Dogs are welcome at new Riley’s Social House in Milwaukee’s Third Ward

It’s not every tavern where the bar snack is dog biscuits.

At Riley’s Social House in the Third Ward, “the bartenders and the hosts are all wearing treat pouches,” said Jessica Ludwig, who owns and operates the new dog-friendly bar at 411 E. Menomonee St. with her husband, John Ludwig.

The couple also opened Riley’s Sandwich Co. next door, at 148 N. Milwaukee St., at the same time. It’s the second location for the sandwich shop, known for cooking beef tenderloin and chicken sous vide. The original is on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood.

All the establishments are named for their dog, who joined their lives as a rescue in 2008. Adopting their dog prompted the Ludwigs to search out dog-friendly restaurants and bars and ultimately open their own places. As at the Shorewood shop, the bar will have a wall for Riley’s Pack — photos and bios of dogs that frequent the establishment.

Jessica and John Ludwig opened Riley's Social House and their second Riley's Sandwich Co.  next door on June 23 in the Third Ward.

The bar isn’t exclusive to pooches and their people, though. The lunch crowd, Jessica Ludwig said, is primarily workers on breaks. In the evenings and on the weekends, it’s a different story; 80% of the customers bring their dogs, she estimated.

Although some other Milwaukee bars not serving food will let patrons bring their dogs, the focus on dogs doesn’t usually go to this level. The Hounds and Tap, a boarding and grooming business in Menomonee Falls that opened in 2021 with a bar open to all, is another exception.

A system for dogs, inside and on the patio

Dogs are welcome inside — where there are 64 seats, with some at the bar and others at a window counter — and outside. A parklet on Milwaukee Street, conveniently located beside a patch of grass, has eight tables.

A parklet for customers and their dogs stretches Milwaukee St., between Riley's Social House and Riley's Sandwich Co., a takeout-only shop.

The Ludwigs decorated the space to be modern and polished but approachable, they said. Customers will see birch wood, contemporary lights, gold accents, a sealed concrete floor and white upholstered seating that makes it easy for staff to see when it needs cleaning. The couple did much of the work themselves, including building the bar.

All dogs at Riley’s Social House must be leashed, and they should sport a color-coded carabiner supplied by the bar:

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