Hidden Gem: Gas-Lite West
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.
In the heart of Greenfield, less than a mile north of I-43, at the intersection of West Cold Spring Road and South 84th Street, across those two streets from two different churches, is a classic, 41-year-old neighborhood pub where the beer is cold and cheap, the service is fast and friendly, the conversation comes easy and everyone is a regular – or becomes one quick.
Gas-Lite West, 4305 S. 84th St., is not particularly hidden – with its conspicuous corner location and its bright, flashing neon sign, proclaiming "Cocktails" and "Open," which it is most of the time – but it is indeed a gem, especially for the locals that make the comfortable, casual spot a home away from home. It's laidback but welcoming, with a warm, subtly "Cheers"-esque vibe.
A cash bar with an older crowd, Gas-Lite West was established in 1977, and it still maintains a bit of that bygone character, though without trying to be nostalgic.
The tavern is divided into a front bar area and a large back room that looks like an old bingo hall, with a big flat-screen TV above a pair of high-backed wing chairs on a slightly raised stage – though it hasn't had live music in quite some time. The room, which has long tables and chairs and can accommodate up to 80 people, hosts group events, including some beloved Packers game-watching parties, where every patron brings a dish to pass and the place is packed.
Gas-Lite West features antique store décor – a set of outdated "Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedias" on one shelf, dusty lamps and an intricate model ship on another; art deco canvas prints of 1920s lounges, old-fashioned clocks and mirrors and vintage beer and whiskey signs hang on the walls.
Behind the bar, in bottles hanging upside down from a wooden board is the tongue-in-cheek "Wine Tasting" station; nearby, there's a container of miniature American flags and a small fan that displays the words "Have one more." The bathrooms are marked by signs that say "Necessary Room for Ladies" and "Necessary Room for Gentlemen."
Including the big screen in the back room, there are a half-dozen televisions, and they are usually tuned to sports or old movies. On a recent night, they're showing the Brewers game and "Goodfellas," though Gas-Lite West is a major NASCAR bar, having hosted "The Racing Round Up Show" and viewing events. Customers can also entertain themselves with pool, darts and one of several video gambling games, or just sit at high-top tables and chat, while classic rock plays overhead.
Outside in the back, there's an open grassy space for family gatherings, community benefits, playing Cornhole and grilling out.
At the horseshoe bar, which is often nearly full of easygoing regulars, there are several beers on tap, including Miller Lite, Riverwest Stein, Spotted Cow and Blue Moon. Some people are sipping on $3 pints of Rolling Rock, while others are enjoying bottles of PBR, pitchers of High Life, shots of Jameson or strong cocktails, all served up by Julie, the smiling, amiable bartender.
Downtown, the Gas Light Building gives Milwaukeeans a sense of the weather; in Greenfield, Gas-Lite West – homey and hospitable, with cheap drinks and good people – gives its happy regulars a fun sense of community.
Gas-Lite West is open Monday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 2:30 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 2 a.m.
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