Chapter 84- Doors Open Milwaukee (Part II- In-Depth Tour at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge)


For the second installment of my Doors Open Milwaukee weekend, I went to an in-depth tour of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, hosted by Wisconsin Foodie‘s Kyle Cherek.  This tour was one of the chances to get a guided tour of one of the sites, and I should mention that members of Historic Milwaukee get first dibs on tickets.


I met my friend Kori, of AnalogEmporium, at Bryant’s and we were immediately brought to a different world.  The space was barely lit, the cash register was plated in gold (like most of the bar actually) and walls covered with velvet wallpaper.   There is no menu.  The idea is that you talk with your bartender about what kinds of things you like, and what mood you’re in, and they’ll match you with a drink.  I’m told that they have a 99.9% success rate.


We ordered drinks (yes, at 3pm), and headed upstairs and found a seat right in front.  Kyle Cherek and bar owner John Dye led us through the rich history of this lounge and it’s three owners since opening in 1936.

{intermission: I ran into John while I was attending a punk-rock show with my kids at Anodyne recently, and will fill you in on that adventure soon.  But he was a really nice and gracious dude who immediately gave me a greater sense of the integrity behind Bryant’s just because he seems like a stand up guy}

What stuck out most to me was the dedication to authenticity.  From the time of its opening, the mission seems to be roughly the same: provide a unique place where attention to detail and the craft of making delicious cocktails are valued.  There’s no standing room at Bryant’s.  You can either sit at the bar, or at a table.  And once you do, you’re encouraged to put down your damn phone and talk to someone.


Regulars and long-time waitresses remain a part of the picture.  Hardship and disaster arose in the stories told, but so did the notion of rebuilding and remaining true at most any cost.  This cocktail lounge isn’t there by chance.  It’s still around because of people like John who pour thought and time and energy into a place that brings people together.


After the presentation, Kori snapped a picture of me and Kyle and then stuck around to take a few more photos of Bryant’s.


And the intriguing thing about this painting is that there’s really  no story behind it.  Nobody knows who the woman is, and nobody knows who painted it.  But it sure is a good conversation piece.


A special thanks to Kyle and John for sharing the stories, and to Doors Open Milwaukee (and Historic Milwaukee, Inc) for providing the tour.  Stay tuned for my next and final installment of the weekend, and remember that the easiest way to stay in the loop is to enter your email address is the “subscribe” box at the bottom of the column to the right.

Cheers, all!

A. Storm

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  1. MOM says:

    Love this one a lot. What part of town is Bryant’s located?
    Wish I could have been there.


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