Your picks for 2015's best bars
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Feb. 6, 2015 at 10:26 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.
"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com – brought to you by Stoli Vodka, Altos Tequila, Fireball, OR-G, Jim Beam, Plymouth Gin and 2 Gingers – is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun articles on bars and clubs – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
OnMilwaukee.com readers poured in thousands of votes this year for OnMilwaukee's Best of Bars poll, and now it's time to declare some winners. Here are the best bars in Milwaukee, according to you (as well as an editors' pick).
Don't forget to check back here as this list updates regularly with each day's newly announced winner. Also: Don't forget to tip your bartenders.
Best New Bar: Camp Bar (Tosa)
Runner up: Red Lion Pub
Editors' pick: Tin Widow
Last year, OnMilwaukee.com readers picked the Shorewood Camp Bar location as having the best atmosphere and this year, readers chose the Tosa location as the city's best new bar. Both resemble an "Up North" lodge and are modeled after the couple's cabin in Star Lake. The decor includes "stick chairs," classic Up North signage and taxidermied animals. The drink menu features a variety of hand-crafted cocktails with an emphasis on the Old Fashioned.
Best Bloody Mary: Sobelman's
Runner up: The Wicked Hop
Editors' pick: The Wicked Hop
For the third year in a row, OnMilwaukee.com readers have decided that Sobelman's Pub & Grill serves the best Bloody Mary in the city. Maybe that's because they serve plenty of garnishes, like fried chickens and bacon cheeseburger sliders, leaving little to no room for a beer chaser.
Best Day Drinking: Barnacle Bud's
Runner up: Horny Goat
Editors' pick: Barnacle Bud's
Just like it did last year, Barnacle Bud's won the category for Best Day Drinking for obvious reasons. Located at 1955 S. Hilbert St., there are few places in the city that, on a warm, summer, weekend afternoon, beat sitting out on the edge of the river, drinking a beer and listening to the pluckings of Jimmi T.
Best Craft Cocktail: Bryant's
Runner up: Great Lakes Distillery
Editors' pick: Bryant's
For the third consecutive year, Bryant's Cocktail Lounge – located at 1579 S. 9th St. – was voted as having the top craft cocktails in the Cream City and by a wide margin. While the look and feel of Bryant's remains classic, it's the carefully crafted cocktails that bring everyone back, eschewing soda taps, flavored vodkas and mixes in favor of hand made ingredients (if need be) and carefully constructed drinks that number close to 500.
Best Tour: Lakefront Brewery
Runner up: Milwaukee (MKE) Brewing Company
Editors' pick: Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery
Back when brewery tours in Milwaukee meant only Miller and Pabst, you could also visit the tiny Riverwest factory of Lakefront Brewery and help yourself to the taps while the owners of the business explained how they made their beer. Things have changed a little as the Lakefront business has grown. The facility has moved and will continue to expand – as our staff shared here in August – but the spirit has stayed the same.
Best Irish Pub: County Clare
Runner up: Paddy's Pub
Editors' pick: Paddy's Pub
When it comes to Irish pubs in Brew City, you really love County Clare. The Lower East Side hotel bar and restaurant has nabbed the title of best Irish bar, as voted by OnMilwaukee.com readers, for nigh upon a decade now.
Best Bar Games and Trivia: Landmark Lanes
Runner up: Milwaukee Ale House
Editors' pick: The Tracks Tavern & Grill
As much a bar game playground as a bar, Landmark Lanes boasts 40 arcade and video games, foosball, darts, weekly pool tournaments and a 16-lane bowling alley. Of course, it's more than easy to get a drink. Landmark's three bars provide plenty of opportunities to refuel between racking up another round of pool and racking up the high score on Ms. Pacman.
Best Beer List: Sugar Maple
Runner up: Von Trier
Editors' pick: Café Hollander
Various bars throughout the city have made it its mission to boast impressive beer lists. According to you, OnMilwaukee.com readers, the best list in the city is right in the heart of Bay View at Sugar Maple, located at 441 E. Lincoln Ave. This is the fifth year in a row in which Sugar Maple has been nabbed first place. The family-owned spot offers a selection of 62 American craft brews on draft, including Fox Barrel, Alesmith, Rogue, Woodchuck and Rogue.
Best Atmosphere: Camp Bar
Runner up: Barnacle Bud's
Editors' pick: Boone & Crockett
Camp Bar, located at 4044 N. Oakland Ave. in Shorewood, ran away with this vote for the second straight year as the soft, red lighting and the wood decor throughout make it a warm, cozy, comfortable place. The tables are close together, enhancing the community feel and even the taxidermy, from the famous moose and bear, make you feel welcome.
Best Bar in a Restaurant: BelAir Cantina
Runner up: Milwaukee Ale House
Editors' pick: Goodkind
BelAir Cantina has rapidly become a beloved, entrenched staple of the increasingly popular scene, thanks to its tasty Mexican food menu featuring tacos from "Ninja pig" to soy chorizo, a dozen different margaritas, bottomless bowls of tortilla chips and more.
Best Bar Games and Trivia: Landmark Lanes
Runner Up: 42 Lounge
Editors' pick: The Tracks
As much a bar game playground as a bar, Landmark Lanes boasts 40 arcade and video games, foosball, darts, weekly pool tournaments and a 16-lane bowling alley.
Best Bar for a First Date: Balzac
Runner Up: Bryant's
Editors' pick: Balzac
For the fourth consecutive year, Balzac Wine Bar, located at 1716 N. Arlington Place (just off Brady Street), has been voted as the best bar in the city to take a first date. The ambient lighting, cozy seating and great wine list make Balzac a comfortable place to find out if there's a love connection ... or not.
Best Hotel Bar: County Clare
Runner Up: Blu
Editors' pick: The Pfister Lobby Bar
You voted it Milwaukee's best Irish bar – again and again and again. And now you've named it Milwaukee's best hotel bar – again and again and again! County Clare boasts of pouring the most stout in the state of Wisconsin, which isn't surprising in the comfortable pub, with the warming fireplace in the Snug. But some bar patrons may not even spare a thought for the other part of County Clare's business, a hotel with more than two dozen guest suites.
Best Martini: Bryant's
Runner Up: Hi-Hat Lounge
Editors' Pick: Bryant's
The legendary Bryant's Cocktail Lounge on the near South Side leaped to the top spot after it failed to even make the top five last year. In 2013, Esquire called Bryant's one of the best bars in America. Last year's winner, Hi-Hat, fell to the second position and Hotel Metro Bar fell out of the top five, finishing sixth, behind JoJo's.
Best Patio / View: Barnacle Bud's
Runner up: Estabrook Beer Garden
Editors' Pick: The Harp
Tucked away like no other bar in Milwaukee, Barnacle Bud's is easier to reach by boat than by car. Although there's a quaint beach shanty with a bar and a dozen tables, the outdoor deck is the place to be if the weather's smooth sailing. There, boats of all kinds dock and undock, while diners and drinkers talk, joke, smoke and lazily lick barbecue sauce off their fingertips. The OnMilwaukee.com editors picked The Harp, for its view of the Milwaukee River and the rowing teams that whiz by.
Best Bar for a Bachelor Party / Boys' Night Out: Silk
Runner up: Jo-Cats Pub
Editors' Pick: Landmark Lanes
There's no touching the performers in a strip club, and it seems there's also no touching Silk Exotic when it comes Milwaukee's choice for best bar for a boys' night out or bachelor party. For the fourth straight year, the gentlemen's club at 11400 W. Silver Spring Dr. topped the competition, finishing far ahead of runners-up Jo-Cats Pub, Leff's Lucky Town and Safe House.
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