Big change has come to this side of Downtown Milwaukee. What was once a fairly dormant part of town is now a bustling hotspot with a beautiful new arena, an assortment of new bars and restaurants, and most of all, a completely new energy.
Even the surrounding parts that didn't radically change are witnessing shifts. The Pabst area is now alive with activity and brands new and old, while Old World Third Street will get an overdue new name: N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, bringing all-too-deserved tribute to one of the world's great civil rights leaders and taking a step toward bridging the racial divides in our city. That's quite literally the case here, as the motion unites the current N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive with Downtown, rather than abruptly ending at McKinley Avenue.
All these pieces – new and old, rich legacy and shiny modernity – combine to make an incredible Milwaukee hangout hub. You can find some of the city's newest, hippest locales next door to legendary buildings serving beer while serving as living tributes to the area's German heritage. Old icons stand alongside new trends, places to dance next to places to watch the Bucks in the playoffs, venues drawing in young crowds next to venues drawing in older crowds next to venues drawing them all.
And to help you pick the spot right for your next great night out to Deer District and its surrounding area, here's a guide to the bars in this slam dunk of a city hotspot.
If you're headed out, please double check to see how places have adapted to the pandemic and follow their COVID protocols accordingly. Be safe, be considerate – and cheers!
The Beer Garden
1111 Vel R. Phillips Ave.
As part of Fiserv Forum's entertainment block, The Beer Garden faces both Old World Third Street and the arena, equipped with a large screen, a weather-proof roof and other amenities perfect for game day. Seamlessly connecting the entertainment block to Old World Third, the beer garden is a great way to celebrate new buzz in the city and honor some of Milwaukee's old favorites. The only problem? It's not called The Deer Garden.
917 W. Juneau Ave., (414) 630-1609
If you're going to have the word "Best" in your bar's name, it better be pretty fantastic – and luckily, that's the case at Best Place. Housed at the Historic Pabst Brewery, Best Place lets you guzzle down delicious beer in basically a living museum, with gorgeous historic art and architecture from Pabst's glory days in Milwaukee providing the perfect warm backdrop for delicious conversation and even more delectable brews.
Bottle House 42 (formerly Glass + Griddle)
1130 N. 9th St., (414) 988-1551
Named with a nod to Pabst Brewing history, the building which now holds Bottle House 42 was long part of the Pabst bottling facility, which packaged and distributed the countless bottles of Pabst Beer that shipped out of Milwaukee on a daily basis. These days, it's a beautiful beer hall, showcasing at least 42 brews (including those from neighboring Milwaukee Brewing Co.), plus a menu of beer-friendly fare. Bottle House 42 also boasts a front patio, beer garden and rooftop patio.
1019 N. Old World Third St., (414) 224-8500
When you play host to the largest bar in the state of Wisconsin, the odds are good you'll do well for yourself. That's been the case for Buck Bradley's, one of the major mainstays on Old World Third Street. Classy without being pompous and full of itself, Buck's has friendly and quick bartenders to go with its decent prices. Add in some really good burgers, pub grub and a tasty Friday fish fry, and Buck Bradley's makes for a solid choice for some no-hassle Downtown dining before making the switch to a liquid diet.
Deer Camp MKE
1023 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 316-9900
Opened in just February of 2020, this latest piece of the delicious Camp Bar imbibery empire brings the up-north spirit of the hits locales to Old World Third Street and Deer District – as well as the spirits, with tasty brews (on tap and in cans, imported and domestic, macros and micros) and specialty cocktails bringing a cabin-like hunting lodge zen to the bustling neighborhood. And stay tuned during the holiday seasons, because Deer Camp loves dressing up for special occasions – such as Spooky Camp for last Halloween.
Drink Wisconsinbly Pub
320 W. Highland Ave., (414) 409-1740
The iconic Midwestern brand and meme-makers come to life in perfect Wisconsin fashion: a bar. A giant bar, moving from its original Walker's Point location to a jumbo-sized Deer District spot capable of holding everything you love about this state in a single Sconnie-rific space. And, of course, that means we're referring to tasty brews as well as snacks like cheese curds, jerky and beef sticks to soak it all up (plus bigger eats from the pub's neighbors in case you punched in quite the shift at the barstool).
Good City Brewing
333 W. Juneau Ave., 414-539-4343
It only seems right that the newest part of Old World Third Street, the Bucks entertainment block, would bring in the new big trend in Brew City: craft brewing and tap rooms. Good City's second locale features an awesome taproom, multiple tasty beers on tap and an open kitchen with snacks to help soak up your brews.
Knight's Bar at Mader's
1041 N. Old World Third St., (414) 271-3377
Mader's is an obvious Milwaukee staple, a thoroughly committed showcase of the food, decor and culture from the city's German heritage. Knight's Bar, an outgrowth of the beloved institution, is no less a tribute to the Cream City's Bavarian roots – and, therefore, beer and other tasty alcoholic beverages.
The Loaded Slate
1137 N. Old World Third St., (414) 273-5700
Old World Third Street offers a truly loaded slate of restaurants and bars for you to enjoy – The Loaded Slate fittingly being one of them. The eatery makes for a perfect place to catch a game, whether it be Bucks, Badgers, Golden Eagles, Brewers and Packers. (It is the self-proclaimed "home of Little Lambeau" after all.) Even if it's an off-day for our hometown squads, however, it's more than worth still loading into The Loaded Slate for its lineup of taps, domestics and imports – not to mention sandwiches and burgers.
340 W. Kilbourn Ave., (414) 271-3414
When it comes to Milwaukee sports bar institutions, Major Goolsby's certainly cracks the list. Featuring memorabilia all over the walls – including a large painting of the late MU coaching great Rick Majerus – and a menu of tasty burgers and other pub grub, the longtime Downtown icon is the perfect place to take in a game and a beer – or a beer, then head over to the games a quick jaunt away at Fiserv Forum or the UWM Panther Arena.
The MECCA Sports Bar & Grill
1134 Vel R. Phillips Ave., (414) 908-0401
Named after the Bucks' old stomping grounds and sitting in the shadow of the team's new home, The MECCA is perfectly positioned to be your new favorite sports bar – and certainly the biggest, featuring two levels of sports-watching glory, tasty bar eats and dozens of televisions (including a mammoth 38-foot screen as the centerpiece) featuring all the day's most important games.
Milwaukee Brat House
1013 N. Old World Third St., (414) 273-8709
It shouldn't really come as a surprise that a venue called Milwaukee Brat House would become a hit. As you'd expect from the name, Milwaukee Brat House serves a scrumptious traditional Milwaukee-style brat, alongside plenty of other Milwaukee favorites, while also serving a great, comfortable place to watch a game – or, in the case of the Brewers, shuttle over to one.
Oak Barrel Public House
1033 N. Old World Third St., (414) 897-8320
Taking the place of the former Comedy Cafe and Giovanni's, you'll now find – fittingly – a whole lot of oak barrels, emphasizing the bar and restaurant's focus on craft beers and whiskey as well as harkening back to the building's history as a hardware store. It's an Oak Barrel of fun! (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm trying to remove it.)
Old German Beer Hall
1009 N. Old World Third St., (414) 226-2728
Considering the neighborhood's history as the one-time center of German Milwaukee, the Old German Beer Hall is a quintessential Milwaukee bar. In addition to the big, big tap beers from world-renowned Hofbrau Brewery in Bavaria, you can also get the usual bottled favorites – though why pass up the chance to drink a liter of beer?
The kitchen is open late, and in addition to the standard menu of brats and giant Bavarian-style pretzels, there is usually a couple of delicious German specialties on the menu too. The Beer Hall draws a number of different demographics, from families and "older folks" looking for a good meal, to theater and sports fans catching a drink before or after and event or show as well as the usual college crowds.
1044 N. Old World Third St., (414) 226-6044
RWB is the self-proclaimed "Milwaukee party bar" and lives up to their title. What was formerly a live country music entertainment space known as Red, White & Blue has shifted into a more diverse theme with all different kinds of music – and the return of Buckhead Back Bar Saloon. A new bar atmosphere comes with new features, such as the prize wheel, shots bars and dance platform. RWB has transformed into one of Old World Third Street's most popular destinations, while still maintaining their patriotic roots.
Third Street Tavern
1110 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 897-8137
Opened just last summer in the former Cantina space, Third Street Tavern combines a cozy traditional tavern vibe – classic bar games, a relaxed atmosphere, a menu of delicious and nostalgia-inducing pub grub – with some nifty new tweaks, like several retro arcade cabinets (NBA Jam, Galaga and more) just waiting for you to post the latest high score. It's a corner bar – just done up for the Downtown atmosphere.
1111 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 581-5540
It's no lie: Truth Lounge, taking the place of the former Valhalla on Old World Third Street, houses a comfortable, club-like vibe. The hangout features a menu of tasty cocktails, brews and food items – and when it comes to atmosphere, the spot hosts regular DJ sets to keep the energy high and the mood chill.
1125 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 988-0355
There's nothing ugly about the former Ugly's space, now taken by the cozy tavern vibes of Uncle Buck's, offering a delicious menu of high-end bar eats as well as tasty cocktails and brews to wash them down – all with a great view of the neighboring Beer Garden's big-screen TV. And speaking of great views, you'll definitely want to check out Uncle Buck's upstairs concept, Red Star, a upscale lounge atmosphere featuring a rooftop patio complete with fireside bar seating outside and a overlook of the entire drag. No matter which floor you're on, it's a top-shelf hotspot.
1110 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 810-0390
Found in the former 1983 Arcade Bar space, this colorful yet warm lounge-like hangout offers a cornucopia of cocktails along with a menu of wines and beers of all kinds. Plus, to set the right mood, WhiteTail often hosts DJ nights to combine club-like fun and low-key comfort.
Who's On Third
1007 N. Old World Third St., (414) 897-8373
Who's On Third: That's who's on Old World Third. The pub, which took over the former One Sports Lounge space in March 2014, isn't just for fans of wordplay, however. Who's On Third aims to be a classic American neighborhood pub in the heart of Downtown, with plenty of TVs to watch the games – not to mention proximity to Fiserv Forum for the ones taking place just down the block – local art of vintage Milwaukee sites decorating the walls and tasty pub grub.
1230 N. Old World Third St., (414) 226-0122
It only seems right to end this bar guide at the end of the alphabet with W XYZ, the Aloft Hotel's swanky bar. The hotel bar offers a collection of beers and wines, as well as a menu of tasty light pub eats. And while it may be last on this list (alphabetically reasons only), with Fiserv Forum and Deer District pretty much next door in the Park East area, it's unlikely W XYZ will be at the bottom of people's lists heading down to the city's shiniest new hotspot.