The story of Gerry’s Diamond Tap (939 E. Lincoln Ave.), at least recently, is a one predicated on tragedy. Gerry, the namesake of the 25-year-old Bay View tavern, passed away this summer. Her husband Pete died in 2008. A longtime bartender of some 20 years passed on since.
But after a short and uncertain hiatus, daughter Rhonda Torres (relatively inexperienced in the bar industry) and her husband Joe fortunately opted to keep this gem around. Gerry’s Diamond Tap re-opened a few weeks ago to little fanfare.
Learning of the revitalization of a bar I’d lamented never visiting before it had abruptly closed, I made sure to not miss my second chance to visit this legendary - and understated - neighborhood bar nestled off the beaten path. Joined by my pal Steve - a fellow Gerry’s first-timer, I paid a long-overdue visit to Milwaukee newest old tavern.
Gerry’s sits as an illuminated beacon at the otherwise dim intersection of Lincoln and Logan Avenues. On opposing sides were a bridge and a vacant field of grass (once baseball diamonds). Nestled beside the Diamond Tap was nothing but homes. Although the establishment wasn’t clearly labeled from the side we parked on, there was no doubt that this was our destination. We opened the screen door, walked up the five-to-six interior steps and joined the half dozen (seemingly) regulars perched at the small bar watching the Jets-Patriots and Brewers-Cardinals games.
After the lone bartender, Jessica, welcomed us, I inquired about Gerry’s Thursday night special. I wasn’t sold on the idea of a $3 tall Malibu and pineapple juice. However, I was a big fan of the every-day steal of a $1 Old Style. If the Cubs fan staple isn’t your cup of tea, you may be happy to learn cans of Blatz and Pabst can be had for a mere $1.50, and half a dozen domestic and local craft brew are available on tap for a little extra. I couldn’t resist the price tag, so I plopped a buck down for the first of many Old Styles.
“Fully Krausened” beverage in hand, Steve and I took one of the three vacant tables just behind the fully occupied (with about 10 people) bar. I picked a sweet Milwaukee Bucks stool as my perch and Steve opted to occupy a Brewers one. As we settled in, I took note of the accoutrements that surrounded us: Green Bay Packers curtains, a Packers pig Hummel, a kitchen table strewn with that day’s newspaper, a pull-tab machine, and a shared sink outside the restrooms. The primary bar room isn’t massive, but it gives way to game room complete with a pool table and Big Buck Hunter.
At first, we Diamond Tap virgins were left to our lonesome, excluding the occasional glance from the bar in our direction. Eventually, though, we were part of the gang. A round of Old Style was given to us, rewarding our patronage. When the jukebox went silent, Jennifer told us to pick a song (I panicked and picked Phil Collins), and an older gentleman delighted us with an unpublishable joke about a mouse. In all, the cast of characters was warm but unimposing.
When the bar cleared out around 10 p.m. (though it is open until bar time nightly), the barkeep (who was hired amid the tumultuous summer Gerry’s Diamond Tap is still working its way through) told us what she knew of the recent events. She said she vastly preferred the easygoing, neighborhood tavern atmosphere of Gerry’s to bustling downtown and hectic East Side establishments. I couldn’t agree more. It took 25 years and one closing to find my way to Gerry’s Diamond Tap. Once I made my way to this small piece of Bay View drinking history, I found drinks, nice people, un-ironic kitschy décor and a place I would love to return as long as it remains open.
Hopefully that’s for another 25 years.
In-text image by Tyler Maas. Homepage image via Shutterstock.