4th Base Is Still One of Milwaukee’s Most Unique Dining Spots

The 46-year-old sports bar offers high-end seafood and steaks.

This is the first time I’ve been at 4th Base (5117 W. National Ave., West Milwaukee) in, like, 20 years, so I’m rubbernecking like nobody’s business. And there’s lots to rubberneck. The 46-year-old sports bar is more or less exactly as I remember it, with team memorabilia plastering every bit of wall and ceiling space and a cash register behind the bar that’s as ancient as I feel. Two overgregarious, possibly overserved patrons at the horseshoe-shaped bar compete for attention with muted sports on several TVs and a jukebox pounding early 2000s pop-rock. 

If you’ve never heard of 4th Base, ask your parents. Heck, ask your grandparents. Its distinction as the mullet of Milwaukee restaurants – sports bar in front, gourmet dining experience in back – has given it very diverse appeal. 

4th Base; Photo by Chris Kessler


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And get this: They don’t print an actual menu or post the prices. The prices aren’t secret – all you have to do is ask – but I’d heard rumors back in the ’90s of flashy, Beamer-driving suits having fine dining-level meals well into the hundreds of dollars. 

Just like in the old days, what’s available is inside a glass display case in front of the kitchen, where I see shrimp, big U-10 scallops, crab legs and different cuts of meat. There’s also a chalkboard that lists some specials – kielbasa soup, steak sandwich, blackened walleye, scallops with “zoodles.” 

I go for scallops, the server telling me they’re about $10 each. I order three seared in garlic butter with sautéed vegetables and rice pilaf. My friend gets the tenderloin, medium-rare, with sautéed mushrooms and a baked potato. 

Everything tastes good: My scallops have a nice golden-brown coating and are firm, yet tender; the steak yields to a butter knife and bathes in a flavorful (read: salty) au jus. 

Burger with bacon from 4th Base; Photo by Chris Kessler


The sides are a hit too, from the fluffy potato to the buttery pilaf. In fact, this meal’s connective tissue is butter. Oh, yes, we also have crisp fried Brussels sprouts tossed with bits of fatty bacon. Our bill comes to $114. That includes a club soda and one NA beer.

By phone, I ask manager CJ Papara what kind of strain this format puts on the kitchen. Papara, whose dad, Peter, is the owner, says it’s easier than working from a standard menu, and more customizable. “We’re not forced into 40 items that might be, might not be there. It’s like, somebody comes up to the case, if they don’t see salmon, we don’t have salmon.”  How it’s cooked – grilled, baked, etc. – and seasoned are up to the diner. Papara says he has a full spice cabinet to choose from.

They’ve got a captive audience, on this night anyway, so they’re doing something right. Maybe it’s all the butter.

CJ Papara, manager of 4th Base; Photo by Chris Kessler

Looking Back

Movie Moment

4th Base’s claim to fame is a cameo in the 1989 baseball film Major League. In a scene where fans (with ’80s “hair band” looks) watch a pivotal playoff game on the bar’s TV, 4th Base defined blue-collar Milwaukee – though, alas, the movie was set in Cleveland.

Pigging Out

The sports bar’s original location was in the old Piggsville, in the Menomonee Valley, but it closed down in 1982. “I have heard that [Piggsville] kind of ousted the bar because of how wild everyone used to party down there back then,” says manager CJ Papara. It opened at its present spot in 1983. 



This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s April issue.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.