The Social
Essentials | Full Review | Reader Comments | Post A Comment

Essentials

Address: 434 S Second Street
Phone: 270.0438
Official Website: Visit
Photo Gallery: View
Map & Directions: View

 

Review

The Scene:
The art is edgy, the ambience casually urbane, and there's a seven burner stove behind the brushed stainless steel bar. The Social caters to a sophisticated dinner crowd and undergoes an almost mystical transformation into hip underground night spot when the sun goes down. Down go the lights, and up come the deep sounds of jazz infused and progressive House.

The Drinks:
Zy-go! Zy-go! Zy-go! Present and accounted for, so that takes care of us. For the rest of you, you'll be pleased to note the great drink specials featured at The Social. $2 Guiness & Bass nights will keep your slowly maturing frat/sorority side happy, while an entire night of $4 Cosmos and Metros will draw back your more grown up inner reveler. Owing to it's daytime pedigree of foie gras and seared scallops, the wine list is far above average not only for it's up and coming Walker's Point neighborhood, but for the city as a whole. In fact, if interesting wines are your thing, it's insightful to note the ratio of unique wines to total wine selection is higher only at Solfire - which just happens to be owned by the same team. Pizza Man not withstanding, The Social gets a definate nod for innovative purchasing. Worth noting to your inner party child is that you won't catch the barstaff at The Social reaching for a shot glass to carefully measure each spirit finding it's way into your glass. To skip the fancy beating around the bush - the drinks are plenty strong. And big. Very big. What is commonly taken as a "tall" in many places is just a normal drink here, so even if you're reaching for the good stuff, your hard earned buck will perhaps last a bit longer into the early morning. The bar stretches nearly the entire length of the main lounge area, which is fortunate, since the crowds here can quickly pack it from end to end. Just sneak your way up to the front and wait for one of the friendly staff members to mosey your way.

The Music:
The musical lineup at The Social is fun, fast, and diverse. You can catch local acts, jazzy riffs, and some good soulful musing depending on the night. But, what's really been catching our eye is The Social's developing commitment to bringing in some of the best in deep and progressive house. DJs like James Amato and DJ Heather have graced the decks here, and the lineup seems to be continually evolving to include even edgier and more progressive bookings. The quality of the House being spun at The Social is backed up by the fact that you'll frequently find some of Milwaukee's deepest and dirtiest house DJs sipping a drink at the bar. While there's no set schedule of events, drop by their website and join the mailing list to be kept up to date on the latest booking and performance information.

The people:
An integrated hipster / artsy / rothko-esque crowd fills the space and stools here. The owner of Moxy hangs out here, as does the already mentioned DJ crew. You'll probably also find local gallery owners, artists, and plenty of music afficianados. What you won't find a lot of are club kids, playas, or ballas of any kind. There's a feel of Riverwest meets Third Ward to the crowd, which is only appropriate given that The Social is solidly within Milwaukee's Fifth Ward, which is itself fairly rapidly evolving to a Riverwest meets Thrid Ward kind of place. Neighborhood beatnicks might be hanging out at one end of the bar, while trendy college kids (the coffee and poetry variety, not the Cans and Water Street crew) sip their vodka delights and quietly groove to the beat. Friendly without a doubt, you'll have no trouble striking up a conversation with your near by bar buddies. Bring a good attitude and say "Hi" to the person next to you and the night is off to a great start.

The atmosphere:
Trendy but casual. The kind of place you go because it's cool, not because you want everyone to see you and *think* you're cool. The Social is housed in a building that's well over a hundred years old, and many of the raw elements have been preserved, including the original cream city brick, ornamental accents, and deep wood flooring. On top of this, the design crew has layered some neo-fusion artwork - including an entire wall painted in a colorful entertainment themed montage - a dose of urban revival, and a few nice touches like fresh flowers and candle lamps topped with shades that are strongly evocative of Wright and the Prarie Style as a whole. The overall feeling is one that manages to be comfortable and warm without sacrificing the edge that helps to define its "hipness." The lighting is low but adequate, and the sound system respectable when called for. While there's no formal area set aside for dancing, the customers do a good job improvising a dance area right in front of the raised tier seating area that becomes the DJ booth on nights featuring acts. So: There's dancing, plenty of laughing and good natured smiles, and just a touch of punk to keep things fresh and involving.

What to wear:
Own anything with "Triple 5 Soul" on it? How about some stylishly cut and well washed jeans? You won't find standard club attire much in evidence at The Social, and our recommendation for best bet is whatever you may find on the racks of Detour, Moxy, or even Moda.

When to go:
If you're eating, anytime. It seems that everyone raves about the tuna and the duck, so that might help a little. But, while most people seem to focus on the restaurant aspect of The Social - rest assured that when the weekend comes, it's comfortable holding it's own among the club and lounge collective.

 

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