themselves."
Unfortunately, a fire engulfed those walls back in '94 and only 21 of the 100-plus pictures were saved. As a reward for Dale's kindness and generosity, his customers and friends came out of the woodwork with their own memorabilia to donate.
You can tell that Dale has a big heart and our hearts were filled after hearing him tell that story. After a couple brews and a shot of V.O., Dale bought us a shot. We thanked him and he smiled and said, "May your best experience of the past be the worst of your future." Thank you, Dale, as we really like you and your place.
2579 N. Pierce St.
George Ortiz and a friend opened this small, yet wide-open corner bar in Riverwest in 1993. Two years later, George became the sole owner. This cool, cleverly lit, likable lounge has it's unique open feel because of the large windows which are opposite the long bar and pool table.
There's a jukebox, too, but not with a lot of "Gringo music" as Willie, George's son and bar manager, likes to call it. Club "99" myth says that it was originally to be called Club "69," but the wives of the proprietors opposed that moniker. "99" is open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, except for Packers Sundays, when it opens at noon.
2000 E. Cora Ave., St. Francis
I've always thought that references to the television show "Cheers" were a bit overdone and, well, lame.
That was until my crazy crew and I hit Gordie's. Not only did everybody there know each other, but they all went out of their way to meet us, too. Soon enough, it truly was a place "where everybody knows your name." And they were sure seemed glad we came. Shots, drinks and frozen pizzas were passed back and forth as Van Halen's "Greatest Hits" played in the background. The place was very small, but very awesome and fun, as well.
That "whatever" bomb I drank, courtesy of my new friend "Airport Mike," almost put me down for the count. Thank God I ate some pizza! Gordie bought this former railroad workers' rooming house 26 years ago and just recently replaced the orange shag carpeting on the walls (yes, on the walls) with a thinner, more sedate tan color. (Interesting note: Gordie's son, Marty, was an Olympic speedskater in both the 1988 and '92 Olympics.) I'll surely be back to visit the next time I'm in the neighborhood.
7023 W. Adler St.
Mortimer's Pub is perfect. Steve "Beaver" Silber opened in the former Adler Inn in 1991 and has made steady upgrades and improvements. He's added a few layers of paint, some new TVs, a second pool table and a new bar top.
Perhaps the main reason Steve has been able to make this place so special is that the business is in his blood. His father first leased The Harp & Shamrock on Wells Street from 1962 to 1965, then opened up The Leprechaun Lounge on Wisconsin Avenue in '65.
Steve's brother, Mike, operates it today as his other brother, Mark, owns a couple taverns, as well (Flapper's and The Fin & Feather). All three brothers graduated from Marquette University before running their own places.
Steve also recently opened up Straight Shots, in the old Oklahoma Tap in Bay View. But, back to Mortimer's...
There is free pool from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. There is a video bowling game, darts and the very encouraged bar dice. Don't be afraid to "roll the bones" and make friends here. Lord knows, we did that night.
Also, the TVs are strategically placed throughout the bar, so you easily view any sports game you desire. Even the not-so-real sport of wrestling has been a favorite here, in part because the former WWE Diva/Playboy model/GoDaddy.com girl Candice Michelle has a sister who occasionally bartends.