Today, Warren’s Lounge survives as a Business Oasis in a commercial dessert, a watering hole for those who remember the thriving commerce of yesteryears along Hopkins Av, bordering along the A.O. Smith manufacturing mega-plex, and want to take a long walk through a fond memory lane.
As you sip your cocktail, ask Mr. Warren Harper to break out his Obit Year Book and page through the many obituary clippings of notable, mostly black, city old timers who graced Warren’s business establishment in the years, no, decades, gone by. And spend some time chatting with the popular proprietor, one of the oldest successful black entrepreneurs in the city.
In 1970, over 40 years ago, on Hopkins at 25th St, business was literally booming with a continuous bang. From Capital to Burleigh the entire area was awash in business activity sustained by one of the city’s mainstay manufacturing entities, nothing but flourishing business. AO Smith was a vibrant business that employed thousands of working class people who had money to spend socializing with neighbors at Warren’s Lounge. 1970 was also when Warren & Shirley Mae Harper opened Warren’s Bar at 2534 W Hopkins on the corner of 25 & Hopkins. Willie Pearl Wilson remembers being on Warren’s softball league team in 71 & 72.
She fondly recollect, they called us The Untouchable because we were the best in the State and she recalls they celebrated every victory buying rounds in jubilee and adulation of their sponsor at ‘their’ local pub.
Willie Pearl still is a frequent visitor at Warren’s Lounge even though she has hung up her jersey many many moons ago.
The AO Smith crowd came here. I mean all the shifts she recalls. I guess my drinks were a little bit cheaper back then. We operated at full capacity from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. she tells all.
Warrens Lounge had and still has their familiar established rapport where many AO Smith retiree continue to frequent.
One may wonder why the AO Smith crowd still loves the place that is until you get to know the couple who are the friendliest folks around.
There is one guy, Richard Sardoff, who lives on the south side who comes here every Wednesday. People come here because it is like going home, or perhaps, coming home.
There are people who stopped drinking who stop in frequently just to experience the friendly ambience that haunts the joint and their camaraderie .
Wendell Harris remembers “Sharecropper Day” at Warren’s every May in the 70’s at Warrens. Many black people had migrated from the South to find work and had worked in the field picking cotton. Sharecropper Day was where you would Don Sharecropper Dress, put on overalls, eat Bar B Que and dance to down home blues
Warren and his wife still works in the bar. Shirley Mae Harper opens it up every morning at 8:00 a.m. and Jeanine Harris also an retiree said, “I enjoys the morning with Mrs. Harper reading the paper and drinking coffee.”
Warren is the last business left in the neighborhood who has constantly survived successfully over 40 years old. He is a man who has known the struggle. Warren’s keeps alumni book he calls “Soul Heaven”, which contains the obituaries of all his customers and friends. Ask him to reflect on the many heartfelt memories of his customers gone by with you, you’ll be there for hours.
Warrens says many children of his customers come in to eat short order food and dance every Friday and Saturday night record spin.
Warren Harper at age 55, even after over 30 years in business at the same location stated,” I am not going to retire because I will die of boredom.” Stop for your friendly stroll through memory lane and check out “Soul Heaven”.
Mr. Perkins’ Home Cooking Southern soul food in Milwaukee By Jeff Beutner
Milwaukee has remarkably few soul food restaurants, which is surprising since Southern home cooking is so flavorful and enjoyable. One such restaurant that has passed the test of time in our city, however, is Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant, a small, modest diner that is open for breakfast and lunch.
Along with a counter, there are about 10 tables. The place always seems busy, with lots of regulars, and many customers come for carryout meals.
The menu consists of hearty fare featuring plenty of pork, catfish and chicken. Daily specials might be smothered pork chops, chitterlings or turkey legs. Servings are ample and every entrée includes two side items from a list that is as long as the menu.
Fried chicken, instantly associated with soul food, is the most popular item here. The four jumbo-sized wings ($8.50) are so large that the side items arrive on a separate plate. The chicken, with a thin Southern batter, is some of the best to be found locally. The catfish fillet ($10.95) is actually a pair of large-sized pieces. When properly prepared, catfish is as delicate as lake perch.
This version has a light cornmeal batter and is cooked to perfection. Smothered pork chops ($9.25) are only an occasional daily special. This pair of large chops is covered with rich, gently seasoned gravy. It’s too bad this option isn’t more widely available, as it presents a refreshing alternative to the many fried dishes.
Once you settle on an entrée, the next move is to choose your side dishes. Some items, like the greens, will change from day to day. Others, such as fried green tomatoes, are available seasonally. Still other options, like okra, always seem to be available.
Boiled okra has a reputation for being slimy in texture, but when it’s coated in batter and fried it is entirely different and has a fresh, springtime vegetable flavor. Turnip greens are prepared without any smoked pork. Spice these up with a dash of hot sauce. Ditto for the black-eyed peas. The mac & cheese has good flavor and comes in a large serving. Pass on the mashed potatoes, one of the few items here that appear to come from a box. A vegetarian plate is offered, though it is simply a choice of three of the side dishes.
No alcohol is served since this is a family restaurant, but there is a selection of soft drinks and sweet iced tea. The owner, Willie Perkins Jr., passed away at the beginning of this year, but the restaurant’s tradition of good food and friendly service continues. Be sure to save room for a piece of sweet potato pie.
Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant. 2001 W. Atkinson Ave. 414-447-6660