If Research & Development Pub taught us nothing else, we learned that sometimes a bar can overcome a stupid-ass name to prove itself a worthwhile establishment for one to spend time and money. April 19 marked the grand opening of Who’s On Third (1007 N. Old World Third St., 414-897-8373), a new self-anointed “pub” named after an ancient joke based around an unrealistic baseball premise and the name of the street where the business is located. A few seconds into the first full week of Who’s On Third’s existence, Milwaukee Record left home to check out a place that couldn’t be worse than its name. Or could it?
The space: From the outside, Who’s On Third looks as if it could venture in one of two thematic directions: swanky high-end downtown lounge or arena adjacent sports bar. Upon walking in, the answer as to which path Who’s has taken was… yes?! The classic hardwood floors, wooden liquor cabinets, and hand painted modern adaptations of vintage photography served to signal an establishment entrenched in a posh concept. However, the projection TVs, overtly clashing pop music accompaniment, and flyer for this weekend’s 102.9 The Hog “Rock Girl Challenge”—which somehow fits Milwaukee Downtown B.I.D.’s stringent and economically asinine morality code that Silk Exotic repeatedly cannot—suggests a boisterous neighborhood tavern.
Sadly (and perhaps taking pointers from its equally erratic predecessor ONE Sports Lounge), Who’s stylistic schizophrenia seems to cull the least savory components of each type. At one point we were drinking an overpriced craft beer while pondering a buffalo wing order as Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” blared over the house speakers and competed for our attention with the NBA game projected on the back wall.
The service: We were issued a warm welcome moments after entering the long, thin corridor of an establishment. The lone bartender was affable and informative as he told us the happy hour specials ($1 off all beers and $3 rail cocktails). He offered a beer recommendation—which we eventually took—and as we sipped at a booth near the front window, he twice made his way out (a good 60 feet or so) to check on us and to see if the open entryway was making our experience too cold or loud for comfort. We have no service complaints.
Milwaukee Record’s drinks: After making a couple fruitless pivots between the beer coolers bookending the till, we accepted there would be no standout options of the canned or bottled beer variety, and reluctantly accepted the friendly barkeep’s alcohol advisement, settling for the most exotic of Who’s paltry four draft options: Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA. ($5.50 with happy hour discount!) The Delaware draft was perfectly fine, which was enough to dub it the default craft brew centerpiece on a domestic-heavy beer list that had just 24 options—three of which were different forms of Miller Lite. (“Miller Light” draft, Miller Lite can, and Miller Lite retro can.)
Not wowed by the trio of imports on hand (Corona, Stella Cidre, Guinness), we bought the other scantly abnormal draft option, Founder’s Porter ($5 happy hour price) the second time around. In terms of liquor, all the basics seemed to be covered, especially Jameson, whose bottles absolutely dominated the barback. The food menu was equipped with about 15 fairly traditional pub fare foundations like buffalo wings, chicken tenders, burgers, salads, and cheese curds—each in adherence with the unwritten 20-percent Third Street markup.
The verdict: Unless it adds considerably more beers, drastically improves its nightly specials, and takes even a remote stance in deciding what it wants to be, Who’s might not be on Third for long.