Of all the Milwaukee drinking establishments that have closed this year, none ended as tragically as Walker’s Point mainstay The Bomb Shelter. In early March, beloved Bomb Shelter bartender/proprietor Greg Landig, 46, died unexpectedly at the very tavern he’d founded less than four years prior. Landig’s death left the charming little watering hole—and its staggering 300-plus-beer list—suspended in a sad state of limbo. Eventually, the doors were boarded up (along with a posted notice alleging theft of some of Landig’s more valuable vintage beer signs), and all Bomb Shelter signage was removed. When the boards came off the 1517 S. Second Street facade last month, a new bar, The Parlor, took The Bomb Shelter’s place. Not quite sure what to expect, The A.V. Club took an early look at a place with big shoes to fill in the Milwaukee bar scene.
The space: Where once was an amazing and valuable menagerie of vintage beer signs, unique Wisconsin sports memorabilia, and a variety of picked eggs and gizzards, are now Bettie Page pinups, leather couches, movie posters, and, for some reason, a huge Cadillac banner. Flat screens and a Golden Tee machine now illuminate the once-classic and wholly unique interior. That being said, The Parlor achieves a hip, displaced Walker’s Point lounge feel without coming off as disingenuous or overly pricey in the process.
The service: Our bartender, who we gleaned was named Maria, was nothing less than friendly, and was already fluent with the brand new business’ specials and selection. Beside her behind the bar was an owner-type who chatted up patrons during the surprisingly bustling Tuesday night, only occasionally breaking conversation to top-off bowls of complementary cheese popcorn.
The A.V. Club’s drinks: Though exactly zero Milwaukee bars could match The Bomb Shelter’s beer list blow for blow, we were curious to see the options The Parlor had on hand. We were directed to a chalkboard with bottled and canned beer selections scrawled on it. That, combined with those on tap, made 30 beers in all. Noticing nothing more exotic than Bell’s Oberon, we decided to just take advantage of the bar’s $1.50 domestic pint happy hour special with a PBR.
Staying with the unfairly-comparing-a-new-bar-to-its-well-established-predecessor motif, we followed the Pabst with a Bomb Shelter specialty—a whiskey old fashioned. Sadly, this one didn’t come with a rock candy sir stick and muddled orange, but the no-frills rendition was plenty good, and even better in the pocketbook at $4.
The verdict: Those pining for a Bomb Shelter reincarnation are sure to be disappointed, both in terms of beer selection and atmosphere. But if you give this whitewashed neighborhood watering hole a fair shake and set aside comparisons, you might like what you see.