Erin Petersen
Party like it’s 1933

A night on the town with TCD

By - Apr 16th, 2009 12:01 am
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Times are tough, folks. It seems like we came into 2009 flush with excitement and anticipation for a new chapter in American history. But now that the honeymoon’s over, we’ve realized that years of greed and mismanagement caught up to us, just close enough to bite us in the ass. Now we’re facing some difficult and taxing questions on a daily basis. Will I be laid off? Will I ever be financially stable?  Can I afford this? Am I ever going to find a job in my field? How long can I make these groceries last? What’s that strange noise/smell coming from my car?

Jeepers. Sigh.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the muck and mire that recession causes, so we need to find creative ways to pull ourselves out of the proverbial quicksand. To this, TCD has two words for you: Cocktail Hour.

We visited three fabulous Milwaukee establishments to taste some of the city’s best Depression Era cocktails and give you, dear readers, a guide to recreation on a shoestring budget. Read on for our happy hour escapades, plus more great specials at area taverns, classic cocktail recipes for the home bartender and a photo gallery of our cheap night on the town.

ThirdCoast Digest Presents: Party like it’s 1933
Photos by Alice Waraxa

Tony’s Tavern
412 South 2nd Street

The first stop on our outing is Tony’s Tavern, where we immediately fall in love. Tony’s is quaint and warm, exuding a sort of charm you just can’t find anywhere else. The place feels like home, mostly because it is a home – Tony and his wife have lived here for nearly 50 years. Sitting at the bar, you can look directly through a Dutch door into their kitchen, and the walls are freckled with old family photos. When our crew (and by crew, I mean the four of us) bellied up to the bar for a round of Brandy Old Fashions (sweet, of course – this is Wisconsin), Tony took a break from his supper and entertained us with stories of his younger days at Milwaukee Wire Works. It was a wonderful start to a wonderful evening. Tony isn’t big on drink specials, but believe us – the price is always right. If the old world charm weren’t enough, Tony also boasts a pretty sweet jukebox – only two bits per song!

Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge
1579 South 9th Street


Next, we found ourselves at the newly re-opened (as of July ’08) Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge. Like Tony’s, Bryant’s is steeped in Milwaukee history, and it’s been a gem on the landscape since 1938. We could barely contain our “oohs” and “aahs” as we walked into the pristine lounge. It was like stepping back in time with cushy booths, mood lighting, an immaculate bar and a little bit of Etta James playing in the background. Bryant’s has an extensive list of some of the swankiest cocktails (some you’ve never heard of) and here’s the best part: all Depression Era cocktails are half-off Tuesday through Friday during happy hour. Good God. Here’s the catch: Bryant’s doesn’t have a drink menu. Instead, the staff of expert bartenders can help you find the perfect cocktail based on your tastes and preference. We were greeted by owner and operator John Dye, an old-school Milwaukeean and master mixologist who helped us slip into a few Silk Stockings so delicious, I could drink ’em for breakfast. One visit and this joint will quickly become your favorite happy hour in Milwaukee. Come back on weekends with your main squeeze and find yourselves a nice cozy booth upstairs in the Velvet Lounge (think velvet walls and captain’s chairs – yow!)

Nessun Dorma
2778 N. Weil Street


The last stop on our venture was Nessun Dorma, arguably one of the best spots in Riverwest. Dorma has a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere; it almost feels like you’re sitting in a friend’s dining room having drinks and listening to records. Add to that a delectable (and cheap!) menu, an extensive selection of beer and wine and kick-ass drink specials every day of the week and it’s no wonder why this spot is a favorite for many. For less than $15, you can enjoy a sumptuous and satisfying dinner and drink of your choice. We just happened to pop in on pasta night and dug into perfectly-portioned bowls of spaghetti and meatballs with $2 Bitburgers and dollar-off wine all around. This was the perfect place to end our night. We left sated – with change in our pockets!

For an equally awesome night out, check out the drink specials at these local watering holes that are guaranteed to lift your spirits (get it…spirits?) without draining your piggy bank:

Comet Cafe
1947 Farwell Avenue- all specials start at 6:30PM

Monday: $ Pabst Bottles
Tuesday: $3 Classic Cocktails
Wednesday: $1 off all taps
Thursday: Half-off all bottles of wine
Friday: $1 off Craft liquor cocktails
Saturday: $1 off Craft Beer bottles
Sunday: $2.50 Lakefront taps & FREE BACON

Hi-Hat Lounge & Garage
1701 N. Arlington Place

Lounge Happy Hour: 4pm-8pm
Garage Happy Hour: 3pm-8pm
Half-off all rails, taps and wine
Saturday & Sunday Brunch: $5 Bloody Mary’s
Sunday-Thursday: $1 Mystery Beers or $5 Liter Mug-Of-The-Week (Garage only)

722 E. Burleigh

Tuesdays: 2 for 1 drinks until Midnight

Cactus Club
2496 S. Wentworth

Thursday: Ladies Night, $1 PBRs

Envoy at The Ambassador Hotel
2308 W. Wisconsin Ave

Happy Hour, Monday- Friday 4-7PM
Buy one Martini, get the second at 1928’s original price

Not feeling the bar scene? We’ve got just what the doctor ordered: recipes from TCD staffers and friends for hosting your own Depression-era cocktail hour. Full recipe guide available here.

Maybe it sounds silly – is it possible to quell worried minds and fix economic woes with a little booze? Granted, cocktail hour may not be the answer, but the way we see it, we all need a little pick-me-up now and then to boost morale  and keep us all from going batshit crazy. After all – we need our bread, but we all need roses too!

Categories: Life & Leisure

0 thoughts on “Party like it’s 1933: A night on the town with TCD”

  1. Anonymous says:

    cactus also has $1 old milwaukee and a dudes night on wednesdays.

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