177 N. Broadway
It's an ambitious idea for Milwaukee: taking an elevator to the third floor to drink. But at Cuvée, the ride is worth it. The long warehouse loft has been converted into a comfortable, elegant lounge in a rustic modern style making much better use than usual of exposed wood, rafters and brick. The accent is on champagne, but a full bar is offered. The mood-enhancing, conversational lighting and lack of TVs make Cuvée a place to escape for good conversation. It's a shame to turn your back from the picture window view of Broadway, but the interior is a special place, featuring the abstract paintings of Milwaukee's Evelyn Patricia Terry. (David Luhrssen/John Schneider)
823 E. Hamilton St.
You feel like a million bucks in this movie set of a drinking establishment. The transformation of an old factory garage into a gracious, elegant hotel lobby is stunning. A year old and rapidly gaining in fame, it can still be a hunt for first timers. Look for the long black awning and glass doors. A patio faces the Milwaukee River and sunset. Inside, find broad skylights, a lovely bar and splendid table seating, an intergenerational clientele, no televisions and good music, often live. (John Schneider)
Holler House Bowling Alley
2042 W. Lincoln Ave.
In 1908, "Iron Mike" Skoronski founded a tavern in the Polish Uptown, just a stone's throw from St. Josaphat's Basilica. Today the neighborhood has more of a Latin influence, but the tavern is still there—and the echoes of strikes and gutter-ball curses still ring out. The Holler House, a mainstay in Esquire magazine's "Top Bars in America," is home to America's oldest certified bowling lanes, complete with century-old wood lanes, pin boys, and paper score sheets. The Polish tradition is still represented, with emblazoned falcon crests standing tall over the lanes. (Willy Thorn)
Kaña Mojito Lounge
201 W. Mitchell St.
At the Caribbean-themed dance club/bar Kaña Mojito, it's impossible not to fall in love with the large selection of mojitos with bright berries and sticks of fresh sugar cane. It's easy to substitute these drinks for the most delicious desserts. You'll also enjoy the live, drum-enhanced rhythms of the busy dance floor. (Danielle Stevens)
Koz's Mini Bowl
2078 S. Seventh St.
When Koz's says "mini bowl," it really means mini. The lanes and bowling bowls are about a third of the normal size, and there are even boys who sit behind the lanes to reset the pins. It's great for the family and, with a bar, pool table and darts, for adult parties too. The owner will even open early for an after-work party, but make sure to ask first. Oh, and be sure to check out the variety of taxidermy as well. (Bridget Rzymski)
O'Donoghue's Irish Pub
13225 Watertown Plank Road, Elm Grove
O'Donoghue's nice-sized listening room is fully enclosed to cut off noise from the bar area. About once a month the John Schneider Orchestra explores the Great American Songbook, led by Schneider, a cabaret song stylist with heartfelt panache, and powered by Kim Zick's buoyant drumming. Other music includes Vivo, a jazz trio with one of the city's pre-eminent sax and flute players, Warren Wiegratz, Tim Stemper's deft plectrums and singer Pam Duronio's dulcet arias. Traditional Irish musicians play Fridays, and Irish set dancing kicks up 7 p.m. Wednesdays. The menu hops between cultures, featuring items like classic Irish Reubens and Mexican quesadillas. (Kevin Lynch)
Pastiche Wine Shop
3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Pastiche, a charming bistro in Bay View, recently added a wine shop upstairs. The new space is comfortable, with a small lounge area used for occasional wine tastings. The wine selection is thoughtful, with prices in the lower ranges. (Wines at the bistro are all under $50 per bottle.) Perhaps the most interesting items are the sparkling wines, which include some hard-to-find French champagnes. (Jeff Beutner)
This Is It
418 E. Wells St.
That the city's oldest operating gay bar remains free of signage and hard to find is a dignified reminder of the days when LGBT people had to hide. A lifesaver then, a treasure still, this cozy Downtown cocktail lounge, open daily, welcomes all backgrounds, ages, genders and preferences. Care is taken to preserve its nostalgic look, a red and black speak-easy cheered with over-the-top decorations. Affordable and friendly, it features a stellar jukebox with singers from Ella Fitzgerald to Lady Gaga at a quarter a play. (John Schneider)
718 E. Burleigh St.
Riverwest's Two, the self-coined "make-out bar," is a uniquely intimate public place. Two offers seating for "two" and private booths with privacy curtains. Reminiscent of a speak-easy, this romantic hideaway features low lighting in hues of purple and red. Order a delectable dessert or a specialty drink like absinthe. Two is the perfect place for some QT with your cutie. (Danielle Stevens)