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By Kate Clark Going out drinking in Milwaukee is like traveling. We abandon the doldrums of our work-a-day. We spend more money than we can afford. If we are lucky, we are grateful that, even if only for a night, we are exactly where we want to be. When experiencing the outdoor bar at the […]

By Kate Clark


Going out drinking in Milwaukee is like traveling. We abandon the doldrums of our work-a-day. We spend more money than we can afford. If we are lucky, we are grateful that, even if only for a night, we are exactly where we want to be. When experiencing the outdoor bar at the 5th Ward’s The Iron Horse (a.k.a. “The Yard) it is the bar, not the booze, that will take you away.


The parachutes that shade in Frank Lloyd Wright-esque fashion conjure a Manhattan rooftop; the sprawling couches evoke an L.A. coastal bar; the fire pits and skyline mirror an image delivered on a Hawaiian postcard. Except for the striking view of the Milwaukee’s iconic 6th Street Bridge, the cheese heavy menu, and the overly friendly wait staff, you may not feel like you are in Milwaukee. You may not even feel like it is 2010.



This isn’t Bay View’s Frank’s Power Plant motorcycle bar, but it isn’t The Gansevoort either. The patrons are a motley crew. From escapist happy-hour professionals, to escapist Easy Riders and single hipsters on the proverbial prowl, the gravitational pull of The Horse is diverse. Here, you can have your cake and eat it too. And by cake, I mean Pabst. And by eat, I mean, enjoy the comfort and kitsch of a corner bar and the grandeur of a five-star service (without the pomp).

Like the backdrop, the prices are suited to a bicoastal palate. Don’t be surprised that the cheapest appetizer (a basket of potato chips) is $7. Like justifying the cost of a Broadway show, I promise you will tell yourself, “It was worth it,” even if you hate musical theater. If you ask nicely, the tattooed, bandana-donning waitress will bring extra fresh parmesan cheese. She will not be sparing. Other appetizer options: add on the Buffalo Mozzarella salad ($8), share Wisconsin Cheeses and Cured Meats ($14), or indulge in succulent Sprecher Root Beer Ribs ($14). If you really want to impress your date, get her a brat, a burger, or take her back for Sunday brunch.

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You can count on the occasional drink special (i.e. a brat and domestic for $10), but otherwise plan on spending $4-$6 for a beer, or $8-$14 for a glass of wine. Non-beer and wine drinking Wisconsinites can sip off the martini and cocktail menu, which includes such fancy shmancies as the original Malagrano (a pomegranate martini) ($15) and the Paltino Sauco (a blend of Cuervo, elderflower liquor, lime, pineapple and mint) ($13). If you must spice up your visit (this seems to me like adding salt to sashimi), you can try Thursday bike nights or “Dog Day Afternoons” (bring your pooch) June through September.


Recently, a friend asked me earnestly, “How often do you think about time travel?” Without hesitation, I answered, “All of the time.” Aside from this embarrassing confessional, I summon my fantasy inside The Iron Horse, where the modernist décor, industrial architecture and nuanced lighting capture Milwaukee at the turn of the century. The transformed 100-year-old warehouse accoutrements include a weathered American flag, collectible motorcycles, antique globes and rich art that appear to span centuries and cultures.


I have heard rumors that late nights can get racy. Scanning the leather, bedlike couches in the lobby and the swing suspended in the staircase, I start to envision scenes ala Tarantino, specifically From Dusk Till Dawn. Am I suggesting vampires take over the hotel after midnight? Absolutely not. Does the Iron Horse let my imagination run wild? Absolutely.







About the Author 
Kate Clark is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer living in Bay View, Wisconsin. In addition to shedding light on local watering holes, she likes to read, swim in the summer, and daydream all winter. Other likes: puppies, chopsticks, and handstands. Dislikes: computers, stray cats, and bananas. She writes features, non-fiction, and fiction, and has written for the local Shepherd Express and Wisconsin Foodie. In between bouts of work and pay, Kate is working on her first novel.

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