“What’s that big bright thing in the sky? The sun?” says every Milwaukeean at the start of each summer. After recovering from shock, it’s your civil duty to gather your buddies together and find a patio to drink on. Here are the 11 best patios in MKE for drinking al fresco.
The 11 Best Patios in Milwaukee
Our own little slice of Key West is hidden behind industrial buildings and boat storage warehouses. Turn left into the narrow parking lot at the end of the road and follow everyone else to the colorful shanty that serves up fried grouper sandwiches and neon drinks with names like dumpster punch. If only the river wasn’t so brown, you might actually believe you were in Florida.
This seafood spot commands big bucks because of its location and arguably best view in the city, especially from the patio. Go for happy hour when lots of beers and cocktails are under $6 and there’s a selection of cheap seafood apps. Throwing back oysters and pomegranate sangria on this patio is about the most chic thing you can do at the lakefront.
Lower East Side
This recently renovated second-story patio soars over bustling Brady Street. Sure you can sit at a boring table and eat (delicious) kabobs, but wouldn’t you rather melt into a comfy couch while puffing a hookah? Also, there are belly dancers. Check and mate.
Being able to bring your own food into a beer garden means you can make some interesting pairings. Does a Jimmy John’s #11 go better with Riverwest Stein or Spotted Cow? Does a Crispin bring out the fruity notes in Chipotle’s hot salsa? Answer all those burning questions and more here, just don’t lose your $5 glass-deposit token.
This sports bar has a nice big patio so not everyone has to pack into the bar like sardines to watch the Brewers in the playoffs (a girl can dream, OK?). For some big events, it even rents a giant billboard-like TV on a truck trailer and parks it adjacent to the patio, making it a prime sports-viewing spot.
Clock Tower Acres
This patio has everything: a standalone bar with garage doors all around to make it open-air, lots of those fancy-pants fire pits that don’t use wood, a sandbox to keep kids occupied, boat docks, and a giant permanent tent with a stage for live music and heated sand volleyball courts. This is one of the only patios in MKE you can legit enjoy year-round, with a pitcher of Horny Goat Brewing’s beer in hand, of course.
This is the most appropriately named bar in MKE. The huge side yard is a mishmash of lawn chairs, patio furniture, an outdoor bar, yard games, umbrellas, and a huge video screen for movies. If that’s not enough, there are grills you can use for BYO meat. It’s like chilling at your buddy’s place, if your buddy had a well-stocked bar instead of the skunky Bud Light Lime in his fridge. Even your dog is welcome.
What better place to get your drink on than in the historic 1844 Pabst Brewery? Jackson’s has Wisconsin beers on tap, plus of course plenty of PBR, including the classy 40oz bottles. Sip one while rocking out to one of the many outdoor concerts this summer, or challenging a rival drinker to a game of bags.
Lower East Side
A unique patio game is tucked away around a corner on the second-story patio at Red Lion: poolball. It’s a giant AstroTurf-covered pool table deck that can only lead to hilarious antics once the drinks are flowing. Don’t worry though, the balls are soccer balls, not bowling balls, so you won’t break your foot when you try that trick shot. Try not to break anything of the pub’s, either.
Though The Yard is in the Iron Horse Hotel, it’s not just for Harley riders. The decor is biker chic with dark wood, comfy couches, and fire pits. Eclectic bands play regularly and there are food specials like $2 sausage and bacon pigs in a blanket. One cocktail, the Escape Clause, is made with pink peppercorn- and heather flower-infused rum and is finished with a cedar-flamed orange disc. Fancy.
This beer garden is of the decidedly German variety. Beers are from Hofbrau and come in the classic heavy-glass liters and half-liters; try not to klepto them. To soak up those giant beers, there’s giant pretzels, cold landjaeger sausage, and the quintessential bratwurst. Along with the live accordion-playing polka musicians, you’ll feel like you’re actually in Munich.
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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.
1. Barnacle Bud's1955 S Hilbert St, Milwaukee
2. Harbor House550 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee
3. Casablanca728 E Brady St, Milwaukee
4. The Landing At Hoyt Park1800 N Swan Blvd, Wauwatosa
5. Leff's Lucky Town7208 W State St, Milwaukee
6. Horny Goat Hideaway2011 S 1st St, Milwaukee
7. The Backyard2155 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee
8. Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub1203 N 10th St, Milwaukee
9. Red Lion Pub1850 N Water St, Milwaukee
10. The Yard500 W Florida St, Milwaukee
11. Estabrook Park Beer Garden4600 Estabrook Dr, Milwaukee
This beach bar is located in the heart of industrial buildings and boat storage warehouses in Bay View, but it brings a bit of Florida to Milwaukee. Fried fish sandwiches and colorful umbrella drinks keep the summer vibes alive alongside live music and oysters. This place is mostly patio, so enjoy the outdoor bar and picnic tables.
Harbor House should really just call its brunch buffet “Seafood Extravaganza" -- it goes all out with piles of fresh fish and shellfish amongst the typical omelets and bacon. And you wouldn't expect any less from a steakhouse-cum-raw bar trading in lobster bisque and shrimp cocktails, and with views of the water to boot.
Done up with red walls, sheer red curtains, and a second-floor outdoor patio, Casablanca gives you opulent reason to try a higher-end take on your favorite Middle Eastern dishes. The entrees are recognizable, but execution is two steps beyond your usual take-out falafel shop's; expect fragrant orders of beef shawarma, baba ghanoush, and stuffed grape leaves, which you can finish off with a hookah lounging session on one of their plush couches.
The short menu at this outdoor patio and beer garden is supplemented by the fact that you can bring in your own food to enjoy with their wine or beer. But if you would rather order their, they have pizzas, Baverian-style pretzels, and beer brats -- exactly what you would expect from a beer garden.
Leff's offers a sports bar and then some, with special events and a monthly burger special (among them things like the Blue Moon Burger and the Hash Burger). The outdoor patio can be a nice place to escape the sports-craze, except on the nights when the bar brings in a giant screen to air the games out there. In which case the patio becomes one of the best places to watch the game, short of the stadium itself.
Imagine basically the perfect brewery bar and then add beach volleyball courts and a sandbox. Oh and put it basically ON a dock. Now you have Horny Goat Hideaway, where the Horny Goat Brewery is serving their beers alongside live music, fire pits, and food like sliders and tacos. And if brunch is your thing, they do that too.
This bar is in on the whole "B.Y.O" thing, except for them its "B.Y.O-meat," and they provide the grill. Their menu include fine dining specialties like mozzarella sticks, beef jerky, and snickers, so maybe consider the B.Y.O option. Other than that, this is literally a huge yard covered in games, screens for movies, chairs, and umbrellas -- and everyone is welcome.
This pub has taken over the location of the 1844 Pabst Brewery. Of course they serve tons of good, old fashioned PBR, but they also keep tons of Wisconsin beers on tap. Stop by for one of the outdoor concerts or a few yard games.
MKE has exactly 3,472 Irish-themed pubs. That’s why the owners of Red Lion decided to revamp the space that had been an Irish pub into... a British pub! There’s more of a focus on soccer (or footy, for you ex-pats), and the food is slightly more British with things like bangers and mash, Cornish pasties, and donner kebab sandwiches, all of which are great when you’re drinking and/or hungover.
Located at the Iron Horse Hotel, this outdoor spot is decked out with comfy couches, fire pits and a fancy cocktail menu. Look out for live bands playing eclectic mixes in nice weather.
Estabrook, a spot located in Estabrook Park along the Milwaukee River, is quite literally a beer garden -- so much so that it's out of the public transit's reach. (The official site recommends arriving by "foot, bicycle, automobile, kayak, or canoe".) Estabrook prides itself on being a truly public beer garden, so patrons are encouraged to bring their own picnics or even steins.