ST. FRANCIS IS OFTEN the forgotten Milwaukee Suburb. Fit between the city proper and Cudahy like an oddly-shaped puzzle piece (seriously, check that western border), this 10,000-some-odd resident city has a decidedly old-school vibe, but might surprise you with a few landmarks that would fit right in with the area’s trendiest neighborhoods. Here are seven places that make St. Francis a destination for anyone doing a little in-their-own-backyard exploring.
Game On at the 42 Ale House
3807 S Packard Ave
Geeks of all variety will feel at home at St. Francis’ 42 Ale House. The homey stop features a wide selection of table-top and video games as well as weekly pub trivia and karaoke. And for those of you who’ve never felt the desire to roll a 20-sided die, the menu and beer list are both solid and the outdoor patio features a lovely lake view.
Thrift Hard at Value Village
3100 E Layton Ave
St. Francis’s Value Village – an anchor of the Layton Mart strip mall – is a pretension-free all-in-one stop for second-hand clothing, discount home appliances, and Mitch Miller LPs.
Chicken Dance and Pierogis at Polonez
4016 S. Packard Ave
A Milwaukee-area institution since 1983, family-owned Polonez features home-cooked Polish comfort dishes served up in a classic Wisconsin supper club setting. Saturday evenings feature live music by “Polka King” Jeff Winard and an all-you-can-eat buffet of Polish and American favorites. The menu notes that all Saturday night diners should “be sure to bring their dancing shoes.”
In addition to hosting part of the lakefront stretch of the Oak Leaf Trail – read more about that here – St. Francis is also home to the Nojoshing Trail. Dedicated in 2014 and named for a Native word for a piece of land jutting out into a body of water, the short-distance trail connects to the Oak Leaf and the lake, while also exploring the wooded area just to the south of St. Francis de Sales Seminary.
St. Francis is home to two Milwaukee County Parks, Nathanael Greene Park on Lunham Avenue and Bay View Park on South Lake Street. Bordering Cudahy, Greene Park offers a variety of activities, including baseball diamonds, a children’s play area, and a sledding hill. Bay View Park winds along the lake shore and offers an incredible view of downtown Milwaukee from the southeastern leg of the Oak Leaf Trail.
Eat Meat and Make Friends at Redbar
2245 E. St. Francis Ave
On an out-of-the-way corner on the very northern edge of the city, you’ll find Redbar – appropriately house in a red brick building – home to an eclectic décor and some of the best damn barbecue in the area. The food is offered by the bar’s catering partner The Saucy Swine and is available daily. And for you holiday orphans out there, Redbar also hosts an annual Thanksgiving Day Potluck dinner.
Get Cozy at La Finca Coffeehouse
3558 E Sivyer Ave
Offering coffee brewed from bean from the family farm in Oaxaca, Mexico, La Finca is the perfect spot in St. Francis to spend a chill morning. They also offer a small menu and feature a regular artists series and book talks.