Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood was once regarded as a working class region that, if you ask certain longtime residents, was a little rough around the edges. Lately though, time and the recognition of the area’s appeal has seen young families, professional types and swanky businesses coat the edges of Kinnickinnic Avenue. Today, Bay View residents are treated to tasty craft cocktails, high-end salons, niche grocers, as well as tremendous cafes and restaurants.
Still, a few holdovers of old Bay View remain, preserving the un-homogenized, no-frills feel once emblematic of the neighborhood. Amid the gentrification and gastropubs, bars like At Random, Club Garibaldi, Toni’s Moody Blues, Frank’s Power Plant, Romans' Pub and Lee’s Luxury Lounge still stand, giving both new residents and lifers unique places to unwind. Home Bar (2659 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) effortlessly falls into that category, too.
Residing well within stumbling distance of Home, I’ve made the tavern my home away from home on a couple occasions. My most recent visit came after a Miller Park excursion. Well, more accurately, it followed a Brewers game and walking into and immediately out of a jam-packed Burnheart’s. Pulling open the door, we were welcomed the to bar the only way we’ve ever been—a boisterous “Welcome Home!” from the bartender, Chris.
My friend and I smiled at the greeting and scanned the spacious room for a place to sit, which wasn’t difficult with only one other patron who was playing bar dice. We planted ourselves on the bar stools closest to the door, strategically near the cooler displaying a seemingly random collection of bottled and canned beers priced at a scant $2. Always eager to take a gamble in the name of affordability and a new experience, I dropped $5 — including tip — for a pair of Genesee Cream Ales before my pal had the chance to decline (which he wanted to).
Predictably, the discounted beer we’d never heard of before was nothing short of awful. It’s the kind of inorganically golden concoction I accurately predicted would give me a headache the next morning. That wasn’t Home’s fault though, it was my folly for allowing my curiosity to distract me from other $2 options like Tecate, Miller High Life, Hamm’s and a wayward bottle of Moose Drool, among others. If money is no object, you’ll be happy to find all the standard brews on tap (Guinness, High Life and the like) and high roller— $3 or $4 — craft and import beers on hand. The liquor selection is on par with most other establishments in town, but usually less expensive.
After we saw our Cream Ales through to the warm, bitter end, we opted to venture in different directions with our next beverages. My pal went with his usual, a tall Jack and Coke, which was generously stiff. My libation, a tall vodka “Red Bull”, was equally potent, with only a spritz of generic soda gun energy liquid added to the rail liquor.
As we sipped our strong drinks, the upbeat bartender periodically walked to our end of the bar to test out jokes on us. My favorite of Chris’ routine (that I’m allowed to write here) is “You hear they’re making corduroy pillow cases now? Yeah, they’re making headlines.” But he usually left us alone, beyond bellowing “Welcome Home!” over the predominately ‘80s hair-metal classics playing on the CD jukebox. Had it been warmer, we would’ve ventured out to the spacious - and underrated! - beer garden out back.
In all, Home Bar is nothing special. But in a landscape that’s quickly transforming to let in beer meccas, artisan cocktail purveyors and pubs with narrow themes, it’s becoming more special with every under-attended night that passes. Like the offensive, irresponsible uncle whom you can’t help but love for being an original, Home Bar succeeds in its decision to remain an understated watering hole that specializes in cheap, stiff drinks and a charmingly cheesy personal greeting in a neighborhood bar scene in flux. I welcome Home in Bay View.
Image via Shutterstock.