Along with cooler weather and a never-ending parade of people who can’t stop talking about how much they love this time of year, autumn in Milwaukee means one thing: awards season. Yes, October and November are traditionally the months when local publications roll out their annual “best of Milwaukee” awards, which are designed to drive a ton of traffic to their websites honor the best the city has to offer. But if you’re like us, you’re sick of seeing the same familiar names stuffing the virtual ballot boxes so they can walk away with “best pizza” or “best bowling alley” or whatever. Isn’t it time for some new, completely arbitrary Milwaukee awards? Yes, yes it is. So without further ado, here are 15 of them. Let’s call them “The Randoms.”
1. Best Walker’s Point bar with a karaoke night, a shuttle to every Brewers home game, and beginning in “S”
Steny’s was a staple of Walker’s Point long before it transformed into a foodie’s paradise, complete with high-end lofts and a brewery of fluctuating occupancy. The sports bar at the corner of Second and National is a sturdy holdover in a region experiencing a rapid reinvention. How has it stayed relevant so long? Aside from being one of 16,000 bars that claim to make “Milwaukee’s Best Bloody Mary,” Steny’s has a ton of great specials and fun activities to spice up your Walker’s Point drinking experience. Call us bold to make such an assertion, but Steny’s is bar none the best bar in the neighborhood with a shuttle and a weekly karaoke night…whose name begins with the letter “S,” and top five in the city when expanding to the entire alphabet.
Honorable mention: Sabbatic
2. Best Milwaukee Bucks player with the most difficult name to spell
In past years, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would have been a shoe-in for this obscure distinction. However, last season saw the uniquely named forward being traded, and the Deer drafting an 18-year-old who would make the equipment manager’s life even more difficult. In limited time, Giannis Antetokounmpo (sp?) was marvelous. He’s become a (very complicated) household name, and has bested his 2013-14 teammates Joel Przybilla and Ekpe Udoh for this award.
Honorable mention: Larry Sanders
3. Best mustachioed local historian who will break your goddamn kneecaps if you discuss Milwaukee history without consulting him first
Is there anyone cooler than Milwaukee historian John Gurda? Unless you include a certain someone whose last name begins with a “U” and ends in a “ecker,” than no, no there is not. Also: Is there anyone as pleaseantly mustachioed than Gurda? Nope. Based on his public appearances, the encyclopedic Milwaukee scholar is as laid-back as they come, though we like to imagine he has a secret, darker side, one where he roughs up armchair history buffs who dare discuss the Bridge War of 1845 without first getting express written permission from the Gurd himself.
Honorable mention: Tom Barrett (pre-2008)
4. Best shitty sports mascot
Hank The Dog
Though the Crew was in first place for more days of the 2014 season than they weren’t, few would have picked Milwaukee to win the division going into the season, the front office seemingly included. Matt Garza and Mark Reynolds are cool and all, but Hank The Dog was the most valuable acquisition of the Brewers offseason. The rescue pup became a cottage industry for the team store (with a percentage going to the Humane Society), and was thrust into every facet of the Brewers organization not being filled with third place-caliber baseball.
Honorable mention: John Kuhn
5. Best local soda with an exclamation point in its name
Dang! Butterscotch Root Beer
In addition to producing world-class beer, Milwaukee also specializes in wonderful, nationally recognized specialty sodas. Black Bear has been showing suburban Milwaukee’s sweeter side for more than 50 years. Up on the Milwaukee-Glendale border, Sprecher makes highly respected gourmet soda (including its flagship root beer that The New York Times dubbed the best in the world), and Lakefront’s Maple Root Beer is awesome as well. But where’s the excitement, guys? Enter Dang! soda. The pop-purveyor’s butterscotch root beer should be called “HOLY FUCK! Butterscotch Root Beer” instead.
Honorable mention: Dang! Italian Cherry
6. Best headline guaranteed to make Milwaukee lose its shit
“Bar Rescue scouting new arena, strip club locations near Grand Avenue Mall”
Ad-based websites live and die by the almighty “click,” so it’s only natural that local media outlets continually write about the hot-button issues that tend to get Milwaukeeans all in a tizzy. So yeah, expect endless speculation on a new arena from the Milwaukee Business Journal, more horse-beating think-pieces on the fate of the Grand Avenue Mall from the Journal Sentinel, and even more leering updates on a possible downtown strip club from OnMilwaukee’s Dave Begel. And yes, we’re implicating ourselves in this award, because if we’ve learned anything over the last few weeks, it’s that Milwaukeeans really, really like to read shit about Bar Rescue.
Honorable mention: “100 more things to do in Milwaukee with the 100 hottest Milwaukeeans (that you’ve heard of), part two”
7. Best Taco Bell in Milwaukee proper
There are oodles of tremendous Mexican restaurants in town. In fact, we can safely say that we’ll never uncover all of the great non-franchised dining establishments dotting Milwaukee’s vast landscape. So fuck it. Instead of going out of our way to unearth the finest in character-laden local Mexican restaurants, we just went to some Taco Bells. Of the THREE 4th Meal™ destinations within city limits, the airport-adjacent location narrowly edges out the one near Silk Exotic and destroys the one by The Rave—which we’re pretty sure is more cockroach than building by this point.
Honorable mention: Fond du Lac Avenue
8. Best negative comment left on our site that makes us laugh
“We ought to call these MKE REC food reviews the Poo Poo Platter since Lazarski shits on everything”
We love reader comments here at Milwaukee Record, even comments that claim we’re a bunch of hack assholes who do nothing but talk shit and hate everything about Milwaukee. (Bonus points for those kinds of comments on stories that are 99-percent positive.) So yeah, we have a pretty thick skin, which is why we can laugh at this comment left by dedicated reader “NationalGalleryOfClipArt” on Todd Lazarski’s restaurant review of Morel. Seriously: “Poo Poo Platter” is a genius name for a food column. Thanks, NGOCA!
Honorable mention: “this sucks”
9. Best Milwaukee attorney who can convince Aaron Rodgers to do pretty much anything
Nattily dressed attorney David Gruber is a man with one ubiquitous catchphrase and 8,000 ubiquitous commercials. Of those commercials, nearly half feature none other than Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers palling around with a guy who may or may not be the real-life inspiration for Better Call Saul. Yes, we know these spots are for a good cause (the MACC Fund), but Gruber seems to hold so much sway on Rodgers that we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Super Bowl MVP wearing a “One call, that’s all!” sandwich board at next year’s Summer Soulstice.
Honorable mention: William Shatner
10. Best band name that’s a palindrome
Some of you are probably wondering why Sat. Nite Duets—which, when rearranged, spells “United States”—didn’t win. Those people are thinking of an anagram. That’s okay. It’s a common mistake.
Honorable mention: ABBA
11. Best fire department-themed bar
Sure, it’s a pretty specific genre, but there are actually a handful of bars scattered around (and within 10 miles of) Milwaukee that hinge their identities on firefighting—places like Hosed On Brady (which is actually on Franklin Place) and 6th District Pub in South Milwaukee. However, only one tavern was willing to go out on a limb and name itself with a pun about a forgettable 1991 film. Across from an elementary school on Clement Ave., Backdraught is described as a “Tavern & Rescue.” Unless an ex-firefighter opens Bladder 49 Pub soon, Backdraught looks to be a perennial favorite for this honor.
Honorable mention: Fire On Water
12. Best Milwaukee magician who is likely the only local magician you can name
One of the best things about local “best of” awards is the occasional category where there’s pretty much only one legitimate candidate. Best LGBT hamburger bar! Best Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast! Best mayor! Add to that list “Best Milwaukee magician,” and perennial/only winner David Seebach. Because, let’s be honest: If you can name another local magician, you probably are that magician. Bonus points for Seebach having his name splashed across the annual Summerfest schedule almost as much as Pre-Recorded Music.
Honorable mention: David Seebach
13. Best local lake
“For the 168th year in a row, readers have shown just how ‘great’ this Great Lake is by voting it the best local lake! We couldn’t agree more! Lake Michigan is perfect for showing off your bod while playing some volleyball on Bradford Beach, staring off into the distance while sitting on the ‘goth rocks’ at Summerfest, or just taking a leisurely swim. (Note: Do not swim in Lake Michigan under any circumstances.)”
Honorable mention: Lakefront Brewery
14. Best local establishment where they have to buzz you in (non-porn)
Dive bars are a sadly dying breed (just ask…Bar Rescue!) Happily, Milwaukee still has its fair share of dark, dumpy watering holes—and they don’t come any better than Riverwest mainstay Gee Willickers. Dark? Check. Dumpy? Yes. Pretzels and other mystery snacks on every table? Uh huh. A locked front door that can only be opened by the bartender buzzing you in? You better believe it, Sallie. Most importantly, though, is how great Gee Willickers is, and how quickly we’d take to the streets if Jon Taffer ever started eyeing it up.
Honorable mention: Milwaukee County Jail
15. Best Milwaukee business that doesn’t advertise with us yet and hey, look at that! We have an award with your name on it! (And an advertising insertion order, in case you’re interested)
Hey, Northwestern Mutual. We noticed you aren’t running any ads on our site. Maybe we should set up a meeting one of these—oh wow, what do you know! We just happen to have an award for, um, Best Milwaukee Financial Services Organization! And you won! Let us know when we can drop off your plaque, and if a masthead leaderboard or just plain leaderboard ad size seems right for you…
Honorable mention: That hot dog guy on the corner of Wisconsin and Water