By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jun 24, 2022 at 11:01 AM Photography: Lori Fredrich

As many as 400 fans turned up for the inaugural Pufferfish pop-up at Hotel Metro on Friday, June 10, flooding the former Zen on Seven rooftop space with crowds of people eager to get a taste of tropical drinks on the picturesque rooftop patio.

But if you missed out on the fun, we’ve got good news for you. The rooftop bar is back as a semi-permanent feature at the Downtown hotel, thanks to a residency which kicks off this weekend and extends for the duration of patio season (likely mid-October). Even better, the partnership between Hotel Metro and Pufferfish will allow the concept to evolve even further, making it a can’t miss spot for summer quaffs.

Back barX

What to expect

For easy access, guests should enter through the side door of Hotel Metro on Mason Street and take the elevator to the 6th floor. From there,  it's just a matter of following the signage to the 7th floor rooftop, where the art deco vibe transitions into an escapist tropical wonderland, complete with indoor/outdoor seating and plenty of space to take in the urban rooftop vibes.

“It all feels very Gatsby,” says J.C. Cunningham, Lost Whale general manager and the mastermind behind Pufferfish. “The entire bar has been created to play into the strengths of the art deco feel that’s already in place at the hotel, while adding a hefty dose of tropical escapism to the mix.”

J.C. Cunningham and bartender MikeX

Inside, guests can grab a drink at the bar and take a seat in front of the fireplace or at a collection of hightops donned with tropical tablecloths.

Inside seatingX

But guests also have access to the rooftop’s expansive patio, which has been enhanced with tropical umbrellas, a Bacardi Rum ivy wall (for selfies, natch) and a growing collection of greenery provided through a partnership with Soiled MKE.

PatioX

In fact, if you happen to see a plant you like – be it a pathos or bird’s nest fern – you have the opportunity to purchase it by taking your selection to the bar before you leave and paying for it via Venmo.

Plant saleX

On the menu

Of course, if you’ve journeyed to the rooftop space, you’re probably there for the cocktails. The Pufferfish menu includes a nice selection of refreshing summer options, from Pufferfish classics to new and reimagined offerings.

CocktailX

Selections include:

  • Pufferfish: La Crosse Distilling Field Notes gin, orgeat, passion fruit, falernum, lemon, Bittercube Pufferfish bitters ($12)
  • Zombie: Bacardi four-year, Plantation Xaymaca, Plantation O.F.T.D., lime, grapefruit, honey, falernum, Heirloom Genepy, Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters ($13)
  • El Diablo (by Ash Pappalardo): Cazadores Reposado, Creme de Cassis, ginger syrup, lime, Bittercube Disco inferno bitters ($13)
  • Jenny From the Block: Banks 5 Island Rum, Bacardi Cuatro, lime, Rishi white tea syrup, Creme de Framboises, Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters, mango bursting boba ($13)
  • Painkiller: Plantation O.F.T.D., Bounty dark, pineapple, tangerine, Coco Lopez, nutmeg ($13)
  • Meh Tai: Bacardi rum, Bacardi 8 year, Bacardi Black, orgeat, Dry Curacao, lime, Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters ($12)
  • Halekulani: Old Forester 100 bourbon, pineapple, tangerine, lemon, demerara, Pufferfish grenadine ($15)
  • Tequila Shortage (by Ty MacLellan with Kindrd.Spirits): Los Magos Sotol, Dos Hombres mezcal, falernum, strawberry syrup, orgeat, lime, pineapple ($15)
  • Ocean Eyes: Patron Reposado tequila, Bacardi Cuatro, Plantation O.F.T.D., lime, grapefruit, Pufferfish almond orgeat, Blue Curacao, sea salt, Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters ($14)
  • Ship Captain: Plantation O.F.T.D., almond orgeat, lemon, salt, Bittercube All Day aromatic bitters ($13)
  • Get Lost (a riff on the legendary Lost Lake): Bacardi Cuatro, Bounty dark, papaya, lemon, pineapple, maraschino, Meletti Red Bitter, Bittercube Pufferfish bitters ($13)

Feel a nosh coming on? Guests can also take advantage of a small menu of bites from Oggie’s Kitchen, including bar snacks, bento boxes and spam musubi.

Pufferfish garnishX

Oh, but that’s not all

“The hotel has been marvelous to work with,” notes Cunningham. “And thanks to the success of the pop-up, we’ve already been able to reinvest in the space, creating a more streamlined experience for our guests.”

But the experience will continue to evolve throughout the summer months, as Pufferfish uses the proceeds from each week to reinvest in the rooftop space.

Starting as soon as next week, the Pufferfish outdoor bar will be fully operational, allowing guests to choose from classic Pufferfish quaffs (available inside) as well as frozen drinks and boozy Sno-Cones (including a Cobra Fang and Mojito Sno-Cone).

Sno-cone machineX

By mid- to late-June, Hotel Metro’s Executive Chef Aaron Miles will also be introducing a custom Pufferfish food menu, which will include options like foot-long Hawaiian-style hot dogs, huli huli chicken and both traditional and plant-based poke. Guests can also look forward to guests chefs and menu take-overs on select weekends throughout the summer.

Additional planned enhancements include the transformation of the interior seating space adjacent to the bar, which will morph into the “Fish Tank,” a themed space with an aqua blue ceiling, mood lighting and brand new furniture, recasting it into an underwater respite.

Outside, the rooftop corridor surrounding the interior bar will be enhanced to include a hanging garden, which will offer guests yet another beautiful (and Instagrammable) rooftop view. 

Guests can also look forwards to the transformation of the bar’s restroom to include a disco theme, complete with the perfect oversized mirror for bathroom selfies.

Pufferfish  is open to the public on the Hotel Metro rooftop Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Saturday 2 p.m. to midnight and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.

Keep an eye on Pufferfish’s Instagram feed for updates throughout the summer. 

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.