Hi Hat Celebrates 20 Years

On Saturday, September 2nd, Hi Hat & Garage on Brady will celebrate the big 2-0 with a block party at the corner of Brady Street and Arlington Place. The event, which runs from 1:00 until 10:00p., will feature food tents, beer tappings, an Old Fashioned contest, local vendors and local music and DJs… just to name a few items on the agenda.

For me, Hi Hat means delicious pork or tofu ramen for $8.00 on Wednesday nights, a fun and easygoing way to mark the halfway point of the work week. But, as I learned after talking to Andy Menchal, the director of operations for Mojofuco, Inc., Hi Hat means something different to just about anyone.

“One thing that’s interesting about this business is that people have different associations with us,” Menchal explains. “We’re a popular late night spot. If you come here on a Friday or Saturday night, we might have a DJ. We have a large patio, so we get large events, birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties. And then we’re known for brunch and lunch and dinner in the neighborhood.”

For Menchal, who formerly worked at Comet Cafe, another restaurant within Mojofuco’s group, Hi Hat was a go to brunch spot.

“This would always be my big hangover brunch spot on Sundays,” Menchal tells me. Then he proceeds to list off a number of meals, any one of which would have caught my eye on a menu. “Our chilaquiles have been a staple item. We do a really nice corned beef benedict that I think is just phenomenal… our pork enchiladas are really good, and so are our country pulled pork and biscuits.”

On the drinks side of it all, Menchal says Hi Hat has established a strong partnership with Lakefront Brewery. If you’ve been to Lakefront before, you may have noticed that slip of paper they give you with your complimentary glass, listing places where you can get a free beer. Hi Hat is on it.

Quick confession here: As a newcomer to Milwaukee last year who didn’t quite know where any of these bars were, I’m a little ashamed to admit I took my out-of-town friends to the GROCERY STORE on the list, although I’m sure the employees there had a good laugh. Sorry, everyone! I know better for next time!

Back to Hi Hat…

The restaurant sells a great deal of Lakefront’s beers, and the brewery will feature prominently as a local partner on Saturday, with the following keg tappings scheduled:

2:00pm Brewers Series Dopplebock
4:00pm Dirty Uncle Jims Chocolate Pumpkin
6:00pm Brewers Series Peach Wheat (I need to try this one!)
8:00pm Black Friday 2016

On the cocktail side, Hi Hat will be holding a Jack Daniels Old Fashioned Fist Fight, with eight local bars and restaurants participating. Anyone old enough to drink will be able to try samples of each Old Fashioned and vote for their favorites.

While Hi Hat may be known now for its Old Fashioned and its Garage Mimosa (pomegranate liqueur, orange juice and champagne over ice), that wasn’t always the case. When Hi Hat first opened its doors 20 years ago, patrons were probably stopping by for something a little fancier.

“Martinis were the biggest thing in the world,” Menchal says. The restaurant was, “selling chocolate martinis by the boatload. That’s not the landscape of the cocktail industry anymore.”

The drink of choice, not the only aspect of Hi Hat’s “landscape” that’s changed in 20 years. Some changes were big, such as expanding with The Garage. Other changes may be smaller, such as adding buffalo chicken wontons to the lunch and dinner menus.

Then, there’s the very essence of what Brady Street is now, compared to what it was back then.

“I think it’s not just a story of a business changing, because we certainly have evolved, but a neighborhood changing, too,” Menchal says. “Brady Street 20 years ago is not the neighborhood bar scene it is now.  A lot more delicious restaurants and bars have moved in and built a sense of community.”

That community seems to be showing up in full force tomorrow. From Lakefront’s keg tappings, to the Old Fashioned Contest, local bands to local DJs, Hi Hat will have plenty of local businesses to celebrate with.

Check out some of the highlights below.

The Old Fashioned Fist Fight (winner will be announced at 7:30)

  • The Diplomat
  • Boone & Crockett
  • Vanguard
  • Finks
  • DiModa
  • La Masa
  • Balzac
  • Malone’s
  • Phoenix Cocktail Club
  • Hi Hat & Garage

Food Vendors

  • Comet Cafe
  • La Masa
  • Hi Hat

Craft Vendors

  • Too Much Metal for One Hand
  • Wiskullsin
  • Jasbo

Bands

  • Rusty Pelicans
  • Tigernite
  • Negative / Positive

DJs

  • Why B
  • E- Rich
  • Kiki Champ
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