Milwaukee is pretty much an awesome day trip if you live in Chicago, because it's only 1.5 hrs away from Chicago, and it's a lot like Chicago while not being Chicago. That is to say, a fun Midwestern town with lots of hipster stuff and yummy food.
I somehow never managed to make it to Milwaukee in my 4 years of living in Chicago because on two separate occasions I've made plans to go with a boyfriend and wound up breaking up with the boyfriend right before the trip. Fortunately my friends Chris and Suzy (a couple) managed to not break up with each other or friend dump me prior to this trip, so perhaps Milwaukee is not cursed after all.
We decided to skip the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha since we'd all already been there before. (To the uninitiated: it's a store that sells a lot of cheese that looks sort of like a 70's rec room concept of a Castle on the outside). We arrived in MWKE around 10:30am to discover that Google had given us seriously WRONG directions to the Art Museum. Fortunately, Suzy has an Iphone. I had been warned by several people of the ridonculousness of the MWKE Art Museum, and they weren't kidding. It looks like it might either fly/sail away, exacerbated by it's placement on Lake Michigan:
We saw the Warhol exhibit, some German pimp goblets, still life with octopi, and a clock that featured a figurine of Jesus being flogged. Awesome.
By noon we were super hungry to we headed towards Cafe Lulu, a place that notorious Milwaukeean Mike Brenner had reccomended. I had an amazing burger called "The Half Pound Heart Attack." It was smothered in bacon and gorgonzola and was probably the best damn burger I've eaten in recent memory that was not from Kuma's. The sides of homemade potato chips and asian slaw didn't hurt either. The three of us split a piece of cherry pie and then it was onward.
The Bay View district is clearly hipster central, so we stopped at a couple vintage and antique stores over the course of our day.
Here is Chris and Suzy admiring Vintageous:
The Fox River Antiques Mall was pretty goddam insane: three floors of...stuff. I liked the "french telephone" that was basically a baroque end table that doubled as a really big telephone. I would totally buy it if I were a hooker. And also these accordians, "Marv" and "Judith":
We attempted to tour the Lakefront Brewery and/or the Pabst Mansion but by 3pm it was too late/the tours were sold out. I did get a shot of the brewery tanks though (and the whimsically colored mash tuns):
We considered having beers in the tasting room but it was a virtual mobscene and smelled unpleasantly of arm pit. So we opted to go to the grocery store at stock up on beer instead!
Allow me to take a moment to comment on how FRIGGIN CHEAP Milwaukee is. Both of our meals cost us under $30 (not counting tip) for 3 people. Sales tax is 5%, half of Chicago's brutal 11% (plus additional taxes on booze), so we decided to stock up on yummy local beers that are not readily available in Chicago. I went for a 6 pack of the Lakefront Pumpkin Lager (haven't tried it yet), a 12 pack of the New Glarus Spotted Cow, which tastes a lot like Blanche De Bruxelles, which is to say a Weiss beer without the funky clove and citrus notes, a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red Cherry Ale, and 16 oz bottles of Sprecher Hefeweizen, Octoberfest and Winter Ale. Since I am aggressively drinking less these days, these are staying OUT of my fridge and being saved for special occasions like thanksgiving and parties. I think all this friggin' beer ran me about $35 total. Yowza.
The liquor store also had this super unappetizing concoction for sale:
I choose celibacy.
We stopped for Mexican Lattes and Cider at Stone Creek Coffee (which Chris re-dubbed "Stone Cock Coffee") to formulate dinner plans. We asked the barista for dinner suggestions and he offered up the Palomino and it's tofu buffalo wings, but since the three of us are meatatarians, we opted for Honey Pie, which had received an angry review from a vegan on yelp, which we figured was a good sign. Their logo is a pig wearing a napkin around its neck if that's any indication.
I ordered the celery root slaw (yum) and Chris and I shared an entree of beer cheese soup, beer braised brussel sprouts, apricot glazed pork chop and horseradish mashed potatoes and Suzy had a sausage sandwich. I give it a B= the food was tasty, but not as superlative as the burgers at Cafe Lulu.
After dinner, I tried to talk Chris and Suzy into posing over a church railing titanic-style as some sort of post modern statement on religion, but my inner Tyra was denied. Also, we walked past a really amazing Chinese Restaurant/Polka Lounge called the "Eternal Well" en route to our final destination- a bar called "At Random."
I have an otherwise thankless ex to thank for tipping me off to this place, because it's frigging awesome. It's the kind of place that Don Draper might go to meet a mistress if Mad Men was set in Wisconsin. Dim, smoky, lots of twinkly lights, intimate green vinyl booths, Sinatra on the stereo, an entire menu of ice cream drinks, and it looks like the bartenders have been working there since the fifties. A truly amazing and authentic slice of classic Midwest culture.
(I yanked this photo from Yelp).
I had a chambord/vodka/chocolate ice cream sort of concoction, Suzy had a Singapore Sling, and Chris had a Grasshopper. It was too dark to get any great shots (that's the point, I guess), but here's the top of my drink with a little cookie that says "yes" on it. Chris's cookie said "maybe." I am still trying to figure out what that cookie was implying by "yes."
I think the YES is to Milwaukee being awesome! Let's go back anytime!
Farewell, Serious Eats Chicago
6 hours ago