a tale of two tiki bars

Did you know Milwaukee has two tiki bars? A lot of my compatriots didn’t even seem to know Milwaukee had one, so I knew I had to explore them both. For science and journalism.

First, I visited the new guy on the scene, Lucky Joe’s Tiki Room in Walker’s Point. I had actually been to this bar once before, but it was on a very awkward date so I needed a palate cleanser. This time, I brought a friend along instead.

As I planned my tiki bar adventure, I knew that I needed to take home some loot – both bars offer cocktails that come with a novelty mug. Choosing as much for the mug as for the cocktail inside, I sipped Papa’s Polydactyl Daiquiri, which came in a delightfully kitschy cat mug. It was quite tasty, and I followed it with a Southside Sling, a take on the classic drink, which was my favorite of all the cocktails…I’ve never been much of a gin fan, but after this and a delightful drink at Bryant’s, I might be coming around on this spirit! As is traditional, the bar is quite dark, but illuminated with some pufferfish lamps and twinkling lights, and full of fun tiki kitsch. It’s also much larger than you might expect from the outside, with a variety of little nooks for groups to settle in (we sat at the bar and had a lot of fun watching the bartender mix up a variety of concoctions).

A few days later, it was time to visit the granddaddy of Milwaukee tiki, Foundation Tiki Bar. This was the spot I heard local rockabilly types discussing while perusing the racks at Tip Top Atomic Shop in Bay View, and it turns out that it’s just a block away from where my tiki compatriot lives! We walked over on a Monday evening, because I wanted a chance to check out the bar without the infamous crowd. Once again making my selections with my love of kitsch instead of my brain, I picked the Royal Hawaiian, which comes in a mermaid mug. When it says “two rums,” they are not kidding – I’m not a huge rum aficionado, so this one was a bit strong for my tastes, but I did what I had to do for my prize. In order to maintain my journalistic integrity, I tried Foundation’s Singapore Sling, which was a bit more my speed. Thanks to the near-empty bar, we also had a great time chatting with our bartender. Foundation is also a very dark bar (surprise), and it feels much more…lived in than Lucky Joe’s, which also is not surprising considering how much longer it’s been open. Everything there feels like it has a story.

Which is the tiki bar with the most? Honestly, I never intended to make a decision…I love retro, I love kitsch, and it turns out I love tiki bars (as I always suspected I would!). I definitely plan to visit both of these bars again, and hopefully collect more mugs for my little stash of tiki swag. Just look at these beauties – who could resist?

2014-06-17 08.30.23

Aloha, Milwaukee!


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