The bottles that make up Thief Wine's diverse inventory are not stolen, but they may as well be. The shop's name—a reference to the long tube or "barrel thief" used to sample maturing wines waiting to be bottled—reflects the air of mischief shoppers experience in encounters with otherwise inaccessible wines that makes each of the shop's selections feel like the product of a thrilling cellar heist. The fruits of Thief's careful wine curation decorate the walls of Thief Wine's two locations with more than 500 selections, which mix familiar labels with artisanal up-and-comers from around the globe. At each location's wine bar, certified sommeliers pare down the hulking inventory to about 30 essential bottles, which slosh into thematic tasting flights or full glasses to flank small plates of cheese and charcuterie.
Originally built as a Schlitz bar more than a century ago, Upper 90 Sports Pub maintains the links to its storied history by pouring drinks in front of the original stained glass that still adorns the old saloon's back bar. Now showcasing Milwaukee's transformation to a modern city inspired by local teams, Upper 90 Sports Pub takes a twist on the classic German eats with a full menu of gastropub fare artfully presented to its sports-centric clients every day of the week.
Upper 90 incorporates local favorites, such as Usinger?s sausages or Nueske's bacon, into flavorful spins on traditional cuisine, creating dishes such as battered and fried corn dogs served with Guinness mustard and raspberry balsamic ketchup or bacon-stuffed Angus burgers flavored with cheddar cheese and rosemary aioli. The restaurant opens its doors early on select game days or if threatened by early-rising big bad wolves, feeding just-woken bellies with its Saturday breakfast, followed by appetizer fare featuring the unique flavors of fried alligator and Milwaukee's biggest pretzel. While sitting under vintage sports equipment and memorabilia, guests can sip on the pours of a range of craft brews, including drafts from local breweries such as Lakefront, New Glarus, and Sprecher.
On Saturday afternoons, dogs stretch out on Vino 100’s sun-drenched patio as their owners clink glasses over their heads. So goes Yappy Hour, one of the many weekly gatherings that further Vino 100’s mission to foster a casual, accessible community of oenophiles. The shop also hosts live music on Saturday nights, as well as tastings and classes that delve into topics such as german wines and comedic timing for effective spit-takes. The wine experts are happy to guide customers through ample selections of wines, which they categorize by flavor and body for simplified browsing. In addition to wine, the shop’s shelves carry more than 50 seasonal beers and specialty cheeses and snacks for practicing newly gained pairing skills.
Even with the ambitious goal of trying a new variety every night, it would take months to sample every single beer at Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar. Not only are there 53 different drafts and an array of cellar reserve bottles, but the selection is constantly updated with new craft brews from Wisconsin and around the world. Beer-savvy bartenders make their own recommendations behind the circular center bar as servers deliver trays of imaginative gastropub dishes—crab-stuffed jalapeños, freshwater bluegill sliders, and the hefty burger lauded by reporters from A.V. Club Milwaukee as “drool-inducing.” When not toppling giant Jenga blocks or throwing darts, guests can gaze up at the flat-screen televisions and cheer when a hardened banker learns to love in a Lifetime movie. The massive wooden deck gives al fresco enthusiasts space to linger over bites of cod tacos and barbecue pork nachos.
You could call Vino 100 a wine boutique or a wine bar, but you might also view it as something of a wine library. Each bottle in the collection has been scrupulously cataloged according to the Wine Barometer system. Its tag decodes the complex flavors along two scales: flavor (dry to fruity) and body (light to full to solid). Buyers apply other selection criteria, too: the company guarantees it'll stock at least 100 bottles priced at $25 or less at all times, and that all those bottles will come from artisanal, limited-production wineries. Shoppers who can't wait to taste the evidence of the system's accuracy can take a bottle over to the wine bar for a small corking fee. Vino 100 also hosts wine classes and trivia nights to slake the thirst for knowledge.
Local and Sustainable Ingredients | James Beard Award-Nominated Chef | In-House Brewery | Uncommon Food Pairings
What to Drink: Sip the beers that get churned out at Hinterland’s Green Bay–based brewery, including seasonal specialties and limited releases. Or, energize with a cup of Luna coffee or Rishi tea.
Who’s Cooking: Executive Chef Dan Van Rite, a three-time James Beard Award finalist, prides himself on bold flavors and off-the-wall pairings—many of which are made possible by his utilization of local and seasonal ingredients.
Keeping it Fresh
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: For those a bit north, there’s always the Green Bay location (313 Dousman Street). Stop in and take a Saturday-afternoon tour of the brewery, which makes its home inside a turn-of-the-century meat-packing warehouse.