Where do I even start with the Swingin’ Door Exchange? It is a little bit of everything so quirky Wisconsin residents love: dive bar, german decor, friendly and down to earth staff all rounded out with superclub elite food quality.
I originally went for brunch and it was one of THE best brunch places I’ve ever been to in the Milwaukee area and surrounding cities. If you don’t live in the city it will be well worth the trip to get in here. Brunch is on weekends from 10 – 2.
Before being a bar and restaurant, it was the Western Union telegraph office in 1879 and they had the very first bike couriers in the US.
A fun little fact for you history buffs out there is that this place has been a tavern since the 1930s and a restaurant since the early 1970s.
In 1933, the space was reborn as “The Exchange Tavern” for members of the Grain Exchange (The Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce) during the end of prohibition.
In 1967, Michael Murphy and Dick Vohla opened as “The Swingin’ Door Lounge and Restaurant” and they ran it as partners for 17 years. Dick passed and Michael ran the place until 2010 when it was then sold.
Currently, it is run by a husband-and-wife team K. C. Swan and Shelley Sincere bought the place from longtime operator Michael T. Murphy in September 2010. The love birds wanted to keep the history in the name so they combined everything the building had been by coming up with the name The Swingin’ Door Exchange Saloon & Eatery.
They offer seating outside which I will be taking advantage of in the warmer months, and a view of the beautiful historic building provides a nice backdrop.
With so much history you can feel nostalgia oozing out of this place. You walk in and instantly feel a sense of antiquity.
Just knowing hundreds of people have walked in and out of the very same space you dine in gives it a vibe.
The first thing you will notice is the stunning stain glass window that casts a red filter through the front dining area.
A quick scan of the inside shows a german style architecture that provides dive bar juju and you can’t help but notice the abundance of wood that makes up the tables, walls, and the rest of the decor.
A long wooden bar offers up seating next to high tabletops. In the other rooms, you will notice your standard low top tables with chairs, and the restaurant is quite long in nature overall.
Unique art hangs throughout the entire space and they are not only interesting but really stand out against artwork you might see at other establishments.
Each piece can make for a great conversation starter for those who may be checking this place out for a first date or those who have to suffer through a work dinner with coworkers.
Instantly, you can tell there are regulars that come here and they treat each other as if they were meeting for a family meal at one of their homes. Its like real life cheers – everybody just wants to go where people know your name.
TVs are placed throughout the place which makes it a good place to watch a sporting game or event.
Since I went for brunch, do I need to even say what I got? Yes, I got a bloody mary, and yes, it came with a chaser.
I should have snapped a picture before I started drinking it becuase once I took a sip, it was full-speed ahead in the fast lane to my stomach.
This housemade bloody mary came with a pickled green bean which just happens to be one of my favorite bloody mary toppings and is widely overlooked and left out. With the pickled green bean came a pickled mushroom, olives and a pickle. It was all topped off with my favorite celery salt.
For those who give a damn about the planet they do serve their drinks with paper straws but like the thick cardboard paper kind, not the thin paper ones that get soggy after five minutes.
The bloody mary did, in fact, come with a beer chaser!
They have a beer special which is 3 cans of Pabst, Pabst Easy, Hamms, Rolling Rock, or Coors Light for $5. If you don’t drink all three any worries, they will give you drink tokens for the ones you didn’t drink.
They offer a wide variety of cocktails and beer.
They have daily specials and change up their soups.
- Sunday – Brunch
- Monday – Dog day $3 Chicago, Chili, and Western
- Tuesday – Tacos $2.5 Goud Beef or Vegetarian Meat
- Wednesday – Chiefs Choice
- Thursday – Shrimp & BBQ Pork with Homemade Slaw + a side $8
- Friday – Fish Fry
- Saturday – Brunch & Steak Night 5 – 10 pm $14.95
I typically eat vegan/vegetarian and I am amazed at the number of veggie options they offer here. From looking at the menu it’s safe to say that for just about every meat option they offer a veggie one as well. They make it consumer-friendly for people who may have a more strict diet or allergy restrictions.
I saw in a few reviews that they are known for their carrots and beets as a side dish which I will be sure to check out the next time I go in!
When a place nails the bloody mary you know the food is going to follow suit.
If I could use two words to describe the food here, it would be supper club. Food quality is elite and next level. It was sort of a shock to the senses becuase typically when I’m in a dive bar setting, I’m eating greasy bar food, and nothing could be further from the truth here.
My significant other started with the clam chowder and it was a home run. It was spiced and not over salty, you can tell its homemade and each ingredient stood well with the other. The broth was a perfect consistency and it was neither too brothy nor too thick. The soup was served with oyster and saltine crackers!
We decided to break our diet for brunch and opted for dishes with meat and dairy in them.
I got the florentine benedict and my man got the biscuits and gravy. The biscuits and gravy come with two eggs made any way you wish.
Each meal came with a cute little cup of grapes which was a nice little surprise!
Typically each entree comes with fruit unless otherwise stated. With my benedicts, I decided to try the hashbrowns. They were a nice balance of having crunchy outsides and fluffy insides.
On the benedict was spinach and tomato, the spinach coming in the form of a flavorful mix and holy cow! I would legit order the spinach mix and eat a huge bowl of it on its own as an entire meal. Typically when I’ve gotten florentine benedicts they just lay a few leaves of spinach down but here they make a nice flavor bomb mixture.
The hollandaise sauce was a 10/10 and I love they they are generous with the portion of it. Nothing ruins a Sunday brunch more than a benedict with little sauce.
I don’t think I can find a correct adjective to describe how amazing the biscuits and gravy were. Picking one word to describe the plate wouldn’t frankly do it justice. I’ve been vegan for years now except for my occasional cheat meals, and this is one of the few dishes that have me craving meat and dairy again.
One of their regulars has his own hot sauce that the restaurant has and it is sort of like a spicy green Verde sauce. It was so good I asked where I could purchase it online. Inside tip, ask for this hot sauce because it would be great on anything.
It’s not often you find a restaurant with service like this! They were warm and welcoming right from the start.
They work as a team here and each employee helps the other one out in any way they can.
The pride and kindness they take in their service skills are by far greater than any I have seen. The point in case would be the following.
As I said, I ordered the eggs benedict, and they brought my plate out with one. They said one of the yolks broke when they plated it, so they were making me a new one.
I was so surprised by this because I don’t know how many times I’ve had broken egg yolks from benedicts get delivered to me. To be honest, I would have been totally fine with one of the benedicts coming out with a broken yolk. The poached eggs are made to be split over the top as you eat the benedict, so if I break it or if it breaks accidentally while en route, either way, that suckers getting broken and I don’t really care how lol.
The fact they cared enough to make me a new one that wasn’t broken was just all around very kind in my eyes. They didn’t wait to ask what I preferred; they just took the initiative and decided to redo the whole thing.
A few different servers came up to me multiple times to reminded me not to worry; they were bringing me the new one as soon as it was ready, which was also such a kind gesture. I wish more people would treat each other with respect as these employees did about my missing, broken egg.
It the small stuff like this that shows why this establishment is so popular and why it has so many frequent regulars.
To view their entire menu you can check it out with this link here!
|M-F||11am – Close|
|S-S||10am – Close|
|M-F||11am – 10pm|
|Sat||10am – 10pm|
|Sun||10am – 9pm|
219 E Michigan St. Milwaukee, WI 53202
Don’t sit on this place! Do yourself a favor and get in here sooner rather than later, because it is sure to be one of the top spots on your go-to restaurant lists.