With a menu brimming with healthy options and local ingredients, the Waterfront Pub & Eatery serves up toothsome comfort fare and frosty beers on tap. Unleash the salvos on hunger with a spinach-artichoke fondue bubbling with hot parmesan and goat cheese, wine, herbs, and lemon, and served with a toasted baguette fork ($8.79), or a Waterfront caprese featuring a savory mélange of sliced tomato, mozzarella, and basil pesto ($8.99). Waterfront's burgers ($6.99–$8.99) steal the show from lesser meat slabs, with a choice of cheese and side groupies such as tots, skin-on fries, slaw, or a crunchy entourage of house-fried chips. Heartier entrees fill capacious insides with baked wisconsin mac ‘n’ cheese ($10.99) and cedar plank Atlantic salmon ($17.99) or cover the entire banquet table of a Lilliputian family reunion.
The Wooden Nickel Sports Bar & Grill could easily throw out the tables and chairs, burn the menus, and close down the bar—even then, people would have plenty to do and see. While diners feast on burgers, they bask in the glow of televisions broadcasting sports from ESPN GamePlan, NFL Sunday Ticket, and Fox Sports Network. Trivia competitions bring friendly rivalries into the eatery on weeknights, where players can match minds to win free drinks and bragging rights at the next Mensa track meet. The kitchen's pub grub mixes well with draft and bottled beers, which wait in the wings to swoop in and extinguish thirst pangs or rinse burger residue from hands.
All of Badgerland Bowling Centers' six locations have a lot in common. At each location, groups hurtle colorful balls down slick, glossy lanes, refueling at an onsite restaurant between matches. All of the alleys host birthday, work, and fundraising parties and tournaments such as the Badgerland Bowling 300 Club—which has doled out more than $35,000 in cash prizes since 2002—and the Badgerland Open, which welcomed 113 competitors in 2011, one of whom snagged a grand prize of $500 and 1,000 bragging rights.
But like sextuplets working undercover for the CIA, each center also maintains a unique identity. At Badger Bowl in Madison, live musicfloods the lanes on weekends, and dancers jump and jive on West Coast Swing nights on Wednesday. Nearby at Dream Lanes, laser and disco lights slice through fog amid thundering music during Ultra Bowling every Friday and Saturday evening.
Atomic Koi's extensive drink menu runs the liquid gamut, ranging from flavored martinis to mojitos to a sizeable beer list. Each drink is hand-crafted with precision by a savvy bartender, pouring indulgent concoctions such as the mango or pomegranate mojito, a mixture of fresh mint, lime, sugar, and rum ($5 each). Tantalize tongue buds with a chocolate martini ($6), or journey to a different dimension of deliciousness with the Monkeys in Space ($6), a Tang-inspired martini that mixes 3 Olives Rangtang, Patron Citronage, orange juice, and 7-Up mined from the lemon 'n' lime rivers of Neptune.
Milwaukee Ale House echoes with notes of live music and the laughter of pub goers, but the building is also the site of serious work. Beyond a pair of glass doors, the pub's stainless steel fermentation tanks bubble with Milwaukee Brewing Company's creations. When they're ready, these beers make the short leap from brew room to bar tap, forming a beverage selection that Esquire described as, "plentiful and tasty, complementing the top-notch food."
The menu sports a convenient pairing chart that helps diners match prime rib, pulled-pork sandwiches, and spicy beef-and-chorizo burgers to house brews. Ideal with chicken, Louie's Demise exudes the smooth maltiness of a typical amber ale but with a balanced kick of Perle and Tettnanger hops, A meat-and-potatoes porter, the Admiral Stache ages for one month in bourbon barrels, lending a toasty vanilla flavor to subtle notes of milk chocolate and dried fruit.
Situated in the heart of the Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee Ale House's century-old building provides the main dining room and patio areas with waterside views of the Milwaukee River. The pub's decor exudes its own historic charm with exposed brick, a scattering of empty wooden barrels, and vintage beer signs. When live bands aren't performing, focus turns back to the bar area, where the taps form an ornate centerpiece built to resemble a copper-topped wooden vat. Around the vat hang white mugs belonging to members of the Mug Club and office workers who "got lost" during their coffee break.
The gourmands at Fins Bar and Grill lure patrons in with a riverside patio, a menu of pub comfort fare, and a beverage list bursting with tropical libations. The eatery's brick oven bakes specialty pizzas such as the Cheeseburger In Paradise, an American masterpiece of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses with beef, ketchup and mustard sauce, red onion, and bacon arranged into a portrait of Jimmy Buffet's face ($13 for a 12"). A grilled hawaiian panini keeps mouths busy with tropical bites of ham and sautéed pineapple ($9), and seafood offerings such as coconut shrimp ($10) and lobster gruyere mac 'n' cheese ($13) bring ocean flavors to the river.