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Having fun at Finks

Board games and fancy cocktails at East Side bar

Nov. 29, 2016
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Finks (1875 N. Humboldt Ave.) is a weird and fun bar, a really unique space in Milwaukee. It’s like your cool uncle (not your creepy uncle!) decided to open up a bar in his basement and stock it with dope liqueurs. Oh, and he put a handful of video games there too. And he hired some very ebullient, cool people to make fancy cocktails.

OK, so perhaps that analogy got off the rails a bit. But that’s because Finks is a tough place to describe in just a few words. (Even for someone who gets paid to do it.)

I’ll start with the physical layout of the place itself: There are three tables upfront, a bar that seats a dozen or so people, and one long table and three booths in the back. It is cozy in all the best implications of the word, and can recall a good house party late at night as strangers work to pass through the skinny walkway behind the bar seating. Each booth has a stack of board games that range from your typical Monopoly and Connect 4, to more complicated games like Risk, and some esoteric games as well. This makes Finks a good place to take people with whom you’re not entirely sure you could handle a long conversation; “Hey, look, a game!” is a great distraction from awkward small talk.

Aside from the board games, Finks also has conversation enablers in the way of eight taps (one nitro!) and some excellent cocktails dreamed up by their staff and served in coupe glasses, which make you feel as though you’re at a fancy, more socially progressive party in the 1930s. Little Prince ($9) is a take on a Pisco sour that swaps Pisco for Rujero brandy and egg whites for acid phosphate, an old-timey drink ingredient that does the same kind of heavy lifting in the flavor department as egg whites without their thickness. It’s bright and clean and a touch sweet, but not overly so—a good drink to finish out your night.

If spice is your thing, or you’re a margarita fiend, the Power Station ($9) mixes blanco tequila, lime, grapefruit and Hellfire habañero bitters to create an acidic and spicy beverage that recalls the warmer months. It’s nice to sip on while taking in the south wall’s bizarrely enlarged photograph of autumn trees and pretending the cold Milwaukee winter isn’t hovering outside.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what drew me to Finks in the first place: their video games. Finks features four rotating pinball machines, an old-school Ms. Pac-Man machine, and an NBA Jam: Tournament Edition cabinet on which the Bucks are, inexplicably, the sixth most played team. Again, this provides something to do with a group of friends, or may provide a reason to visit the bar alone with a pocket full of quarters to relive childhood memories.            

Though there’s no food to be had, Baba Ghanouj, Bel Air Cantina and Stubby’s Gastrogrub & Beer Bar are all within walking distance. Finks may have a rep for being a place folks go when the wait for Bel Air is nuts, but it’s a bar worth more than just a cursory visit. 


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