The ongoing facelift of Walker’s Point neighborhood has injected a dash of culinary culture and refreshment refinement into the once-industrial, brick and mortar Milwaukee neighborhood.
In recent years, places like Industri, Zak’s Café, Crazy Water, Loft and Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room have popped up in the historic and traditionally no-frills region. Earlier this week, yet another rundown Cream City brick façade was restored, welcoming in Black Sheep (206 S. Second St.), yet another high end bar and eatery to the neighborhood.
I stopped by Black Sheep on its second evening of operation to see whether the establishment brought anything new to the Point or if it was just another in a flock of fancy options popping up in the area of late.
Approaching Black Sheep, the updates were apparent from a block away, as the bar’s massive logo was emblazoned on the gray-painted brick on the building’s southern-facing wall. Additionally, the front windows were detailed with the Black Sheep logo in white decals. Surprisingly, I found the imposing corner building was actually quite narrow upon entering. A lengthy and pristine metallic bar runs almost the entire length of Black Sheep’s southern wall. The opposing wall is equipped with a handful of small tables and a herd of sheep-related artwork. Like Tosa’s Ruby Tap, Black Sheep also offers a self-service wine dispenser.
After a warm welcome was dispatched by our bartender, I succumbed to temptation and exchanged my credit card for an empty wine glass and an Enomatic card (to be plugged in to the wine serving system and to keep track of purchases). While I patiently waited behind others also experiencing the innovation in alcohol pouring, I examined Black Sheep’s tap wine list—a rotating cast of 16 selections (eight white and rosé, eight red)—and four house pour options. Uncultured as I am, I breezed past the machine carrying the octet of reds without a second thought, and poured myself the tallest pour of New Zealand-bottled Finest “Doctors” Riesling of the three size selections ($7).
I’m far from a wino, but the Riesling was adequately tart and sweet, no doubt an ideal pairing with one of Black Sheep’s dressed up hot dogs and uppity appetizers. I was tempted to chase it with a half glass reprisal (for $3.50), but opted for a satisfying half glass of Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc ($3.50) instead.
If vino isn’t your default drink (I’m with you!), you’ll be glad to learn Black Sheep has a combined 48 beer and cider options on hand. However, exactly zero of them are on tap (electronic or otherwise). All bottles are between $4 and $6, which is fine when you’re exchanging a Lincoln for a Negra Modelo or Pilsner Urquell, but less appealing when spending $4 for 12 ounces of Pabst or Miller Lite. The liquor cabinet features all the usual suspects, with no real surprising additions or omissions.
Additionally, eight craft cocktails are on hand, ranging from the scotch, cherry liqueur and orange juice mixture “Blood And Sand” and the orange vodka/blue caracao/cranberry juice and triple sec amalgam “Black Sheep,” among others. Spiked teas are coming soon.
Call me a Luddite, but I’ll raise a glass to the self-service wine dispenser trend not catching on. I’ll take the immediate pour (and occasional over-pour) of a human bartender to the standardized spray of a machine any day. The novelty of the machine was fun once, but the Enomatic offered the customer no real convenience—as customers still must be given a glass and retrieve their credit card/bill at night’s end anyway. Also, in our 30 minutes in the place, we twice observed an employee replacing bottles and tending to issues with the state-of-the-art service system.
Beyond its wine gimmick, spotless décor, massive windows and hot dogs that look too good not to try, Black Sheep doesn’t really stand out. It’s has the makings of a great wine bar and is a vast improvement to the vacant property 216 S. Second was before, but the tap wine machine that touts its individuality just seems to blend in with various other upscale operations sprouting up in the transitional neighborhood.
Homepage image courtesy of Black Sheep. In-text images by Tyler Maas.