"We're not a Satanic cult," says Miles O'Neil, co-owner of The Wicked Hop, a bar and restaurant that will open around St. Patrick's Day on Commission Row at 345 N. Broadway.
Although the name has a slightly infernal sound, it actually comes from the very wholesome sport of baseball. "A wicked hop" occurs when a batter hits a sharp ground ball that seems like an easy out but unexpectedly bounces in another direction.
While reading historian John Gurda's book, "The Making of Milwaukee," O'Neil came across this term in a chapter about the 1982 World Series. The name seemed particularly appropriate at the time because O'Neil was looking at spaces near the stadium, but even after he settled on the Third Ward location, he still wanted to use the playfully sinister name. (Of course, it is also a play on the word "hops," an ingredient in beer.)
O'Neil's space is inside one of the Third Ward's oldest buildings and has what he describes as "an Old World feel." Architects Vetter Denk and contractor Shawn Wardall are preserving the look but making contemporary tweaks.
The building also survived a fire 25 years ago and still has minor reminders of the disaster. "I see the 'flaws' as luxuries," says O'Neil, who is a massive movie enthusiast and works this into the decor.
"It's basically an ode to local screen legends, like Gene Wilder, Orson Wells, Spencer Tracy, Pat O'Brien, Fred, McMurray, even Houdini," he says." We want the bar to have a sense of mystery, intrigue and suspense, like a Film Noir."
O'Neil is opening the bar with his stepbrother, Andy O'Neill. (His mom married two O'Neil's, one with one "l" and one with two.)
"Andy is the maestro in the kitchen," says O'Neil, and then, with a laugh, "or at least, he better be."
The menu will highlight both pub and upscale food, including salads, soups, pasta, sandwiches and entrees, with an emphasis on seafood. "We'll have a smaller menu, but one that focuses on freshness and quality," says O'Neil.
The Hop will also offer 20-25 different wines, five beers on tap and a full bar. "But we're not just a weekend excursion place. We'll cater to both day and night life, seven days a week," says O'Neil, a graduate of Marquette High School and University.
The bar will permit smoking and will have live music, ranging from rock roots to jazz trios.
O'Neil spent the last 15 years working "on more than off" in the restaurant business, including Saz's and La Boulangerie. Even though he hopes to someday make films instead of drinks, he is psyched about his latest endeavor and has spread the word in an unconventional way.
The 31-year-old Milwaukee native rented a bus that's semi-permanently parked downtown on Second Street and propped Wicked Hop signs against it. Appropriately, the bus is painted with spooky creatures because the vehicle's owner runs a haunted house during Halloween. Wicked coincidence? You decide!
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.