5 Smashing Ways to Usher in the New Year

Ready to say sayonara to 2021? Four places that set the tone for revelry, plus a NY’s Day brunch to fête the first day of a new year.

ONE OF THE BEST New Year’s Eves I’ve ever spent was with my cousin. We didn’t even go anywhere. We stayed in her high-rise apartment, sipped Champagne (the good stuff), then rode the elevator up to the roof of her building at midnight to gaze at the stars and jump around to stay warm.

So no, I am not known for tripping the light fantastic on this so highly anticipated night of the year, but I love the idea of it. Maybe I’m just afraid of being disappointed. Heading out for a night on the town on the last day of the year should be the cat’s meow. With these four places, you may just be able to make things purr.

1. The Hobnob

277 S. SHERIDAN RD., RACINE | 262-552-8008

This charming throwback supper club is the sort of place where you eat elegant staples of another era, like snails a la Bourguignonne, and drink brandy Alexanders. For the Eve, The Hobnob will serve a limited menu of its popular dishes, which include chops and steaks, wiener schnitzel and chicken Oscar, stuffed pork chops and broiled whitefish. The cocktail menu features 15 specialty martinis and an impressive selection of after-dinner and ice cream drinks. On this special night, you can also expect party favors, a champagne toast and live music (piano, followed by jazz). 




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2. The Jazz Estate

2423 N. MURRAY AVE. | 414-964-9923

Six years ago, owner John Dye spent 10 months transforming this shadowy, aging East Side hideaway into a handsome, retro-stylish club for people with a serious yen for jazz and cocktails. Belly up to the padded, Formica woodgrain-topped bar for an old fashioned (they nail them here) or something less, well, pedestrian, like the Midnight Special, a mix of scotch, Cocchi Americano, Luxardo Amaretto and house bitters. Dye’s Eve plans are to do a ticketed show early, followed by open music later until close. This could be the intimate, lounge-lizardy spot to plant yourself for the night, or just pop in for a drink and a little ear candy. 

3. Blu

424 E. WISCONSIN AVE. | 414-298-3196

Nibbles, libations, live music and a breathtaking view make Blu, the bar on the 23rd floor of the Pfister Hotel, one hot ticket. The nosh menu they serve makes a tasty buffer to the drink menu featuring 10 signature cocktails (from old fashioned to elderflower martini). Begin the night with the chef’s cheese board, and end with a piece of decadent chocolate buttercream cake. Blu is offering pre-dinner seating (5-7 p.m.) for New Year’s Eve, or guests can reserve the full evening with bottle service starting at 8:30 p.m, when music from jazz/R&B singer Donna Woodall begins. 

4. EsterEv

360 E. ERIE ST. | 414-488-8036

This weekends-only, prix fixe restaurant – a relaxed, modern microcosm inside the Third Ward’s DanDan – offers some of the most inspired cuisine in town. Owners Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite have commandeered the kitchen and let their culinary imaginations run wild. They put together a menu befitting the holiday, with dishes like foie gras mousse on tart, lobster tom yum soup, and caviar with riced cauliflower, pickled leeks and croutons fried in butter. The Dans bring an engaging, unpretentious vibe to these meals, interacting with diners as they explain each course. 

5. Giggly/ARIA (for the Morning After)


The Saint Kate’s Champagne bar is teaming up with its American Midwest-style restaurant to do a New Year’s Day brunch. It’ll be served buffet-style and feature an assortment of salads, starters and entrées along with a champagne and bloody mary bar. ARIA, known for its “broast-ish” chicken and classic Big Boy burger, doesn’t normally offer brunch, so it’ll be interesting to see how they approach this midday holiday meal. On the liquid side, Giggly offers a bubbly for seemingly everyone – sweet and dry sparkling wines and rosés, and selections from the cellar, including Don Perignon and Veuve Clicquot. 9 a.m.-1 p.m. $49 per person. 


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s December 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.