Hidden Gem: Urban Bay View
Belly up to these bar stories, brought to you by Miller Brewing Co., that explore well-loved but lesser-known taps and taverns from all corners of the city and beyond.
If Urban was located on Kinnickinnic Avenue or Second Street it would be one of the South Side's most high-profile spots. Instead, it's perched on a quiet corner in Bay View but the "off the beaten path" location of the lounge contributes to a different yet pleasing vibe.
"It's not a trendy bar or a corner bar," says bartender Alicia Simpson. "It's both."
Indeed it is. With tin-patterned walls and ceiling, a blend of warm tones, wooden tables, a large lounge and a mahogany wood-topped bar, Urban looks and feels classy yet super comfy. It can easily accommodate a group of friends, a hot date and dog park goers, both human and canine – all at the same time.
"When a bar is across the street from a dog park, it's gotta be dog friendly," says Simpson.
Urban has water bowls and treats for dogs and hosts benefits for animal care and rescue groups in the city.
Because of its duality, Urban is as much of a beer-and-shot bar as a place to sip a seasonal, craft cocktail. Simpson says Old Fashioneds are particularly popular at Urban, both the hand-muddled as well as the ready-to-pour version from Soul Boxer.
Being tucked away in the heart of a neighborhood presents both charms and challenges. For some, it's not easy to find, but Simpson says ample parking, a large patio and the awesome staff (including popular local bartender Paul Kennedy and his former protege Justin Tarantino) have attracted and continue to attract customers.
"People who came to the bar for a specific reason like a birthday party always come back," says Simpson. "Some even became regulars."
Formerly Gerry's Diamond Tap, Paul Jonas – who also owns Tonic Tavern – and a team of friends and workers completely gutted and remodeled the space. It opened to the public in May 2016.
The bar is named in honor of Jonas' late father – Urban Charles Jonas, Jr. – who passed away a few years ago and played football and basketball for Marquette University, was a Triple-A baseball pitcher, as well as a Hall of Fame member of the Milwaukee County Golf Association.
In the future, Simpson says the bar plans to expand the patio, host acoustic music shows and become an even more popular destination as a sports bar for people who love sports ... and don't love sports. Once again, Urban can't be labeled or pigeon-holed as one type of place or another, which is probably why those who stumble in, stumble in again.
"It's continuing to grow," says Simpson. "Especially since (Paul) Jonas is always open to ideas."
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