June Varney suffers so badly from asthma that even passing a person smoking on the street can trigger an attack. It comes as little surprise, then, that most of the city's bars and many restaurants are off limits; she simply cannot breathe in a smoky environment.
This is a pretty big concern for June and her husband, Tom, Third Ward residents who like to enjoy Milwaukee's vibrant nightlife as much as possible.
For the Varneys, dining out revolves around what June calls "the list," a catalog of Milwaukee's smoke-free restaurants she started two years ago when she caught pneumonia -- which led to a five-month bout with pleurisy -- after too many holiday parties in smoky environments.
"After getting so sick and being put on steroids I said, 'That's it. I'm never going to a smoking place again.'"
Though it makes up a mere fraction of the spectrum of eateries offered in the area, the non-smoking section of the city's dining landscape is ever-expanding. Two years ago Varney's lobbying convinced Eagan's owner Jim Pandl to create a non-smoking section at his restaurant's bar.
"We go there every 10 days or so -- before the Symphony, before a play or for something in that section of town," she says. "We know bar manager Bill Castagnozzi, so I asked him, 'Why can't you make the north end of the bar non-smoking since it's so close to the food?"
Pandl was initially hesitant but decided to try it when the Varneys said they couldn't dine there any more any more due to the smoke. Now, Varney says, Pandl is considering making the whole bar area smoke-free.
Eagan's, unsurprisingly, remains a Varney favorite, as did the smoke-free pioneer Ardor Pub & Grill (now closed) -- which she said has "a perfect fish fry" -- Riverfront Pizza Bar and Grill and Café Brucke. As more smoking bans pass in other states, as well as in Milwaukee suburbs, Varney says she's noticing more smoke-free options locally.
"My husband's favorite bar, Palm Tavern, just went smoke-free. I can't believe they had the guts to do it, but they did, so they must know something."
Varney shares her list -- and we've added a few of our own -- for others seeking a smoke-free dining experience. Know of more? Feel free to add them using the Talkback feature.
1310 E. Brady St., (414) 272-2233
Beans & Barley
1901 E. North Ave., (414) 278-7878
Bosley on Brady
815 E. Brady St., (414) 727-7975
1208 E. Brady St., (414) 276-2739
Buca di Beppo
1233 N. Van Buren St., (414) 224-8672
Buckley's Kiskeam Inn
801 N. Cass St., (414) 277-1111
1505 W. Mequon Rd., (262) 241-7076
2101 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 287-2053
1205 E. Brady St., (414) 291-5233
1947 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 273-7677
Smoke-free until 10 p.m.
1712 W. Canal St., (414) 847-7883
1030 N. Water St., (414) 271-6900
8612 Watertown Plank Rd., (414) 771-6680
Fishbone's Cajun & Creole
1704 Milwaukee St., Delafield, (262) 646-4696
818 E. Center St., (414) 374-3835
Harvey's Central Grille
1340 W Towne Square Rd., Mequon, (262) 241-9589
2150 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 271-5278
21445 Gumina Rd., Pewaukee, (262) 781-7995
17001 W. Greenfield Ave., (262) 782-7530
125 E. National Ave., (414) 389-0125
Maxie's Southern Comfort
6732 W. Fairview Ave., (414) 292-3969
North Star Bistro
4515 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, (414) 964-4663
7606 W. State St., Wauwatosa, (414) 443-0800
Pleasant Valley Inn
9801 W. Dakota, West Allis, (414) 321-4321
333 W. Kilbourn Ave., (414) 270-6130
Ratzsch's Old World Restaurant
320 E. Mason St., (414) 276-2720
333 W. Brown Deer Rd., (414) 352-5051
7616 W. State St., (414) 771-7910
Riverfront Pizzeria Bar and Grill
509 E. Erie St., (414) 277-1800
1547 N. Jackson St., (414) 276-9608
2178 N. Prospect Ave., (414) 289-8208
Silver Spur Texas Smokehouse
19990 W. Greenfield Ave., Brookfield, (262) 821-1511
4629 N. Port Washington Rd., (414) 332-8808
217 N. Broadway, (414) 431-7944
2995 S. Clement, (414) 431-1014
2851 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 962-8851
The Pasta Tree
1503 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 276-8867
Third Ward Caffe
225 E. St. Paul Ave., (414) 224-0895
1801 S. 3rd St., (414) 837-5950
249 N. Water St., (414) 431-1133
OnMilwaukee.com 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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.”