How to Find Wisconsin’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

How to Find Wisconsin’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Photo courtesy of SafeHouse via Instagram

By Ellery Weil

August 10, 2023

The musical Chicago may have introduced many people to the glamor of speakeasies and other hidden bars, but Wisconsinites know that to find a great speakeasy, you don’t need to turn to the Windy City. Look north, to Wisconsin. While the Badger State is justifiably famous for its breweries and beer, it’s also home to a variety of fun, surprising, and downright unlikely secret bars and speakeasies.

So, where to find these highly hidden gems? What’s the password for the best drinks in Wisconsin? Let’s have a look (but remember, keep this info under your hat).

Nattspil

211 King St., Madison

How to Find Wisconsin’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Photo courtesy of Nattspil via Facebook

It should come as no surprise that Wisconsin’s state capitol has a great speakeasy. Madison’s Nattspil is a restaurant and bar tucked away for those in the know—and very much worth knowing. This out-of-the-way gem, popular with everyone from college students to state government workers, offers Chinese cuisine, pizzas, cocktails, and music—all ingredients for a great night out. That is, assuming you can find it.

The Speakeasy at Maxwell Mansion

304 S. Wells St., Lake Geneva

How to Find Wisconsin’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Photo courtesy of Maxwell Mansion via Instagram

Looking for a true speakeasy experience, in historic surroundings to boot? Swing on by to The Speakeasy Bar at Maxwell Mansion. Located in a historic mansion in beautiful Lake Geneva, The Speakeasy lives up to its name. A low-lit bar home to vintage decor, live music, and Maxwell Mansion’s seasonal cocktails, The Speakeasy’s opening hours and mandatory password are shared only with hotel guests at the mansion—or on their Facebook page, where they sometimes share clues with their followers eager to slip down to the subterranean bar for a secretive sip. Good luck, and cheers.

Hank’s SpeakEZ

25 W. Summer St., Hartford

How to Find Wisconsin’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Photo courtesy of Hank’s SpeakEZ via Instagram

Hartford’s very own “best-kept secret,” Hank’s SpeakEZ is an unmarked bar hidden around the corner from Hank’s Restaurant and Drinkery. If you manage to find it, you’ll be rewarded with drinks and hors d’oeuvres in an intimate, cozy setting, plus pool and darts if you’re up for a game. This hidden bar is also available to rent—perfect for birthdays, special occasions, and secret meetings alike.

 

Shaker’s Cigar Bar

422 S. 2nd St., Milwaukee

How to Find Wisconsin’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Photo courtesy of Shaker’s Cigar Bar

In the heart of Milwaukee’s historic Walker’s Point neighborhood, Shaker’s Cigar Bar is a celebrated “modern speakeasy” now, but during Prohibition, it was already rocking as an authentic historic speakeasy, owned by none other than the infamous Capone brothers. Today, Shaker’s boasts not only a bar, restaurant, and cigar lounge, but an Airbnb in a former brothel, regular ghost tours, live music, and more. Be sure to check out the murals outside for a selfie with character.

SafeHouse

779 N. Front St., Milwaukee

Can you keep a secret? Since 1966, Milwaukee’s SafeHouse has been offering Wisconsinites food and drink with a side of espionage. This spy-themed bar and restaurant is unmarked. To enter you’ll need a password, or else face one of their mysterious “tests” at the door. Once inside, you’ll find classic American comfort foods, mysterious signature cocktails, and a late-night “Code Red” party on Fridays and Saturdays. Just remember: Trust no one.

Shanghai Speakeasy

2238 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee

How to Find Wisconsin’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Photo courtesy of Shanghai Speakeasy via Instagram

Finding this Milwaukee speakeasy isn’t easy. You’ll need to enter through a completely different venue, Black Cat Alley, then use an intercom to get in. Once admitted, however, Shanghai Speakeasy brings Prohibition glamor with modern flavor. Think vintage decor, glowing paper lanterns, and cocktails that readers of Milwaukee Magazine think are some of the best in the city. That’s definitely worth the adventure of getting in.

The Dark Room at Saint Kate (T.D.R.)

139 E. Kilbourne Ave., Milwaukee

Not quite a speakeasy, The Dark Room, or T.D.R. to insiders, is a secret steakhouse located in Milwaukee’s Saint Kate Hotel. This reservation-only establishment is upscale to the extreme, serving high-quality steaks with a curated wine list in an intimate, candlelit setting. But, to enjoy T.D.R., you’ll need to reserve your space there—then find it. T.D.R. is also available for private dining for groups of up to 25, but be sure the secret is safe with everyone on your guest list.

 

READ MORE: We Asked for Wisconsin’s ‘Hidden Gem’ Restaurants. Here’s What You Said.

Author

  • Ellery Weil

    Ellery Weil is a historian and writer who holds degrees from the University of Michigan and University College London. In her spare time, she likes cooking, theater, and petting dogs she meets on the street.

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