Raise a Glass to Kenosha Fun

3/17/2017 - Dana Hutson

Foodie, Nightlife

One might think it would be easy to write a blog on specialty drinks at local Kenosha eateries.  But it’s one of those “so many places, so little time” kinds of problems!  As I set out to do some “research” (I see you rolling those eyes), I soon learned that, A) specialty drink research is much better when accompanied with food, and B) you can only go out to eat/drink so many nights in a row before you don’t fit into your pants any more.  However, this is very good news for anyone reading this, because it means YOU can take your time, visit one of these places every week or two, and still stay within your monthly dining budget! Or, if you are on vacation in the Kenosha Area, everyone knows that calories don’t count – so enjoy!

So, here’s the “skinny” on some of Kenosha’s favorite hot spots and the drinks they love to serve you, as long as you’re 21!

First stop, Mangia Wine Bar in Downtown Kenosha.  And no, in spite of the name, I’m not going to talk about their wine selection, even though it really is a wonderful selection, too!  The real fun happens on Sundays at Mangia, when you can go to their amazing brunch (this isn’t a food blog but you seriously have to try the Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes).  One of the special things about Sundays at Mangia is the Bloody Mary Bar where you create your own masterpiece. As one of the few alcoholic beverages that you can drink before noon without being judged, it is also a drink that everyone likes their own way.  The mix itself is already made for you – but it’s the “fixins” you can add that allow your inner Picasso to come out.  I counted 14 different plates or jars of garnishes for your Bloody Mary, ranging from the expected (cheese and salami sticks) to the more adventurous (green beans and pickled beets) and everything in between.  And then you can kick it up a notch by choosing from 20 different hot sauces, again ranging from the usual (Tabasco) to bottles with skulls and crossbones on them with names like “Gunshot” and “Dragon Sauce”.  Yikes.  Be as adventurous as you like!  Bloody Mary bars are definitely a trend right now, and the Mangia bar is top notch.

Recently, my husband and I visited Ron’s Place, another Kenosha icon.  While I had always heard they had a killer burger (indeed it was), I hadn’t realized the impressive selection of Long Island Iced Teas that they offer, as well.  These concoctions are served in large mason jars; the only hard part is deciding which of the over 40 different flavors you might want to try.  With clever names and long lists of ingredients, it’s not an easy task – just reading through them took awhile!  Hubby and I eventually decided on the Jamaican and the Ron’s Relaxer, both of which sounded inviting (and tropical) on a pretty chilly evening in Wisconsin.  They were delicious and I could almost imagine myself on a lounge chair in the Caribbean sand.  In 2008, Ron’s introduced the Tour of Teas, a promotion that rewards customers who try all 40 of the Teas.  Not in one sitting, mind you.  You get something similar to a punch card and can work your way through the list at your leisure.  They offer a comparable program for sampling their extensive beer selection, called “50 Beers to Drink Before You Die.”  It’s worth checking out!

Another fun place to experience some specialty cocktails is La Fogata Mexican Grill.  Most people are already aware of their main attraction, the Killer Rita, which is a 22 oz. margarita served with a small bottle of beer (a Coronita) turned upside down in the glass.  If you’re a fan of margaritas, you owe it to yourself to try it at least once.  I personally thought it sounded like a bad combination, but actually enjoyed the flavors together.  It’s also fascinating how they get that beer in there without it all spilling out – how can the bottle be open and upside down, but still full until you start sipping the margarita down?  There is some law of physics in effect that is way over my head, especially after I’ve had a Killer Rita!  If that seems a little much for you or you’re not in the mood for a full meal, be sure to check out La Fogata’s happy hour specials, which are offered every day from 2:30 – 5:30 pm.  Along with some very reasonably priced appetizers, you can purchase $5 margaritas, $3 draft beers, or a $6 half-liter of sangria. ¡Salud!

For Valentine’s Day, we joined some friends at Twisted Cuisine.  Again, I have to put in a plug for the food, even though that is slightly off-topic.  If you haven’t been to Twisted Cuisine since their recent menu change, you simply must go back. Especially since it will be changing for spring soon.  It was one of the better meals I’ve had in awhile, and just to whet your appetite, the Pig Cheek appetizer is to die for!  For a more thorough review of all that Twisted Cuisine has to offer, be sure to read my fellow blogger Laura Wendling’s recent piece on the restaurant.  Back to the drinks… Twisted Cuisine doesn’t really have one single drink that they would call their specialty.  However, they have a good beer and wine selection and they make a mean Old Fashioned.  The specialty cocktail menu changes just like the dinner menu, so this time I tried the “Dog Attack” -- it was outstanding.  Almost everything on the food and drink menu has a “Twist” to it; it’s one of those places that you just have to throw caution to the wind and take a chance on something new.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

No beverage blog would be complete without mentioning our Downtown Mike’s establishments.  Captain Mike’s (or more formally known as Captain Mike’s Beer & Burger Whiskey Bar, which is quite a mouthful!) is a great place to grab a drink.  Of course, their burgers are quite a mouthful as well, and are all the more delicious because you get to build them yourselves by filling out the specifics of your own signature burger on the clipboard order sheet.  Our daughter was in town recently and we decided to drop into Captain Mike’s for cocktail hour.  The beer menu is about four pages long, with selections ranging from Wisconsin’s own New Glarus beers to more exotic ones like Three Floyds Lazer Snake and Tighthead Chilly Water.  No matter your taste in beers – blond ales, IPAs, porters – Captain Mike’s has a beer to suit your taste.  Speaking of tasting, if you are slightly overwhelmed by the choices and descriptions, the wait staff is happy to bring you samples of any that you are thinking of trying, which makes the decision so much easier.  We girls tasted beer samples and settled on a Spotted Cow and a Three Floyds Alpha King.  My better half was more than happy to oblige the whiskey side of things for me and ordered a Manhattan, a satisfying and generous portion.  The key word if you go to Captain Mike’s is – options!  You have lots of options for beer – there are always 30 beers on tap, and then another 50 – 100 options in cans and bottles. Lots of options for whisk(e)y with anywhere from 50 – 200 varieties depending on what is in stock. And lots of options for how to make your burger – truly these options are endless.  You can’t go wrong with that many options!

The newer Mike’s is an eclectic three-part combination restaurant. Mike’s Donuts & Chicken and Mike’s Chicken & Donut Bar occupy the main level – a donut shop on one side and a bar on the other.  Upstairs is Mike’s Sportsbook & Meat Bar, with a more upscale menu and a huge outdoor patio for seating in the summertime.  The mimosa's at Sportsbook are supposed to be out of this world, and are on my list to try! By far, however, the coolest thing about this Mike’s is the downstairs bar, where the wall behind the bartenders consists entirely of stacked bottles of Jameson Whiskey.  And by far the coolest thing about those bottles of Jameson is that you can actually own one of them (except you don’t get to take it home).  You can pay for the bottle, sign your name in their book and receive a little card with your bottle number on it.  Once you own a bottle, any time you go into the bar or restaurant, you can ask them to make you any drink with your bottle, without paying for the mixer.  My husband did this shortly after they opened and quite enjoys this novelty.  Not only does he love Jameson, but he also derives a certain amount of pleasure from walking into a bar and being able to have a drink without ever getting out his wallet.  One word of caution though:  keep your bottle number a secret! Especially if you have “thirsty” friends. Ha!

Obviously, there are additional wonderful bars and restaurants in Kenosha beyond the six I have mentioned here.  This is just a sampler to hopefully encourage you to check out a place that you’ve never tried before the next time you are meeting friends for cocktails or are looking for a night on the town.  Maybe I’ll do a Specialty Drink Blog Part 2 - after I can fit into my jeans again!  Kenosha has a lot to offer when it comes to places to dine out with your friends and family- you can browse many of them here! As always, drink responsibly. CHEERS!

Dana Hutson

Community Blogger

Married to Randy. Retired to Kenosha from Seattle. Grandma to two boys and a Cocker Spaniel. Love HarborPark-living and everything Downtown Kenosha!