Joey Grihalva
Weekly Happy Hour

Blackbird

Milwaukee’s got something going on. And Blackbird is one of those places where it’s happening.

By - Nov 26th, 2014 03:12 pm
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Lights at Blackbird Bar.

Lights at Blackbird Bar.

After a long weekend carousing in the streets of Toronto, where my friends and I witnessed an epic Bucks loss Friday night to the red-hot Raptors, it was difficult to muster the strength to leave my apartment back in Milwaukee and drink on Monday. Not to mention, it was the worst driving day of the season thus far, with a heavy layer of slick slush slathering our roads. But my car was at the shop, so I grabbed an Uber and chatted with my Ghanaian driver on the slow, careful ride to Blackbird Bar in Bay View.

When I coincidentally ran into the Yield Bar doorman at Nomad World Pub, I figured that would be the end of the Halloween night thread in this column. Not so fast. At Blackbird my bartender was Margaret, who happens to be the lead singer of GGOOLLDD, the awesome band I heard at Yield. I wasn’t quite sure of that when I sat down. After all, she was wearing a wig on Halloween night and I was enjoying myself, you might say, but it soon became clear. She’s a service industry vet and offered a number of future happy hour suggestions, for which I’m grateful.

Every single day of the week from 4-8 pm Blackbird serves $2 Schlitz and Riverwest Stein pints, Buy One, Get One rail drinks, $1 off microbrewery taps and $4 Rehorst short (and $5 tall) cocktails. I went for my usual rail whiskey and ginger ale, with a shot of Ginger Brandy, my new find, on the side. Had I been in the mood for beer, I would have had my pick. Blackbird specializes in Wisconsin brews, with 80 different choices available. There are also 21 non-Wisco options and 7 taps. Every month they highlight a different Wisconsin brewery with $1 off their taps anytime. Hinterland occupies that spot for the rest of November, and Capital Brewery takes over in December.

Blackbird is a cool bar, there’s no getting around that. But it’s also unpretentious. The decor tastefully blends rustic and vintage. Above the wood bar hangs a series of charming old light fixtures. Up front there’s a couple cozy booths and in back there are couches, plus five pinball machines, a photo booth, board games, the Big Buck Hunter arcade game, a lottery ticket game and a rare retro arcade called ‘Ice Cold Beer’ by Taito. Musicians not only hang out and work at Blackbird, they also DJ on Fridays for the ‘From the Stage to the Booth’ series, with Piles taking over the tables this week.

In addition to their daily happy hour, Blackbird runs nightly specials from 9pm to close. Sunday they have $2 Pabst, High Life and Irish whiskey shots. Monday it’s $2 Riverwest Steins, $4 short Rehorst drinks, plus $1 Wisconsin beers all night. Tuesday the Buy One, Get One rails ($4 short, $6 tall) extend past happy hour. Wednesday is $1 off microbrewery taps. Thursday they feature $4 Old Fashioneds and $3 margaritas. Team trivia night is also Thursday from 7-9 pm, during which they have $1 off Lakefront beers and $4 Great Lakes Distillery cocktails. Food offerings include chips and Emil’s frozen pizza, with an omelet station for noon Packers games and pulled-pork sandwiches for 3:30 pm games. For those seeking their own competition, the first Sunday of the month Blackbird hosts an open pinball league with prizes.

I thought I’d spend most of my time at Blackbird reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids. That was before I got to talking with Margaret on what ended up being a noticeably slow Monday night. When her boyfriend came in, who is also in GGOOLLDD, I saw shades of Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in their coupling. It may not be New York City in the late 1960s, but Milwaukee’s got something going on. And Blackbird is one of those places where it’s happening. If their happy hour wasn’t generous enough, they even have a happy hour wheel, on which Margaret spun and her boyfriend won before I said goodbye. Here’s hoping the universe continues to smile upon them and all you thirsty Milwaukeeans. Cheers.

Blackbird Gallery

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