Best Nightlife

Out of all the clubs and bars in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer a carefully vetted selection to let you explore Milwaukee nightlife on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Milwaukee Best Nightlife list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.

10 Art Bar
No matter your sexuality or even your species, you're welcome at this funky local landmark where patrons enjoy special events ranging from live concerts and beer bong bingo to open canvas night and "yappy hour" for four-legged partiers. At this coffeehouse meets art gallery meets late-night hangout, a delightfully diverse crowd downs magnificent Bloody Marys and Irish coffees while taking advantage of the bar's endless diversions, including pool, board games and the ever-popular "Mystery Beers." (414-372-7880)

9 Historic Turner Restaurant
Housed in the 1883 Turner Hall, this restaurant is always busy, partly due to its prime location across from the Bradley Center, where the Marquette University basketball team plays. The other reason for its popularity is the food — hearty portions of German and American favorites, and a fabulous Friday fish fry. House specialties include Angry Chicken (linguini tossed with chicken and portabellas in a Cajun cream sauce), chicken Schnitzel with homemade spaetzle and mustard-horseradish sauce, and Kessler Rippchen (a grilled smoked pork chop with potato pancakes, cinnamon applesauce and red cabbage). The famous Friday fish fry includes battered cod, French fries, coleslaw, marble rye, and tartar sauce. On game nights, this place gets packed with Marquette alums, who feast on massive appetizers and great beer. (414-276-4844)

8 The Knick
Although popular for business lunches, The Knick also has a thriving after-work bar scene, complete with specialty cocktails. The menu has selections that are ideal for grazing with friends, or for dining with a date. Starters include a massive antipasto platter, hummus, and crispy calamari. Meal-size salads and hearty sandwiches are popular at lunch. At dinnertime, the menu features plenty of fish and chicken entrees, plus beef and pork for heartier appetites. Favorites include black olive and herb crusted chicken and grilled salmon. (414-272-0011)

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7 Elsa's on the Park
This mini-chain, with additional locations in Soho, NYC and Scottsdale, AZ, is owned by the Kopp family of frozen custard fame. Housed in a beautiful Victorian brownstone overlooking the park, Elsa's has a decidedly contemporary look and laid-back atmosphere inside that appeals to a young professional crowd. Specialty cocktails — martinis, cosmopolitans, and the like — are the beverages of choice, and inventive burgers and sandwiches are the nosh. Try the burger au poivre with bacon and bleu cheese and the pork chop sandwich. (414-765-0615)

6 Mad Planet
Although there are occasionally modern rock/alternative bands on the calendar, Mad Planet is essentially a dance club with some funky 80s and retro theme nights. Some nights find DJ driven house and techno and an edgier crowd, so call ahead to find out what's on for the night. (414-263-4555)

5 Shank Hall
Named for the fictional Milwaukee club in the movie "This is Spinal Tap," Shank Hall is something of a local proving ground for regional musicians. It's rather on the small side, but that just adds to the intimate feel of attending a concert here — no matter where you stand or sit, you can always see the performers faces. Relaxed atmosphere, full bar. Tickets usually available at the door, but call ahead. 21+ only. (414-276-7288)

4 Vitucci's
Serving great cocktails since 1934, this downtown bar is an integral part of Milwaukee's nightlife. Christmas lights throughout the year, good live music, great bottled beers and a renowned jukebox. Private corporate and party rooms available. (414-273-6477)

3 Hi Hat Lounge
Classy yet relaxed, the super hip Hi Hat attracts a trendy young professional crowd — one peek in the door and you'll understand why. The two-level space features sleek, modern décor, belying its historic exterior. Beverage of choice is the specialty cocktail, and music tends toward jazz / swing / lounge. No standard pub grub here — the menu is brimming with shareable gourmet grazing platters. The adjoining Garage is a bit more relaxed and casual; music comes from an eclectic jukebox and the occasional live band. (414-225-9330)

2 Water Street Brewery
This fun bar sells a good mix of handcrafted beers to regulars and travelers. Popular beers include the Old World Oktoberfest, Pils and Water Street Amber. Also a strong menu of dining choices. (414-272-1195)

1 Caroline's Jazz Club
Milwaukee jazz fans love Caroline's for its laid back yet classy ambience. Both regional and national acts grace the large stage — past performers have included such notables as the Count Basie Band, the Dinah Washington Band, Julie Wood, Manty Ellis, Paul Spencer Band, Sam Kidd, and Adekola. (414-221-9444)

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Maps and Directions

Art Bar 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Coffee House, Gay Bar
Historic Turner Restaurant 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Sports Bar
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
The Knick 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar
Elsa's on the Park 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
Mad Planet 10Best List Arrow
Type: Dance Club
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
Shank Hall 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Live Music
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
Vitucci's 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
Hi Hat Lounge 10Best List Arrow
Type: Lounge
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN EAST
Water Street Brewery 10Best List Arrow
Type: Brew Pub, Late Night / After Hours
Neighborhood: DOWNTOWN
Caroline's Jazz Club 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Live Music, Lounge
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