Milwaukee's 7 Best Hidden Bars

Neighborhood watering holes and speakeasy-style bars are a great place to soak up authentic local culture--and Wisconsin craft beers, of course. 

  • 01 of 07

    Barnacle Bud's

    ••• Barnacle Bud's. Barnacle Bud's

    What: Barnacle Bud’s

    Where: 1955 S. Hilbert St., Milwaukee, 414-481-9974

    Those lucky enough to own a boat can dock just outside the restaurant, which is hard to find as it’s tucked into a marina, bordering Walker’s Point and Bay View. Once you’re seated at a picnic table with your fruity cocktail in a Mason jar, surrounded by nautical décor, you’ll swear you’re in Key West and not Wisconsin. Food options here are your typical fried food, with a special focus on seafood and raw-bar items.

  • 02 of 07


    ••• SafeHouse. Visit Milwaukee

    What: SafeHouse

    Where: 779 N. Front St., Milwaukee, 414-271-2007

    Sporting a spy theme, even the food items at this downtown restaurant-bar carry espionage names, like the Bourne Identity Salad and Cuban Missile Crisis Sandwich. To enter, you first have to reveal the secret password and if you fail, then you’re asked by the crabby hostess to perform a few silly tricks...which are filmed and aired for the restaurant patrons.  

  • 03 of 07

    Wolski's Tavern

    ••• Wolski's Tavern. John December

    What: Wolski’s Tavern

    Where: 1836 N. Pulaski St., Milwaukee, 414-276-8130

    Spend enough time in Milwaukee and you’ll slowly start seeing the “I Closed Wolski’s” stickers plastered on car bumpers, a testament to how popular this bar is with locals. It’s in a curvy, short alley just off of Brady Street and a great place for cheap beer, and to either play bar games or watch a sporting event on television.

  • 04 of 07

    Bugsy's Back Alley Speakeasy

    ••• Bugsy's Back Alley Speakeasy. Bugsy's Back Alley Speakeasy

    What: Bugsy’s Back Alley Speakeasy

    Where: 218 N. Water St., Milwaukee, 414-221-6565

    As its name suggests, this Third War bar with an alley entrance is all about channeling the speakeasy era with classic cocktails like a Sidecar or Sazarac and wait staff dressed like the Roaring 20s. Hungry? Food from Gouda’s Italian Deli includes meatball sliders and the Bambina Greta sandwich.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Paddy's Pub

    ••• Paddy's Pub. Paddy's Pub

    What: Paddy’s Pub

    Where: 2339 N. Murray Ave., Milwaukee, 414-223-3496

    One of the best places to sit in this bar is not the bar itself but the adjacent courtyard, covered in ivy and past an iron gate. It’s a quieter place than most East Side bars, even if you must sit inside on a cold night, where the vibe is more residential than it is commercial, with live music every Thursday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and collectibles hanging on the walls.

  • 06 of 07

    Art Bar

    ••• Art Bar. Art Bar

    What: Art Bar

    Where: 722 E. Burleigh St., Milwaukee

    If you’re a fan of art and drinking, then this Riverwest bar is your place. Art exhibits rotate often and border on quirky, such as Peeps or Barbie dolls as props. 

  • 07 of 07

    The Palm Tavern

    ••• The Palm Tavern. The Palm Tavern

    What: The Palm Tavern

    Where: 2989 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, 414-744-0393

    Drive by a few times and you just might miss the ho-hum sign on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View. And that would be a shame because Palm Tavern, a major dive bar, is home to one of the city’s best craft-beer lists.