By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Dec 27, 2007 at 3:29 PM

I've always loved Thursdays. That's not to say I don't appreciate the dynamic Friday / Saturday night duo, but there is something about preliminary weekend activities that always seem fun in a different way. Who knows -- maybe I just like to start early, but I like to make it a point to do something new and interesting after Thursday's workday is done.

Last Thursday I got to thinking about how Milwaukee is a town of taverns, little watering holes in the wall that hold some of the city's greatest legacies, if not some of the best stories. If you pay attention, they are everywhere -- and often overlooked in lieu of fancier, newer, bigger bars in districts like Water Street or North Avenue.

I sought out to find a corner bar I'd never been to, a search that landed me and a group of friends at Tony's tavern, 421 S. 2nd St., for a Thursday happy hour. I have tons to say about this classic, family owned Walker's Point gem, but that will surface in a more formal article next week.

For the meantime, I'm focusing on Tony's neighbor to the south, Shaker's, 422 S. 2nd St. We wandered in there when were ready to turn happy hour into dinner hour and were pleasantly surprised at what we found. For one thing, the place was hopping at 9 p.m. on a weeknight, but we were able to sit immediately in a comfortable table surrounded by large, luscious plant life and floor to ceiling windows.

It's known for being a cigar bar, yet the smell of smoke -- if present at all -- in no way overpowered the scent of fresh pizzas, which are prepared and cooked in an open kitchen next to the bar. Our server quickly brought a round of pints as we perused the extensive pizza menu and were happy to discover that the menu was divided between carnivorous, vegetarian and vegan options -- always helpful.

We told our server that we wanted a vegan pizza for four people and he suggested we allow the pizza chef to create his own. When it arrived -- with a large spinach salad -- it did not disappoint, as it was covered in tangy tomato sauce, and a garden of vegetables and fresh herbs. The chef then came to our table to see how we liked it and chatted for a while.

After the food was cleared away, our server surprised us with not one, but two rounds of complementary shots for the four of us, as well as a notebook binder explaining the legend of the Shaker's ghost, a young woman named Elizabeth who apparently died after she fell from a tree on the property and snapped her neck. He showed us articles mentioning guests who claim they'd seen Elizabeth in the women's bathroom; others who said she sometimes runs the water from the sink.

Although the extra liquor was on the house, the bill ended up being a tad higher than we'd anticipated, but the experience was everything you want a Thursday night out with friends to be -- fun, interesting, unexpected and definitely satisfying. 

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”