Every night the notes of renowned jazz, blues, and R&B performers echo through the glimmering walls of 88 Keys Piano Martini Lounge, where martinis and small plates meet beneath mood-setting blue lights in West Allis’s downtown stretch. The relaxed spot was conceived by co-owners Greg Barczak and Suzy Ball who, as West Allis Now reporter Mark Schaaf notes, “hope the city is turning a corner and want to make something more of the downtown” by attracting a younger crowd and lending the area an intimate, upscale nightlife option.
Inside the low-lit lounge, glass windows open and close to bathe guests and performers in a cooling breeze. Artwork and Wisconsin gangster memorabilia, including John Dillinger photographs and high-school report cards, beam down upon pots of fondue and gourmet pizzas. Behind the glowing bar, master mixologists blend a lengthy list of 28 specialty martinis and fill glasses with wine and beer.
Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge’s super-heated Neapolitan-style oven bakes crunchy cracker-like crusts topped with chef-curated ingredient bouquets or build-your-own-pizza creations. The restaurant also transforms into a morning-meal factory for Friday–Sunday brunches, flipping expectations on the heads with funky adaptations of morning classics, such as the breakfast pizza topped with scrambled eggs and a pepperoni-wrapped alarm clock. By night, the eatery doubles as a music venue, with a rotating schedule of DJs setting hips asway with high-octane playlists.
Marchese’s Olive Pit provides pizza purveyors with a menu of pies with and without red sauce. Opt for sauceless sustenance with the caramelized onion and mushroom pizza, boasting olive oil and aromatic garlic reclining on an herb-brushed crust ($14.99 for regular size), or go in the red by bankrupting hunger with Pete’s Pepper Pizza, topped with spicy serrano peppers or mild green bell peppers, plus pepperoni and onions ($15.99 for regular). Customers can conceive the most artistic pie creation since da Vinci’s Mona Lisa Face-Planted Into Pizza with the create-your-own option, which lets you add as many toppings as your stomach pleases, including olives, extra seasoning, artichokes, bacon, and more ($12.99+). Marchese’s also offers a solid selection of appetizers, from its fresh bread available with toppings such as marinara sauce, pesto spread, or olive tapenade ($3–$5.50), to Aunt Susie’s Salad, with strawberries, butter-toasted pecans, and a raspberry-poppy-seed dressing bunking atop a bed of spinach ($5.99). Lunchtimers can nosh on pizzas by the slice ($4–$5)—Marchese's Olive Pit serves up a new special slice of pizza each week—or the massive Bear’s Big Sandwich available in veggie-friendly ($5.99) or pepperoni-topped ($6.99) variations.
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.
Inspired by the art-deco elegance of the 1940s, Olive Black Martini Lounge entertains guests with a refined roster of classic cocktails, specialty martinis, and soft lighting. Located less than two miles from the Wisconsin border, mixologists wield jiggers and shakers to conjure potions such as the Dark Secret and Pineapple Upside Cake. Selections of authentic tapas dishes settle stomachs after a few drinks, with bite-sized eats such as cajun bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin or seared shrimp served with fresh mango salsa. Meals end sweetly with such succulent desserts, including chocolate fondue.