As a downtown nine-to-fiver, I frequently find myself grabbing lunch or an after-work drink at restaurants or bars within walking distance of my office. After taking a client to lunch at Millioke (323 E. Wisconsin Ave.), which is attached to the new Marriott, and having nothing short of perfect service and food, I knew I had to make a stop for happy hour.
With a tagline of "Meat. Cheese. Beer," Millioke celebrates the food and drink for which our fine city is known. While my History of Western Great Lakes Indians class at UW-Milwaukee taught me all about the history of Milwaukee's name, I'll leave the history lesson to Alice Cooper in Wayne's World.
One recent evening I left my office and trotted a few blocks down Wisconsin Ave. to grab a post-work libation. Upon entering the door it shares with Starbucks, I let the hostess know I was heading to the bar and made my way towards the back of the restaurant. The décor is fresh and modern, but also plays on Milwaukee's historic charm by keeping the Cream City brick walls exposed.
The restaurant and bar are split down the middle by a brick wall with large archways as openings. The bar itself is a large square, which is split by the wall with an opening in the middle for the bartenders.
As I sat down on the left side of the bar, I became preoccupied by the sleek white stone of the bar top. I'm fairly certain it is the prettiest - and I mean that in the most un-girly way possible - bar I've ever laid eyes on. And it's a perfect match with the room's dark wood trim.
A female bartender approached and handed me a menu with a smile. I asked if there were any happy hour specials, to which she replied that from 3 - 6 p.m. Millioke offers $2 off draft beers, rail mixed drinks and glasses of house wine.
Given the restaurant's tagline, I had high expectations for the beer list. I was not disappointed. There is a great selection of local brews, in addition to the crowd-pleasers you'd expect to find at a hotel bar.
Millioke's tap selection ($5 - $6) is heavily focused on Wisconsin-brewed beer, with only five of the 20 offerings coming from outside of Badger state lines. Some of the Wisconsin brews on tap include Lakefront's Riverwest Stein and IPA, Sprecher's Hooligan EPA and Pub Brown Ale, and Big Bay Brewing's Wavehopper. Bottled beers are $3 - $7 and include a variety of local favorites and imports.
While the list impressed me, I already had an eye on the cocktail my co-worker had during our client lunch. Speaking of which, half of our table at that lunch ordered the Bloody Mary and it was a solid contender â€“ not too thick, not too thin, great garnish â€“ and can even be made with bacon-infused Rehorst Vodka.
While waiting for my fashionably-late friend Mandi to arrive, the bartender made me the Citrus Berry Lemonade. Presented in a tall glass with fresh berries and ice, the cocktail ($10) is made with Cointreau triple sec and Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur. Ranging from $8 - $10, Milliokeâ€™s signature cocktails are sure to please a variety of pallets with vodka, rum, brandy and whiskey-based options.
The Citrus Berry Lemonade was delicious and a great drink for a warm summer day. Mandi appeared after my first few sips, and ordered a glass of house Cabernet ($7 / $5 during happy hour). She must have enjoyed it, or had an interesting day at work, as she quickly ordered another glass. Instead of bringing out another stem-less wine glass, the bartender filled Mandiâ€™s original glass from a small wine decanter.Â
After settling up our tab, we walked over to the other side of the bar to get a good look at the feature wall of enlarged labels and packaging from various beers, many of which are brewed in Wisconsin. My words will not do the wall justice, but it is a great focal point and really adds to the bar experience, without using traditional promotional pieces.
While Iâ€™m typically not a huge fan of hotel restaurants and bars, Millioke is one Iâ€™d have no problem visiting frequently. The dÃ©cor, beer and cocktail selection and reasonable prices fit my bill of a good time.
Party on, Millioke. Party on.