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Over the last 60 years, the nine-block stretch of shops, restaurants and taverns lining Brady Street has changed a great deal. Glorioso’s moved across the street; local hero Pepperoni Cannoli died; countless tenants have come and gone, and a few national franchises like Jimmy John’s and Walgreens squeezed their way into that parcel of Milwaukee’s East Side. But during the last six-plus decades, the one constant in the ever-changing district was the understated black and white sign reading “Listwan’s” affixed to a beloved neighborhood bar.
Since the outset of the 1950’s, Listwan’s served up cold beers and good times at 1329 E. Brady Street. Along the way, Bruno’s signage sprouted up nearby when Jackie Listwan (daughter of the owners) wed Paul Bruno and the couple took over the bar. The bar was known for its charmingly outdated décor, old-time cash register and drink prices that weren’t too far from yesteryear's. My one visit to Bruno’s consisted of drinking Pabst at noon on record store day, listening to do-wop music and witnessing a hilarious argument between two elderly regulars.
Turns out that first visit would be my last, as Listwan’s, uh, Bruno’s—whatever you want to call the beloved bastion of Brady Street booze—poured its last drink and handed the keys over to a new generation of owners at the end of June.
During Harley-Davidon’s 110th anniversary in August, Brady Street’s newest family bar, Malone’s On Brady, began its own legend. Brothers Josh and Sam Malone (insert Cheers reference here) took on the tall task of filling the worn and under-appreciated shoes of the former 1329 tenant. I recently paid the bar a visit during a quiet weekday happy hour to see the new establishment.
Walking up the same stairs multiple generations of Milwaukeeans had, the renovations were immediately evident. The once-stylish but now-heinous synthetic stone walls have been replaced by sleek, gray paint. The jukebox (which played actual 45s) is gone as well. Much of the wall space is filled with great photographs: some a respectful photographic nod to the old Listwan’s and the old East Side, others are artistic takes on modern Milwaukee landmarks like the Calatrava and Miller Park, along with a wealth of vintage beer signs. To the left of the bar, a black and white lion crest is painted on the wall.
After taking in the interior, I walked up to the bar and was privy to an exceptionally warm welcome by half of Malone’s ownership, Sam, who was tending the bar. He informed me of the daily happy hour special ($1 off all taps) and I started off with an Atwater VJ Black, which I selected due to my unnatural love of black ale and because I’ve never had a craft beer from Detroit. The beer was surprisingly great, with a chocolate body and distinct vanilla aftertaste. It was well worth the $4.50 toll.
Per Sam’s recommendation, I took a spot on a stool facing out the window toward Brady Street. I savored the delectable Atwater brew, watched NFL Network on a flat-screen TV mounted above the entrance and occasionally looked out at the bustling mid-afternoon street. Once I finished my beer and watched intently as a publicly intoxicated man tried (and miserably failed) to cartwheel off the curb, I looked further down the other 23 options on Malone’s tap line.
With a brisk autumn air making its way in from the open front door, I was prompted to buy the pumpkin beer from newly revived western Wis. microbrewery Potosi Brewery, which I was unaware even made a pumpkin beer. Like every other Potosi beer I’ve had the pleasure of tipping into my mouth, the pumpkin ale ($5/$4 happy hour) was great. If microbrews aren’t your thing, the liquor shelves are fully stocked and domestic favorites like Pabst, Old Milwaukee and Old Style can be had for $2 all day and every day.
Looking out the same front window innumerable others had since the early ‘50s, I took stock of the new frozen yogurt shop across the street, the ultra-hip Hi-Hat Garage in my peripheral, that sticker-plastered station wagon with dolls tied to it driving by. If Bruno’s had to end, they left the place in good hands. The brothers managed to bring the site into the current century, while paying homage to the old guard.
The jury’s still out on whether Malone’s will match the mystique or longevity of its predecessor. After all, the bar’s been around about 740 fewer months. But if you ask me, the Malone brothers are off to a good start.