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Hidden Gems
Five Under-the-radar Milwaukee spots worth visiting

Photos by  Matt Haas

August 2016

Bugsy’s Back Alley Speakeasy

Jeremy Fojut, co-founder and "chief idea officer" of NEWaukee, is always on the hunt for Milwaukee gems. "I don’t think anything is hidden," he enthuses. "Gems are in plain sight." For Fojut, a gem is something that is artisan, well-crafted, authentic and has a story. "Storytelling is what helps small business and gems thrive," he adds. "We are always requesting that Milwaukeeans replace the unknown with curiosity and be a tourist in their own city." He suggests meeting the people behind the gems to discover their stories of entrepreneurship. In this vein, Fojut urges locals to explore Milwaukee’s neighborhoods and find their own secret places. And then share them.

Below are five Milwaukee crown jewels for those on the lookout for fun, food and frivolity. Why keep a secret?

Bugsy’s Back Alley Speakeasy

For a Prohibition-era cover operation, Gouda’s Italian Deli is spot-on real. It’s actually a full-service Italian deli, albeit a speakeasy. Be a big shot and chow down the Tommy Gun sandwich, made with oodles of salami and Italian cheese, but there is plenty of live music in the behind-the-scenes bar area. Enter either from the front, passing by the deli and continuing to the elevator-like door, or the unmarked back alley. Snappy dressers welcome. 218 N. Water St., (414) 221-6565

Barnacle Bud’s

Enjoy a summer sunset with a brewski in hand at Bud’s, Milwaukee’s kick-your-feet-back bar and seafood shack. Park your keister at one of the picnic tables or on a waterfront-facing bench and order a bloody mary and a dozen oysters. Revel in the parade of boaters cruising toward Lake Michigan and tip a bubbly to those passing salty dogs. 1955 S. Hilbert St., (414) 481-9974

Caroline’s Jazz Club

Located on a quiet, not-yet-touched corner of Walker’s Point, Caroline’s is an old-school, traditional jazz club, complete with leather-clad swivel chairs, gold and burgundy interior finishes and cocktail waitress service. Doors open at 7 p.m. most Wednesdays through Saturdays. A $5 cover charge (cash only) is required on Friday and Saturday nights. Arrive on time, as the intimate club’s seating fills fast. 401 S. Second St., (414) 221-9444


Art*Bar is Riverwest’s premier combination of art gallery and watering hole, serving dyno-mite martinis and gleeful beer pours. Coffee and teas too. This is where the city’s creatives and artistic elite meet to talk philosophy, politics, acrylic and watercolors — or just life in general. Live music sessions are value-added, and charity events for worthy causes are held here regularly. 722 E. Burleigh St., (414) 372-7880

Three Brothers

A Serbian restaurant and bar, Three Brothers is a quintessentially classic Old World fixture on the city’s south-of-downtown dining scene. The venerable building is on the National Register of Historic Places, with decor straight out of great-grandma’s kitchen. The burek and grape leaves are prepared with loving care, and the staff is attentive. Bring cash. 2414 S. St. Clair St., (414) 481-7530 m



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