A few years ago, I thought Bay View was all about hip kids with tight jeans and black glasses toting Bukowski books and packs of American Spirit. Since moving to the area a few months back from the East Side, I’ve learned that while the stereotype certainly doesn’t apply to all Bay Viewers, there is […]
A few years ago, I thought Bay View was all about hip kids with tight jeans and black glasses toting Bukowski books and packs of American Spirit. Since moving to the area a few months back from the East Side, I’ve learned that while the stereotype certainly doesn’t apply to all Bay Viewers, there is some truth to it. This South Side neighborhood has a decided appreciation for the arts (crafty boutiques and galleries), an independent sprit (reflected in the abundance of indie bars, restaurants, coffee shops and record stores), and a distinct throwback vibe (retro, retro, everywhere). And when it comes to the nightlife, Bay View becomes the anti-Milwaukee Street, with authentically vintage, laid-back bars aplenty.
With several great options lining funky Kinnickinnic Avenue, Bay View bars are the remedy for too-loud, too-trendy, too-much-primping-required bars. That there are several in a concentrated area makes the neighborhood ideal for hopping from one bar to the next, and I recently did just that to investigate my local haunts. Focusing on the convenient cluster of Lee’s Luxury Lounge, The Palm Tavern, and The Groove, I set out on my mini bar crawl.
Lee’s Luxury Lounge (2988 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) is the epitome of Parent’s Basement Chic. And if that wasn’t a category before, I’m making it into one after being inside Lee’s. Upon entering the large space, you know you’ve gone into a time warp. My cohort and I were obsessed with the wood-paneled walls, the dim lighting from shagadellic lighting fixtures and the curvy bar. Though the funky atmosphere clearly lends to the fun of the place, our guess is that Lee’s regulars keep coming back because of the games (foosball, darts, pinball and pool), the friendly bartenders, and the “let the good times roll” energy.
Lee’s serves up cocktails and martinis, but we stuck with New Glarus, and noticed most other patrons went with brew, too. The relaxed setting allows for conversation (gasp!) with your drinking partners, as well as with other Lee’s inhabitants. On slow nights, like the Wednesday we visited, we easily chatted up those around us. Oh, and Wednesdays mean Bingo at the lounge. It’s all fair game here. Pun intended.
Across from Lee’s is the acclaimed, yet still somewhat mysterious Palm Tavern (2989 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.). We popped in here next to enjoy another beer, and we were definitely in the right place. The Palm presents patrons with a virtual beer Bible. The extensive list caters to any beer drinker, from the experimental (I chose Grimbergen) to the “I don’t even really like beer!” (my frou-frou friend Ginny chose a cassis Lambic). If you’re into whiskey, The Palm has you covered here, too, with an impressive selection. Actually, whatever you’re into, The Palm can probably get you. Their backbar spills over into another small room.
In comparison to Lee’s, The Palm is much smaller, with a warm, cozy, (and as my London-obsessed friend pointed out) European sensibility. A tin-pressed ceiling and blood-red walls add to the charm of the place, something you’d never sense from the modest, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it exterior. This vibe makes The Palm ideal for hanging with friends (or maybe a date).
Our last stop for the evening was The Groove (3007 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.). Like its Riverwest counterpart, The Gig, the super-chill spot is music-driven, featuring live music and a decor that includes pictures of jazz musicians and art devoted to the subject. The dark bar also has the ubiquitous pool tables as well as a lounge area with a retro black living room set.
Continuing the trend, we encountered friendly staff and a casual atmosphere catering to a come-as-you are crowd. As for the drinks, The Groove would be the spot for beers (with a nice selection of bottles) and shots. Lucky for us, The Groove also has great happy hour specials.
As Milwaukee’s distinctive neighborhoods continue to grow, the nightlife-seeking set gets more and more options for what to do and where to go. As our little experiment proved, Bay View is an optimum location for unwinding in a no-frills environment. Leave the uncomfortable heels at home, ladies. Or leave them on (if you’re like me); an eclectic mix of people is part of what makes Bay View fun.
If you decide to head South for your next night out, don’t forget about other Bay View staples like the cozy Highbury Pub, the ever-popular Bar Lulu, and Frank’s Power Plant among others. And despite the misconception, remember: black glasses are optional.