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Orson's Saloon Offers Best of the Old and New

Mar. 14, 2017
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Long-time Cudahy residents used to joke that their town has “a bar on every corner and two in between.” Taverns sprung up on almost every block to accommodate three shifts of thirsty factory workers from the industrial powerhouses that spawned development of the town more than 100 years ago. 

Those blue-collar watering holes are scarcer today, having given way to a new kind of nightlife that blends the best of the old-school corner taps with the ambiance of happening contemporary bars. Orson’s Saloon (3558 E. Barnard Ave.) is one of those places where Miller and 3 Floyds Brewing Co. products happily exist side by side; you can shoot pool or play cribbage, plug the jukebox or enjoy a live acoustic music performance—all in a warm, U.K. pub-like setting. 

Orson’s Saloon is in an historic building that was originally constructed in 1908 and housed an electrical contractor. The Pinter family remodeled the building into a tavern in 1934, adding English pub touches such as wood ceiling beams, leaded paned windows, a wood corner phone booth and a half-timbered and brick façade. An intricately carved dark wood back bar, also built during the 1934 Pinter’s remodel, was crafted by Hungarian immigrants. 

The tavern was long known as Pinter’s and also operated under other names before Milo and Angela Basina bought the building, cleaned and spruced up the space, and opened Orson’s Saloon in September 2014. “The building has a long history as a landmark in Cudahy,” said Milo, whose middle name is Orson. Also, a portrait of innovative actor and director Orson Welles is displayed in a prominent space near the jukebox.

During a visit to Orson’s Saloon, you’ll likely meet a mix of loyal regulars mingling with old, young, working class, hipsters and others engrossed in Milwaukee tavern pastimes like watching sports on mounted TVs or shaking bar dice for a shot. Yet the drinks keep up with the trends. Orson’s has a variety of rotating tap beers, and although one can get a bottle of Miller or PBR, there’s a vast selection of small craft, eclectic beers and Wisconsin favorites like New Glarus, Lakefront and Capital Brewery. There’s also a generous selection of imports.

Wines are available by the glass or bottle, and drink specials vary by holiday and season. Cocktail drinkers can choose from rail booze or craft distilled liquor. Prices are reasonable; the tab for a glass of Wollersheim Winery’s Prairie Fumé and a bottle of Miller High life came to only $7.

Orson’s Saloon hosts live music of diverse genres. Acts that regularly grace the stage include rockabilly surf band Floor It!, classic rock band The Kinnickinnic and Doug Thompson’s monthly acoustic open mic night. The tavern also held a kick-off party for folk guitarists Ramblin’ Bob’s Cycling 66 for Peace ride from the Great Lakes to California; he will conclude his return journey at Orson’s as well on Friday, March 17. Other events include holiday parties and a yearly Fourth of July block party.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to close; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to close.

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