Your picks for Milwaukee's best bars, 2010
All this month, we revealed to you -- one by one -- the winners of the 2010 OnMilwaukee.com readers' poll for the best bars in Metro Milwaukee. Now that all is revealed, here is a tally of the winners (as well as our editors' picks), in one handy list. Cheers!
Best bar district: Bay View
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bay View
t's hard to find a neighborhood in Milwaukee that's reinvented itself as quickly as Bay View. While long-time residents will tell you that the nightlife has never been lacking with mainstays like The White House, Frank's Power Plant and the Cactus Club, newcomers like Café Centraal, Bay View Brew Haus and Tonic Tavern have further cemented the area as our readers' choice for best bar district -- and we agree.
Best bar games & trivia: Club Charlies
OnMilwaukee.com editor's choice: Landmark Lanes
Club Charlies doesn't have a pool table or an entire room dedicated to video games, but it does have a killer trivia night. Every week beginning at 7 p.m., Charlies bartender Colin Boynton hosts Taco Trivia Tuesday, in which he leads one of a handful of teams to trivial victory while promoting the bar's $5.99 taco platter special. Boynton makes up his own questions, rather than using generic Internet trivia. The games end around 9 or 10 p.m., and the winning team leaves with a $50 gift certificate; second place gets $25.
Best bathrooms: The Safe House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Branded
For the umpteenth year in a row, the Safe House received the most votes for Milwaukeee's top bar bathroom. It's not surprising -- among women, at least -- because, after all, it's the only ladies' room in Brew City featuring a large poster of a naked Burt Reynolds with a metal heart positioned over his man parts. (Just don't try to sneak a peak under the heart otherwise the lights flicker throughout the bar / restaurant and everyone will know you're curious about Burt's endowment.) As for the men's room, don't be fooled by the two doors. Behind one, there's a brick wall and a sign that says, "Whoa!" The other door leads to the actual rest room, where there are two stalls labeled "FBI" and "CIA."
Best beer list: Sugar Maple
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Sugar Maple
Co-owner Bruno Johnson's second bar (he also operates Palm Tavern with his wife, Adrienne Pierluissi), was a runner-up to Bomb Shelter in this category a year ago and won the big prize in '10. Sugar Maple focuses on Midwest craft beers and eschews the city's megabrews, though Lakefront and Sprecher are represented among the more than 60 beers on the draft list.
Best Bloody Mary: Wicked Hop
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Wicked Hop
The Bloody Marys at Wicked Hop come packed like a meal -- beef stick, shrimp, blue cheese stuffed green olive, marinated mushroom and piles of mozzarella cheese that took the shape of thick Japanese noodles. And that's just the garnishes. The drink itself isn't a fire-eating contest, but rather a bold, flavorful mix of spices that tastes more savory than spicy, making it an accessible beverage for even the mildest palate.
Best bowling alley bar: Landmark Lanes
OnMilwaukee.com editors' pick: Bay View Bowl
Few things are more identified with Milwaukee than bars and bowling. This year, for the first time, we decided to combine them into a category for our annual readers' survey. The results weren't exactly surprising. Landmark Lanes, the 83-year-old icon located at 2220 N. Farwell Ave., captured first place by a comfortable margin.
Best bar in Bay View: Palomino
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Burnhearts
With 23 entrants in this category, the winner had to be good. Good is an understatement for 2010's top vote getter: Palomino, 2491 S. Superior St. It's not the oldest bar in the neighborhood, but it's one of the first to pull in drinkers from all over the city. Flanked by Cactus Club and Club Garibaldi, it's a key part of the neighborhood's little triangle of cool.
Best bar on/near Brady Street: Wolski's
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Nomad World Pub
The competition is pretty tough on and around Brady Street. Wolski's is a classic Milwaukee tavern that's known for its free popcorn, dartboards, bumper stickers and down-to-earth vibe. At just over a century old, it has a friendly, classic Milwaukee vibe with plenty of games and regulars to keep us entertained. No one is there to judge, and everyone is there to just have a good time.
Best brew pub: Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden
Lakefront isn't a brew pub in the traditional sense; it's a microbrewery. But, you can still go there on your night out to get a drink with the gang (even without doing the tour.) The Palm Garden's Friday night fish fry is a now-legendary tradition, complete with live music from local polka band, the Brewhaus Polka Kings, Captain Rusty's fish fry and, of course, the tasty varieties of locally-made beer on tap.
Best bar to celebrate a 21st birthday: The Safe House
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Bootleggers
For years, The Safe House has been a prime destination for bridal parties, first dates and that all-important first night of legal consumption. Whether it's the kitschy theme, comfortable atmosphere of slushy drinks, stop in on any given night, and you're sure to find a young lady wearing a "21" tiara or even a group of gents making fools of themselves when they don't know the password to enter. One has to wonder, though, how many young women celebrated their 21st birthday by catching a glimpse of Burt Reynolds', err, package...
Best chain bar: Bar Louie
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' choice: Bar Louie
A lot of folks prefer to "buy local" and feel a natural bias against national chains. Consistent service and performance, which are hallmarks at Bar Louie, go a long way toward changing that perception. They also help keep locally-owned joints "on their toes." When there is competition between bars -- no matter who owns them -- the customers often win.
Best club: The Mad Planet
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: The Mad Planet
Mad Planet -- owned by Rosemary Silagy -- opened almost 20 years ago. With its eclectic crowd and funky motif, the Riverwest stop is a people watchers' wonderland. Punks, goths, hipsters, bachelorette parties and everyone in between mix it up on a regular basis inside the spacious bar -- or outdoors on the tree-canopied patio. Yes, every Friday night is still '80s Night at The Mad Planet, and yes, it's still packed until closing time with folks looking to shake it to some retro tunes. After all these years, The Smiths still don't get old. When it comes to booking live bands, the venue takes a much more up-to-date approach. Local, independent acts play here regularly, as do bigger national bands.
Best "cougar" bar: Victor's
OnMilwaukee's editors' choice: Victor's
For the second year in the two-year lifespan of the category, OnMilwaukee.com readers selected Victor's as the prime hunting grounds for cougars -- older women who like to "mingle" with younger men. Victor's has been around for three decades. Owner Vic Jones believes his large dance floor is part of the reason why so many "cougars" come to his establishment. "Places that have a dance floor -- like Victor's -- make it easier for women to meet men because they just have to ask them to dance," says Jones.
Best decor: Branded
OnMilwaukee.com Editors' Choice: Maxie's Southern Comfort
Situated neatly in the motorcycle-themed Iron Horse Hotel, Branded draws from the theme to combine an industrial feel in a classy, upscale and cozy setting. Described as "vintage modern," folks in business suits and leather can both comfortably enjoy a drink and mingle.
Best Downtown bar: Old German Beer Hall
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: Milwaukee Brat House
Opened at the end of 2005, the Old German Beer Hall seats about 100 and features the beers of the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, along with lagers, darks and weisses and seasonal offerings like Maibock, HB Sommer and Oktoberfest. The bar also serves the Weissgerber family's house amber and Miller High Life and Miller Lite in bottles. Beers are served in liter, one-third liter or half-liter glasses. The Old German Beer Hall offers a Stein Club, and participating member buy a liter stein that stays at the bar. Tuesdays are Stein Night and members get discounts on beers. The beer hall's traditional Bavarian menu includes large Bavarian pretzels, bratwurst, knockwurst, smoked pork chops, carved corned beef sandwiches, schnitzel (as a special only) and three-brat chili.
Most eclectic drink: At Random
OnMilwaukee.com editors' choice: At Random
You can't get beer or wine inside At Random, but the Tiki Love Bowl will do the trick at this romantic hideaway.
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