There aren't a lot of theater stages that can claim to have hosted presidential speeches—and fewer yet for which that president was William Howard Taft. Opened in 1883, the Grand Opera House has seen performances by the likes of Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, and John Philip Sousa, among other culture-makers of distant generations. Across a century and a quarter, the magnificent auditorium has played the parts of a vaudeville venue and a movie theater, and it wasn't until the mid-'80s that the stage resumed its duties as an opera house. After a sweeping referendum, the city acquired and restored the building, and in 1986 it reopened with a new staging of The Bohemian Girl—the same work that had first lifted its curtains more than a 100 years earlier. Today, 660 can enjoy the opera house's historic magnificence: an enormous, staggered chandelier, cherubic murals across the ceiling and flanking the balcony, and an unmatched ambiance of crimson and gold grandeur.
The chefs at George's Gaslight Inn fill the kitchen with aromas of sauces and soups made from scratch and hand-cut steaks in the broiler. For nearly four decades, they've built upon steakhouse and seafood traditions, stuffing shrimp, topping lobster with drawn butter, and cooking porterhouse, tenderloin, and t-bone cuts of beef. In addition to dinner services, the restaurant also offers special-event packages and catering.
Philly cheesesteaks, Louisiana shrimp po boys, and other classic American pub dishes zip to tables during breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Sidetracked Bar & Grill, where diners groove to live music and vie for bragging rights at pool tables and dartboards throughout the week. Mugs of domestic beer toast touchdowns during Packers and Badgers games that emanate from multiple big-screen TVs as patrons nosh on white-cheddar cheese curds and 12 flavors of chicken wings. Like hugs from garden gnomes, pizzas come in 12-inch circlets, which diners can top with pepperoni, olives, or red onions. Smooth asiago, spicy pepper jack, and gooey mozzarella blanket Angus beef burgers and melt into texas toast's warm, grilled embrace.
Films still gasping for air from their first runs stop by to grace the screens of Fox Cinema Cafe, a second-run theater with weekend matinees and evening shows. Like a deep-fried VHS of Citizen Kane, the theater combines the best aspects of food and film with servers who deliver handmade pizzas, popcorn, snacks, and sandwiches to patrons’ tables as they watch their movie. Private rooms host birthday parties and corporate gatherings where guests can spread out to play games, unwrap presents, and reenact climactic speed-reading battles from their favorite films.
Sometimes numbers speak louder than letters. And sometimes they come together to tell a wonderfully vociferous story: six large-screen TVs, 700 full CDs, and 2,000 music videos. That's the tale of the tape at Third Base Sports Bar & Grill, where the staff navigates around a pool table and dartboard to serve pizza, burgers, and sandwiches. The menu includes a BLT stack and a philly wrap with shredded steak, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and mozzarella. The team rents out a party room for $15 per hour, which includes a lighting-and-sound system and a dancing stage that actually gets up and dances in front of the floors of the other rooms. The libation department complements the food team by serving Budweiser, Blue Moon, and Miller Lite.
The scene at Deja Vu Martini Lounge is wild and fierce, blurring the lines between speakeasy, jazz club, and upscale lounge. More than 125 varieties of martinis—including specialties such as the seasonal pumpkin-spice martini—enhance the experience at this nighttime hot spot, alongside other inebriants such as wine and beer. Live music permeates the airwaves, and recorded hits from crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye blend with classic decor to pay homage to yesteryear.