Just as the brisk winter air swept through Milwaukee, a warm spot on the map appeared. Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room (196 S. 2nd St.), opened Friday, Nov. 16 in Walker’s Point and has been serving up craft cocktails ever since.
In the short time it’s been open, I’ve visited Lucky Joe’s two times (I credit its proximity to my apartment, not my love for cocktails). Both times I experienced really great things, and a few not so great things.
With the exception of Riverwest’s Foundation, there’s no other proper Tiki bar in Milwaukee. Living within two blocks of Lucky Joe’s, I can honestly say the establishment is a breath of fresh air for the neighborhood's bar scene. At first glance, you’re struck by the elaborate Polynesian décor: tiki thatch above the bar and booths, colorful blow fish lights, and large tiki idols. Even after sitting at the bar for an hour one night, I couldn’t take it all in.
The first time I walked in, I had my parents and godparents in tow. The front bar area was filled, which was impressive for 8:30 p.m. the day after Thanksgiving. So, we made our way to the back area, where it took a little bit of maneuvering to navigate the raised seating area because it was incredibly dark.
If you’re looking for a place to meet a Match.com date whose photo was questionable, I’d highly suggest meeting them in the back of Lucky Joe’s.
You won’t be hearing any top 40 hits while relaxing in this lounge. Instead, expect to hear many tunes from “father of exotica” Martin Denny, Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Dick Dale and his Del-Tones.
And one glance at the menu and you know you're be in for a good time (though we recommend rolling with a designated driver). Witness its Zombie Joe, the bar's take on the classic Zombie, which said to have up to eight shots of various liquors and is limited to one per customer. Thankfully.
While chatting up the owner during one of my visits he explained that there is no standard house rum used in the drinks, but instead they did a bit of trial and error to find the perfect rum for each concoction.
On my first visit, my mom and I opted for the Papa’s Polydactyl Daiquiri named after Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats. Since my dad was paying we ordered the $12 version that comes in a special cat mug you can take home. The daiquiri itself was average, but the experience of sipping through a straw out of a porcelain cat’s paw was well worth the extra $5.
For those who think sipping out of a cat is less than purr-fect, Lucky Joe’s serves their version of the Moscow Mule in a shark mug.
During my next visit I decided to try out The Bobby Headhunter which is advertised on the menu as “malted milk heaven in a glass.” No false advertising here, folks. If you are a fan of Whoppers, you must try this drink. Served in a hurricane glass for $7, the drink isn’t overpowered by the rum. Traditionally garnished with Whoppers, I had to go sans Whoppers as someone left the package open the night before and the stash was stale. I appreciated this tip from the bartender before she made the drink.
But if you’re looking for an impressive tap beer selection, Lucky Joe’s is probably not for you.
There is no beer on tap, and with the exception of Spotted Cow, Strongbow, a couple of Lakefront brews and Guinness, it is MillerCoors products only. My father was not thrilled to learn this when he ordered a Budweiser, but he was able to settle on Baileys on ice.
Speaking of ice, even in the dimly lit back lounge area we noticed one thing when the waitress brought our group’s drinks: the incredible amount of ice.
My dad's and godfather's rock glasses were filled to the top with ice. Even after they finished their drinks, the glasses were full. If you’re not too keen on fighting ice cubes to get to the actual drink, I’d suggest asking the bartender to go easy on the cubes.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to try something different, make your way to Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room. You won’t be disappointed. (Unless, of course, you go during a Packer game. TVs kill the true tiki vibe.)
For more information visit LuckyJoesTiki.com.