Growing up in Green Bay, my earliest sports memory is my mom going downtown in her Starter jacket for the Super Bowl XXXI parade. When the Packers win Super Bowls (note the plurality, Bears fans), the state shuts down public schools. To continue to put things into perspective, I once stopped talking to one of my classmates who donned a Vikings Favre jersey. Green Bay’s city-issued garbage cans are green and gold. The Packers are the life of Green Bay. When I moved to Milwaukee for school, I was astounded by the number of Bears fans. While there is support from fellow Packers Backers, it’s much different than in Titletown.
In the past, I have elected to view Packers games in the comfort of my own home, with my laptop open to check the status of my fantasy team. This has begun to feel a little empty, however, so I’ve decided to set out this season to find the best Packers viewing experience Milwaukee has to offer. For Week 1, I selected none other than Cactus Club.
I arrived at Cactus around 11:30 a.m. and was greeted by a round of applause. At first I thought this was because fellow Milwaukee Record contributor DJ Hostettler was there and happy to see me. Nah, they clap for everyone. Don’t feel special.
The place filled up pretty quickly and I was glad to have secured my seat at the bar. Luckily for people who came a little later, Cactus takes out its tables and replaces them with bleachers. No Bears fans were present; there wasn’t That One Guy cheering every time Matt Forte got the ball, or trying to defend Jay Cutler’s 1-11 record against the Packers (1-12 now).
DJ was, well, DJing and guiding our cheers while doing so. The bar favorite turned out to be Daniel Bryan chanting “YES.” DJ’s musical choices were superb, and I was particularly fond of this crafty remix of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me.” I knew I was in the right place when everyone booed Joe Buck and his semblance of a beard in his first on-screen appearance.
Our bartender Andrew Shelp wore pigtails, which he claimed to be part of his anti-man bun movement. (I support.) He was energetic, attentive, and fun—a necessary triumvirate for optimal football viewing. I asked what Cactus’ drink specials were, to which he replied, “Everything is on special which also means nothing is on special.” Kind of a bummer, but I opted to take the cheaper and lower ABV road with some High Life. In honor of the noon kickoff, I went with a Bloody Mary next. Although it was garnish-less, it was worth it. The touchdown shots were reportedly a mixture of Bacardi Bite, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice. They tasted like candy.
Did I mention Cactus has a touchdown gong?
A video posted by Markus T. Sharkus (@sharkmeppard) on
The food spread was exactly what I needed to continue drinking throughout the duration of the game. There were brats, wings, chips and guacamole, jalapeno poppers, popcorn, and cupcakes. The highlight for me were the poppers—and apparently for everyone else too, as the entire tray was gone within half an hour. While I bro out quite a bit during football games, I typically avoid wings because they’re too messy for me. However, my desire to keep my dainty fingers clean was no match for the grilled wings.
Throughout the entire game, the bar was free of intoxicated idiots who might spill their entire beer on you. During the last Packers/Bears game, I watched a girl fall asleep in her nachos. This year, I heard a handful of people with slurred speech. It was refreshing.
The Packers’ performance made it hard for fans not to have a good time. James Jones had two touchdowns in his homecoming game, displaying his ability to catch difficult passes in place of injured Jordy Nelson. Rodgers commanded a balanced attack, as Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb also made it into the end zone. Green Bay’s defense even had some notable plays: Julius Peppers sacked his former teammate, Cutler, and Clay Matthews showed off his speed in his second-half interception. Unfortunately, no Packers game is complete without offensive tackle and headache inducer David Bakhtiari garnering a couple of flags.
My verdict? This game would have been enjoyable wherever it was viewed, but Cactus gave it something extra. If I didn’t vow to go to a different bar every week, I’d be back for Week 2 against the Seahawks.