Date: October 2017
Location: 901 E Clarke St, Milwaukee, WI 53212, USA


  • Sharkey’s Shootout (Stern, 2000) 50¢/$2 for 5
  • NBA (Stern, 2009) 50¢/$2 for 5
  • The Simpson’s Pinball Party (Stern, 2003) 50¢/$2 for 5
  • Game of Thrones (Stern, 2015) $1/$2 for 3
  • Ghostbusters (Stern, 2016) $1
  • Batman 66 (Stern, 2016) $1
  • Star Wars (Stern, 2017) $1/$2 for 3

Recently I was in the Greater Milwaukee area and had some time on my hands – I thought I would try to find some out of the way sites that had pinball games.

My first stop was Bremen Cafe which is located in the ‘River West’ area of Milwaukee across from a neighborhood ‘convenience’ store and oddly enough across from THAT is a Catholic Church that has what can only be called beautiful and classic urban architecture.

The Bremen Cafe sign
The Bremen Cafe sign

In the 1990’s Milwaukee’s River West neighborhood was a thriving artists community with touches of Polish and German immigrant influence going back to the earliest settlers in Milwaukee.

Bremen Cafe is a cafe-turned dive bar featuring local craft beer and pinball machines in a laid-back atmosphere. They also have ‘Old Milwaukee’ beer on tap which was my late father’s favorite. I understand it and Pabst Blue Ribbon are making a comeback among the trendy people.

Bremen offers daily drink specials and local live music nearly every night of the week. Both the Bar/Cafe and game room have a very friendly feel, and even though I was a stranger, I felt at home almost immediately.

Specials (when lit)
Specials (when lit)

From the outside, The Bremen Cafe is very unassuming in appearance but really is three venues in one; When you first enter, you are in the bar and social area, a little further inside is the game room with the pinball, further still is the performance area where the stage is located for the bands. I visited during the day so I wasn’t able to check out the bands – I was told that they are mostly indie and ‘Jam’ type bands that make for a fun night out.

The bartender on duty at Bremen Cafe the day of my visit was more than happy to change my bills for quarters so that I could play the games. I didn’t have a lot of time during my visit and forgot to note what games accepted dollar bills but I would assumethat the newer games have bill acceptors.

Five of the seven pinballs at Bremen Cafe
Five of the seven pinballs at Bremen Cafe

All of the games were well maintained and clean – free game thresholds seemed set a little high in my opinion. Several of the games had shelves nearby where you could rest your beverage when you are playing.

You can nudge without any risk of spilling your beer
You can nudge without risk of spilling your beer

Other things to note about the Bremen Cafe: They have a very nice outdoor patio area for the smokers and those who just like a little nature with their beverages, lots of bike parking from what I could see, about a dozen or so board games available for patrons to play, they also have an old school shuffleboard game.

I noticed that Bremen Cafe was voted ‘Best Bathroom Graffiti in Milwaukee’, but unfortunately didn’t witness the ‘art’ during my visit. Something to look forward to next time?

My feeling is that the Bremen Cafe is the kind of place that I would frequent if I didn’t live so far away- and a place that I will make an effort to visit again when I am in Milwaukee River West. I hear they offer delicious sandwiches in addition to the pinball and the entertainment.

Yes, Bremen Cafe is definitely my kind of place, being sort of Milwaukee’s answer to the Empty Bottle in Chicago.  Maybe it’s yours too?

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