Food & Drink

Where to Drink Outdoors in Milwaukee

It's no secret that Milwaukeeans drink a lot. We tend to do it outdoors when we can, maybe out of some vague sense that the benefits of fresh air will cancel out all the booze. I'm no doctor, so I can't tell you whether it works -- only that you should drink outdoors well into the fall because it's just plain fun and your days to do it are numbered. When you're looking to enjoy some drinks al fresco, these are Milwaukee’s best spots, from downtown rooftops to suburban beer gardens. Maybe bring a jacket though.

Good City Brewing

Lower East Side
Urban brewpub with East Side and Downtown locations

There are two locations of Good City Brewing: one on the East Side, the other across from the Fiserv Forum. Both have great patios, but the one on top of the East Side location is intimate and one of the only rooftop patios in that area. There's a bar with eight taps that are brewed right downstairs (or at the other location), plus lots of seating options from bar stools to beer garden tables. Sit along the perimeter wooden slat wall and forget about the East Side traffic and parking for a while. Bonus: The food is just as good as the beer.

The Yard

Walker's Point
Biker-chic patio of the Iron Horse Hotel

Though the Iron Horse Hotel caters to Harley-Davidson fans -- the museum is just across the river -- one will ask for your H.O.G. card to enjoy their beautiful patio bar. It recently got a renovation and now includes a permanent roof structure for shade and shelter, making it more of a year-round spot that seats 400. Countless hanging plants and vines are suspended from it for a full-on mystical secret garden effect. Once fall hits, laze around one of the fire pits and drink bottomless brunch mimosas.

Café Benelux

Third Ward
Bustling restaurant with a popular brunch and rooftop patio

If you're looking for a bustling, middle-of-it-all rooftop patio, Benelux is your spot. It's located on the north end of the Third Ward full of shopping and boutique stores, and right across from the Milwaukee Public Market. There's a great view of some Downtown architecture, and you'll catch some serious rays if you're not under an umbrella. If you're more into people watching, grab a seat on the sidewalk patio downstairs instead. Either way, you'll have an entire book of mostly European beers to choose from, plus some delicious brunch (served every day) and Belgian frites.

Estabrook Beer Garden

Relaxed Munich-style beer garden with live music

The primary chill out spot for North Shore residents, Estabrook Beer Garden is a no-frills, everyone's welcome outdoor beer hall in the middle of a busy park. Tables are communal and first-come-first-served, the Hofbrau beer is served in giant liter mugs with a glass deposit (don't steal!), and there's usually live music. You can bring in whatever food you like, but stick with the theme and get a giant pretzel with tasty obatzter cheese spread if you're peckish. The setting is perfect for Oktoberfest celebrations when the air is crisp.

The Outsider

Third Ward
Elegant rooftop bar atop a Third Ward hotel

There isn't a whole lot more you could want from a rooftop patio than what The Outsider at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel offers. You'll feel like you're on top of the world, or at least Milwaukee, from this vantage point. There's an outdoor bar and another inside, outdoor TVs, shade umbrellas, couches, glass-enclosed fire pits everywhere, and even shuffleboard. It all comes at a price though, namely $14 cocktails and $9 beers. But trust us, it’s worth it.

Camp Bar

Up North-themed bar with a two-story patio

Though Camp Bar has three locations, we're focusing on the Tosa location, because its patio is second-to-none. It's a two-story lofted affair, making this both a rooftop patio and a ground level hangout to fit your mood. It's got a log cabin look to it, with plaid-cushioned furniture made from timber, a huge stone fireplace, taxidermy, and knickknacks like snowshoes on the walls. Dogs are allowed on the patio, so bring your furry friend and make it feel even more like the cabin Up North. If you're a Bloody Mary fan, try their 22-ounce version served with a Rhinelander shorty.

Lakefront Brewery

Beerline B
Raucous beer hall with entertaining brewery tours

Everyone knows you go to Lakefront Brewery for two reasons: the Friday fish fry, complete with polka band, and the irreverent brewery tour capped with the Laverne & Shirley theme song. But most people don't realize there's a riverfront patio out back now, with views of lush greenery on the opposite bank and the architecture of the Holton Street bridge. Moor your kayak or pontoon boat to the dock and grab one of the bar seats facing the river and you'll forget the loud beer hall behind you.

Hotel Madrid

Walker's Point
Upscale but playful Spanish inn, bar, and restaurant

The patio at Hotel Madrid is one of the best kept secret spaces in the city. An extension of the hotel's vermouth bar, Vermuteria 600, and restaurant, Bodegon, the patio has the same fancy, but playful and unpretentious vibe. Thanks to tiled walls, a covered pergola, and beautiful light fixtures, it feels like an interior space that's just missing a couple walls. There's a huge open hearth where meat is cooked and huge paellas simmer on AYCE paella night. It's gorgeous and homey, and then they bring you a giant cocktail mixed with homemade vermouth in a ceramic T-rex named Tomas and four straws, and you think, oh, neat.

Barnacle Bud's

Bay View
Tropical oasis in the middle of an industrial area

Barnacle Bud's isn't a secret anymore, but it's still a pain to find if you've never been there before. (You need to enter the parking lots where it looks like you shouldn't go.) That only contributes to the feeling that it's some Key West tropical oasis in the middle of Milwaukee, complete with a colorful ramshackle building, sun bleached picnic tables, and two patios -- just try to avoid looking at the disgusting river that does not resemble the Caribbean in any way. But there are vaguely tropical cocktails with names like Dumpster Punch served in Mason jars, so it's all good!

View MKE

Brewer's Hill
Small plates with a view of the skyline

Though lots of people are still upset that Roots and Wolf Peach are no longer in this spot, View MKE has lived up to its name with one of the best patios for just sitting and gazing at the city skyline. The two-level deck has a dining room atmosphere on top, and a lounge-like vibe on the spacious first floor with a bar, fire pits, heaters, and a canopy of lights. The view is magical, but the food doesn't really live up to it, so stick with classic cocktails or refreshing sangria.

The Beer Garden

The Deer District
Energized beer garden of the Fiserv Forum entertainment block

Despite completely botching the opportunity to name the Deer District's beer garden The Deer Garden, the generically-named Beer Garden is a pretty dang great place to drink. It's sandwiched between two buildings with a Milwaukee mural on one brick wall and a massive 28-foot TV screen on the other designed for watching sports. This covered space really came alive during the Bucks playoffs last season, packing people in and living up to its "Milwaukee's living room" moniker. You can catch live music sometimes, or a free shuttle to home Brewers games here, too.

Nomad World Pub

Brady Street
Spacious soccer bar patio with on-point specials

It's a lot easier to pretend like it's 80 degrees and sunny when you're surrounded by the neon colors and tropical plants of Nomad's back patio. The space is larger than the pub inside and features its own bar and a few TVs that will always play soccer before anything else, plus beach parties and DJs on weekends. Grab a burger from the little stand and wash it down with a boozy slushie. Don't miss one of the best happy hours in the area where almost everything is $1, $2, and $3 dollars.

Sign up here for our daily Milwaukee email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Brew City.

Lacey Muszynski is a writer in Milwaukee who is probably just as bad at poolball as she is at real pool. Follow her on Twitter: @worthhersalt.