Brady Street has oft been compared to a mini-version of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district or Chicago’s Lincoln Park. As a former Seattleite, I’m reminded so much of my old stomping ground on Capitol Hill’s Broadway Street or Ballard’s Fremont district.
In the 1860s, Polish, German and Irish immigrants settled in the area. During the first half of the 20th century, the Italian community set up shop, followed by the hippies, artists and antique dealers in the 1960s. Brady Street saw a renaissance in the late 1980s and quickly became the colorful, pedestrian-friendly melting pot destination that it is now, while still retaining elements of its historical identities.
With an eclectic array over 50 businesses packed right next to each other, it’s hard to choose only ten to feature. There’s something for everyone: restaurants and bars, cafes and shops, a market and a bakery.
Map of Brady Street Points of Interest
Walk east to west on the north sidewalk.
- 15 eateries
- 3 salon/barber shops
- 3 bars
- 2 cafes
- 2 shops
- 1 radio station
- 1 martial arts studio
- 1 health clinic
→ Classics Barbershop
Where: 918 E. Brady St.
Specializing in men’s haircuts, the barbers at Classics Barbershop are known for their friendly service and artistic, precision fades and designs. Experts with a pair of clippers, they take walk-ins and are also a hit with young children ready for their first cut.
→ Dryhootch Coffeehouse
Where: 1030 E. Brady St.
While this “hootch” (military-speak for a sleeping hut or shelter) is both “dry” (free of alcohol) and a safe, social gathering place for combat veterans to receive peer mentoring and employment and housing resources, Dryhootch Coffeehouse also welcomes the public to enjoy its coffee and, in the summer, art and music.
→ Easy Tyger
Where: 1230 E. Brady St.
Calling itself an “Asian gastropub,” Easy Tyger fuses American and Asian flavors with steamed bao buns filled with fried chicken, miso ranch and lemongrass pickle, steamed mussels in a bacon-kimchi broth and turkey potstickers with curried root vegetable puree that are as tasty as they are beautiful.
→ La Masa Empanada Bar
Where: 1300 E. Brady St.
La Masa Empanada Bar elevates the traditional South American pastry with fillings like creamy sweet corn, potatoes and peanuts, mushrooms and truffle oil and even one inspired by the Cuban sandwich.
Where: 1716 N. Arlington Pl.
A few paces north of La Masa, Balzac offers surprisingly filling small plates — “Garden” offerings (fried Brussels sprouts with bacon, cranberries and white cheddar, for instance), “Lands” (like duck cassoulet) and “Waters” (like stuffed PEI mussels) — and an extensive wine book.
Walk east to west on the south sidewalk.
- 6 shops
- 6 bars
- 5 eateries
- 2 salons
- 2 cafes
- 1 tattoo parlor
- 1 chocolatier
- 1 market
- 1 bakery
- 1 yoga studio
→ Art Smart’s Dart Mart & Juggling Emporium
Where: 1695 N. Humboldt Ave.
I can’t say that I’ve ever actually purchased anything from Art Smart’s Dart Mart & Juggling Emporium, though I’ve done a lot of curious and amused browsing. But when I decide to take up ultimate Frisbee, join the circus or play an April Fool’s joke — or when someone tells me to “Go fly a kite!” — I know my first stop.
→ Usman La’Aro
Where: 1117 E. Brady St.
This chic boutique offering African textiles and tailoring has occupied the old Dragonfly Vintage Goods & Gift space for almost a year. Usman La’Aro specializes in both traditional and contemporary designs for women, men and plus-size figures.
Where: 1205 E. Brady St.
Speaking of occupying an old space, Kompali is the latest addition to Brady Street, a welcome sight after Cempazuchi closed after nearly two decades. Meaning “compadres” in Nahuatl, this new taqueria is still developing its reputation (and its website) after its first full month of operation. It has some big shoes to fill, but reviews of their traditional tacos (like chorizo, barbacoa, tinga) and international tacos (like Peruvian beef heart and Vietnamese beef) are, so far, promising.
Where: 1217 E. Brady St.
Look for the bright pink paint and small front porch of the house that EcoPet occupies. This shop specializes in local, natural food, treats and supplies for dogs and cats, but the owner also sells natural and spiritual healing items for humans.
Integral to Brady Street’s late-80s renaissance, Mimma’s Cafe opened on Brady Street in 1988 and finally closed in 2016. When I moved to Milwaukee in 1994, I remember it as one of the places to go on a date. Dorsia now takes its place. However, while the old Mimma’s space, with its white-tablecloth intimacy, now looks and feels more like a sexy nightclub, Dorsia’s menu is already a hit: duck carbonara, three-meat bolognese, a meatball ciabatta sandwich and nine hearth-fired pizzas (all available gluten-free).