The Native, the new bar in the long-dormant space formerly occupied by the late-night dive Bonny’s, has an unexpected draw: a friendly, bouncy puppy named Dolly whose pure delight in everything she encounters is infectious. On a recent evening at the bar, she was particularly taken with watching people play a shuffleboard-style bowling game in the back, occasionally batting at the puck as it sailed by. Her owners, Jared and Carly Savocchi, also own the Native, which they opened late last month as a low-key neighborhood bar. Gone are the sweaty 3 AM dance parties that made Bonny’s notorious. The Native doesn’t have a 4 AM liquor license—nor, for that matter, does it have a dance floor. The atmosphere is of a relaxed spot to stop for a pint or two, not the kind of raucous joint where you go to make decisions you may regret the next day.
The focus here is more on beer than cocktails: the ten taps pour both cheap macrobrews and local craft beers, with another 25-odd available by the bottle. Still, appropriately for a place inspired by Wisconsin supper clubs, there’s a respectable and easy-drinking brandy old-fashioned. The brief cocktail list seems to be built to comfort rather than challenge the senses. Even the Native Negroni, which substitutes Jeppson’s Malort for the traditional Campari, softens the famously bitter besk with grapefruit liqueur for a remarkably well-balanced drink. The Loon, made with tequila, lemon, orange liqueur, and egg white, tastes like a cross between a margarita and a pisco sour and goes down just as easy. Though there are only four drinks on the menu, the bartenders can also make a few other basics, including a spicy rye old-fashioned for those who prefer a less sweet drink than the brandy-and-soda version traditional in Wisconsin.
A 50-seat patio will open in the spring, making the Native even more enticing. But for now the warm lighting, friendly service, and free popcorn are plenty appealing. (There’s no kitchen, but there are frozen pizzas that can be baked on request.) And Dolly, romping through the bar with her light-up chew toy, makes the place feel like home. v
The Native, 2417 N. Milwaukee, 872-206-5526,