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I’ve lived in Milwaukee now for nine months. Nine long months of tracking down bars and drinking in them. That’s why it came as such a surprise this last week when I found Champion’s Pub (2417 North Bartlett Avenue). In all my travels in and out of the establishments of Milwaukee, great, shady and otherwise, […]

I’ve lived in Milwaukee now for nine months. Nine long months of tracking down bars and drinking in them. That’s why it came as such a surprise this last week when I found Champion’s Pub (2417 North Bartlett Avenue). In all my travels in and out of the establishments of Milwaukee, great, shady and otherwise, I’ve never heard a whisper of this pub.

 
Inside Champion’s Pub

Where did I find it, you ask? Well, on the internet of course. Because of these articles, I’m allowed to spend long nights on aerial maps of Milwaukee with the word “bar” in the search, getting glassy-eyed over all the tiny, red dots. (Side note: Truly, the magnitude of the Milwaukee bar scene comes through when seen from the eyes of Google Maps; a staggering embarrassment of riches.)

So away I went, to Champion’s, located down a dingy back-street and feeling far and away from North and Oakland. In reality, it’s only a block removed.

Great bars, absolutely great bars, usually have some indefinable quality about them, something that’s hard to locate and pin down. Champion’s Pub is one of these great bars.

Usually it’s a combination of things, like stellar bartenders and atmosphere and cheap drinks (cheap drinks go a long, long way). Often enough though, it’s one tiny thing that just works at that particular moment in the day, in that particular season of the year.

After thinking over my visit to Champion’s for several days, I still don’t know what’s left me so speechless about the place. I believe it was in large part due to the astoundingly great bartenders. Also, free shuffleboard goes down smooth wherever you are.

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The atmosphere is unique, a friendly intimation where the first time feels like the fiftieth. That’s a quality indispensible to great bars, where a patron feels exactly at home the moment they step through the door. A lot of bars claim this but hardly any of them deliver. And then there’s the owner’s old dog, lying by a dish at the end of the bar, adding to the atmosphere in an old-world-ish and incredible way. Also, like attention-hungry teenagers, people there vie for the dog’s notice. Next time, I’m bringing sausages in my pocketmeat in my pantsa bone … whatever. You get what I mean.

In the end though, establishments are built on the backs of their patrons (that may sound horrible, but it’s actually kind of endearing). At Champion’s they’re nice people from close by, nodding hello to one another, or waving or saying goodbye. There’s a sense of unity in the place, a kinship of fellow drinkers.

I honestly can’t say enough great things about Champion’s Pub. For me, the bar will remain enigmatic, shrouded in the greatness it gave off the first time I visited. For others, it most likely will be something different, but the beauty of this bar lies in the unpredictability of how it will surprise you, or how it will bring you back.

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