OnMilwaukee.com's favorite drinking spots
February is "Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com, and we'll serve up more than a six pack a week of bar articles all month long. Look for bartender profiles, drink recipes, revamped bar guides and more!
Like most Milwaukeeans, OnMilwaukee.com employees like to get out, mix it up and enjoy a drink or two. There are so many great corner taps, dance clubs, pubs, lounges and taverns in this city, and since most of the folks at OMC have been die-hard night lifers for a long time, they're happy to divulge their favorite watering holes.
Here are the favorite Brew City bars of some of the staff at OnMilwaukee.com:
Favorite lounge: Jamo's, 1800 E. Arlington Pl., is probably the most under-rated lounge in Milwaukee, but that's not why it's getting my vote. This place is a true gem -- it's got the oddest seating set-up that allows for cozy little pockets to hide in, really random art on the walls, good music and, from what I can tell, they pour the meanest glass of whiskey around.
Favorite dive bar: Does the Polish Falcon, 801 E. Clarke St., count? It's such a slice of life in there, although the Wednesday night open bowling is getting a little hipsterized.
Favorite place to get drunk: This question is very event specific for me. Post midnight on a Friday, it's The Mad Planet, 533 E. Center St., hands down. But if it's nice and warm outside, the Nomad's patio is the best place to sip, chat and people watch.
Favorite drink: Vodka and tonic with a lime, if I'm buying. Effen Black Cherry Vodka and Coke if someone else is buying.
Favorite place to see live music: Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave. It's so nice to have the option of hanging out in a different room until the band you want to see actually starts.
All-time favorite bar: I think Nessun Dorma, 2778 N. Weil St., is the only bar in Milwaukee where I have had an enjoyable experience every time I go. It never fails me.
Lounge: Milwaukee isn't exactly a loungy place, but I like Bryant's, 1579 S. 9th St. (Editor's note: Bryant's closed in autumn 2007). It has that Sinatra-Rat Pack vibe. When you walk in, you expect to find Marty and Elayne performing "Stayin' Alive," just like the Dresden scene in "Swingers."
Dive: This is particularly tough, because most bar owners don't want their places referred to as "dives." I've been to a handful in West Allis that qualify, but I'll go with Mibb's and Viv's in downtown Lannon.
Drunk bar: Like so many people from Menomonee Falls, I learned about drinking (and falling down) at the Honey Bucket. It was a sad day when it burned down. The closest I've come to seeing that vibe is at Leff's Lucky Town, 7208 W. State St., in Wauwatosa. Actually, I can have fun anywhere as long as the drinks are cold and the company is good.
Drink: It kind of depends on the season and my mood. I don't drink a lot, but I'm not afraid to experiment. Since I'm mostly a beer guy, and I like Miller High Life (good with salty snacks), the Sprecher and Lakefront lines, Tecate and Pacifico with Mexican food, a refreshing Red Stripe on warm nights, the occasional Guinness, and, when available, Shiner Bock and Shiner Light.
On nights when I'm drinking "big liquor" or dining at a classy restaurant, I generally prefer vodka. I like Ketel One on the rocks or Absolut Mandarin with a little water. In the summer, I'm partial to vodka tonics, gin and tonics and the occasional Stoli Raspberry/Lemonade Press (it's frou-frou, I know, but also damn refreshing.) When it gets colder outside, I gravitate toward the darker liquors: Jack and Coke, Bacardi and Diet, etc. It's almost like that old rule about not wearing white pants after Labor Day. As I get older, I'm starting to appreciate an occasional glass of wine.
Live music: Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave., is a fantastic, intimate venue. I've seen amazing shows by the Del Fuegos, the Violent Femmes, Todd Snider, Robbie Fulks and too many others to mention. I also like the Up & Under and any place that will book Kevin Brandt.
All-time favorite: Sadly, most of my all-time favorites are gone now. In college, we did most of our drinking at T.J. Brubaker's on Downer Avenue. The place was packed almost every night and my apartment was a half-block away. UWM hasn't had a bar "on campus" since and probably never will again, which is sad. I used to like drinking at Century Hall, but that met the same fate as the aforementioned Honey Bucket. (I lived off Brady Street at the time and the fire was HUGE.) My all-time favorite bar probably was Louie's Ancient Chinese Tavern, which occupied the space at 120 W. National Ave. that is now known as Fat Daddy's. That bar had colorful characters, a signature shot called "Louie's Ancient Chinese Torture," a beer garden, a volleyball court and a lot of fantastic memories. Of the currently operational bars, I have fond memories of going to Major Goolsby's, 340 W. Kilbourn Ave., before Bucks games as a young kid. The anticipation was great (and so were the cheeseburgers). I also like Rosie's Water Works, 1111 N. Water St., and, the Milwaukee classic, Wolski's, 1836 N. Pulaski St. I don't go "skiing" as much as I should, but I'm proud to say that I convinced Matt Vasgersian to mention the bar during the Packers/49ers broadcast last year.
Molly Snyder Edler
Lounge: Every time I visit the tried-and-true Hi-Hat Lounge, I am taken by the art, menu, spaciousness and classy-yet-friendly vibe. I especially like the statue of Hebe, the youth goddess.
Dive: I lived around the corner from Gee Willickers, 2578 N. Dousman Ave., for four years, and during that time, grew a deep fondness for the place. The cheap drinks, eclectic jukebox and neighborhood pride keep me stopping in even though I live on the other side of the neighborhood.
Get drunk bar: I have a history of taking it one swig over the line at The Nomad, and to this day, it's the only bar where I simultaneously slapped the ass of a man I thought was my husband and smashed a glass out of spastic drunkenness. (Not my ceramic mug, thank God.)
Drink: For the most part, I drink Guinness in the winter and Sapphire and tonic in the summer. However, I also like Red Stripe, Brandy Old Fashioneds, vodka drinks of all kinds and wine, both red and white.
Live music: The Mad Planet hosts some of the freshest gigs in the city, and there's lots of space to take a breather if need be. I also like the Bremen Café, 901 E. Clarke St.
All-time favorite: There is no way I can limit this to one bar, but here are a few: Club Timbuktu, 520 E. Center St., Bar Lulu, 2261 S. Howell Ave., Art Bar, 722 E. Burleigh St., Circa, 1754 N. Franklin Pl., Nessun Dorma, Foundation, 2718 N. Bremen St., and Hop Side Down, the downstairs bar at the Ale House, 233 N. Water St. Back in the "fake ID days" I loved to hang at the Odd Rock, Unicorn, Toad and L.A. Freeway.
Lounge: For me, At Random wins hands down, partly because it's close to where I lived in Bay View for seven years, but also because there's no matching its vibe, decor and its menu of unique drinks. There really are no other "lounges" like it in Milwaukee.
Dive: I'm partial to Jim's Time Out, 746 N. James Lovell St., because it's the last vestige of the classic Milwaukee bar Downtown. There are no Beemers outside, no $12 martinis, no free cashews. If they'd toss some sawdust and spittoons down, I'd feel transported back to the '30s.
Get drunk bar: I really like Club Garibaldi, 2501 S. Superior St., because, like Jim's, it has a classic Milwaukee vibe. There's no bullsh-t. It's full of mostly neighborly people willing to strike up a conversation, there's great beer on tap at reasonable prices and there's food. Drinking makes me hungry. I also like Von Trier a lot. The decor is great and I love the patio. The sad part is even though I see it all day long, I rarely get in there much these days.
Drink: At home, it's grappa and red wine from Piedmont (barbera, grignolino, dolcetto, ruche, etc.), but those are nearly impossible to find in Milwaukee (although Eagan's has a pretty good grappa list), so I choose beer. And now that Stella is finally here and Menabrea and Dragon Stout appear gone forever, my choice is usually pretty clear. But I also like Boddington's, Newcastle, Courage and UK beers like that, as well as most anything Irish and I find most Riverfront and Sprecher brews to be very drinkable. What I don't like are beers that are meant to taste like Hi-C and there's an alarming number of those appearing lately.
Live music: Probably the Cactus Club, since I grew up seeing bands and performing in bands that have traditionally played -- and still play -- in clubs like that. It feels like rock and roll to me.
All-time favorite: Wow, that's a tough one. I've gone through phases, but I think what I really miss is Henry's on Downer. I know it still exists, but the old place had a vibe that hasn't been recreated and it's probably because of the time in my life when I went there. I have fond memories of being there ... and they had a half dozen grappas on the list and that free popcorn!
Lounge: Jamo's, 1800 E. Arlington Pl. Brandy old-fashioneds and darkly lit ambience meet in this understated, yet ironically tacky East Side lounge. Flying under the radar of its neighbors like Hi-Hat and Balzac, Jamo's mixes old-school velvety-art, the occasional deer head, as well as the most intriguing painting in Milwaukee (a giant Jesus blessing the United Nations) with a gritty, hipster and older neighborhood clientele. The music is loungey, jazzy, but always edgy.
Dive: Depends on the definition of dive bar. It has to be a five-way tie between Y-Not II, 706 E. Lyon St., (mixing Bucks players, homeless East Siders and college kids), Angelo's Lounge, 1686 N. Van Buren St., (only dive-y after about 2 a.m.), Club Garibaldi (cheap but cool), Bay View Bowl, 2416 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., (hey, it's a bowling alley) and Thurman's 15, 1731 N. Arlington Pl., (life-size Robin Yount greets you at the door).
Get drunk bar: Now, the answer is the Village Pub, 4488 N. Oakland Ave., in Shorewood. With a laid-back, Northwoods feel, it's a great place to watch a Brewers game and suck back Miller High Lifes (lives?). Runner-up: Landmark Lanes, 2220 N. Farwell Ave. In the old days, my roommate Greg and I used to avail ourselves of Tuesday import nights, which for us meant lots of cheap beers and arguably dangerous games of darts.
Drink: Dirty vodka martini (if I'm feeling fancy), Cap'n Morgan and Seven Up (if I'm feel sassy) or Boddington's Pub Ale (if I'm feeling cool).
Live music: The Estate, 2423 N. Murray Ave. Live jazz in an intimate and funky setting. Good wine, cool people and most of all, great music at this little hole-in-the-wall.
All-time favorite: Now, it's the Palm Tavern, 2989 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Close to home with an excellent beer selection, rarely heard music hand-picked by always pleasantly surly owner Bruno, and bartenders who know their trade. You'll always see someone you know at the bar -- it's a great place for sitting and catching up with old friends. Back in the day, my choice was Vox, 2203 N. Prospect Ave. When I wasn't at the Landmark on Tuesdays, I was certainly at Brit Pop Night at this East Side classic. It was "see and be seen" in the late '90s at Vox, and I never remember having a bad time listening to Travis, The Smiths or The Stone Roses at this comfy bar. But that could've been the Boddington's.
1) Best jukebox Myers-X 2) Best pub grub Schnieders 3) Friendliest bar Meyers-X 4) Trendiest bar Taylors 5) Best place to drink with friends The Corner Tap 6) Best place to drink with a date Victors 7) Best place to drink alone My Car
Any thoughts on the following? 1) Best jukebox 2) Best pub grub 3) Friendliest bar 4) Trendiest bar 5) Best place to drink with friends 6) Best place to drink with a date 7) Best place to drink alone Cheers
What about Meyer's X? Has anyone else been there? That place really is cool.
Lifer | Feb. 14, 2007 at 10:58 a.m. (report)
I love it! What makes this city great (and unique) is that we have places like these still here. They blend and work well with all the new stuff in the past 10 years. Elsa's is still one of the only places that's crowded every night, that's cause it's good. I've taken out-of-town friends to the Nomad and they can't believe how cool it is. Most cities think chains and Applebee's are fun bars. Milwaukee does better and we all need to cherish our joints, new and old.
I love when people try to take the high road, but lather themselves up in mud and then spit on people once they reach their perch. I haven't seen any name calling, and certainly haven't proclaimed to be a visionary of milwaukee nightlife. I was simply stating that an article was written that spoke to the same 2 or 3 bars over and over again. I don't see the point. On top of that, those 2 or 3 bars all have the same dark, dingy mantra to them. There's nothing wrong with that, I'd just think a website about all things Milwaukee would cover just that, ALL things. I was also asked to provide alternatives. Done. And stating that the list I provided, combined with the bars named in the article does not provide a healthy dose of variety from all walks of life is just ignorant. Will you see a mullett at a Boz's or Paulies Pub? You bet. Will you see jet black hair and fresh scars at Mad Planet? Absolutely. Will you see wannabe ex-pats at Nomad faking it on soccer? Yes. Will you see an over weight man/woman belting out off key kareoke at Long Wongs? Most definitely. Will you see the town drunk with his head down on the bar at Shepards? Right in back, he's always there. Will you see extras from "Boiler Room" at Elsas? Every night. The list goes on. The point is, I think that list shows a little more of everything that exists in Milwaukee, not just what's kitchy down on/near Brady St. d00t.
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