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O'Lydia's Continues Milwaukee's Corner Bar Tradition

Expect low prices, friendly service and Friday fish fries

Aug. 11, 2011
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Milwaukee's streetscape is filled with corner taverns dating from the 1890s to the early parts of the 20th century, before Prohibition temporarily ended the party. A typical example is located at the corner of South First and West Florida streets, just south of the Third Ward. First constructed as a Pabst tavern, and since 1995 known as Slim McGinn's, today the spot is called O'Lydia's.

Apart from the outdoor sign, changes have been minimal. The main bar remains the same as when it was McGinn's. There is a glassed-in patio and upstairs party room. Diners will also find a few outdoor tables with umbrellas. Be prepared for a bit of noise outside, though, as the tables are adjacent to busy railroad tracks.

The menu also has retained a similar feel. Reuben rolls remain as an appetizer and only a few items top $10. The soups, which change daily and consist of American standards like vegetable and chicken rice, are still homemade in the small kitchen. Expect seafood chowders on Friday.

Among the appetizers are Blue Moon onion rings ($4.95), thick cut in a beer batter of the microbrew of the same name. They are served with a citrus ranch dip. Sliders ($4.95-$8.95) offer three choices for meat: beef burgers, meat loaf or shredded Irish beef.

Along with a few daily dinner specials, the menu offers salads and sandwiches. All sandwiches include a side. The homemade fries and potato chips are good options. Other choices include a cup of soup, coleslaw, garlic mashed potatoes or a side salad for a modest extra charge.

The Irish-pub spirit continues with shepherd's pie ($8.25) and a corned beef sandwich ($7.95). The corned beef is sliced at the right thickness (not too thin) and trimmed well.

The leg o' lamb sandwich ($9.50), one of the best choices, comes with delicious slices of meat. There also are “build your own” sandwiches. Start with a burger ($7.50), chicken breast ($7.95) or tenderloin ($9.95) and add toppings like cheese, bacon or mushrooms with blue cheese for an additional charge.

Friday is fish fry day. The basic fry is breaded cod ($7.95-$11.95), though lake perch seems to be a regular special. Try the perch broiled ($10.95) and served with a bit of melted butter. Opt for the homemade fries as a side.

Weekdays offer lunchtime delivery service. Sunday features an inexpensive brunch. A “build your own” omelet starts at $5.95; the priciest item is eggs Benedict at $8.50.

In addition to pleasantly low prices, the warm, friendly service also stands out. O'Lydia's is a corner bar that wants customers to return.


338 S. First St.

(414) 271-7546


Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible



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