Milwaukee – through the eyes of a ‘first timer’

  • November 18th, 2010
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Or ‘Drinking through a city and the sadness of a lactose free person in the dairy capital’. Thats right readers; your tried and true narrator is lactose-intolerant and went to Wisconsin. But don’t let the cheese-free visit shadow any sort of food-less adventure beyond the straight cut boarder just to our north – there is plenty to do and eat (mostly drink) in Wisconsin.

Something you learn quickly while in the land of curds is that you don’t so much eat your way through the city as drink though it. Another employee here had said to me that “Milwaukee is to beer as Detroit is to the auto industry,” and after spending a short weekend there, I couldn’t agree more. The town has an old industrial feeling at it’s core. Near the river it’s spotted with rehabbed factory condo-lofts and spreads further out to store fronts with new age sharp edged condos above and apartments with a ‘green’ feel and plenty of windows. A perfect dichotomy between new and old – I would have been ready to move in but for the fact that the city forces the necessity of an automobile. Combine the earlier observation with the latter and unfortunately someone ends up having the lions share the ‘fun’. Enough of the over-arching reflections, on to the visit!


We left early in the morning to catch the opening of the Milwaukee Art Museum – a sight to behold. I want to take a second here and mention thoughtful architecture and say that the Milwaukee Art Museum is brimming with it. The photo to the right is the parking garage below the museum itself.

So we got out, I snapped a few photos, and decided to take a short walk around downtown, because we had arrived especially early and the museum wasn’t open yet. A little empty during a weekend morning, but so would the loop so I can’t cast dispersions. The downtown area is stacked with decades of changing architecture, wide roads, and brimming block-sized parks – a good walk for lallygagging, as we were.

We walked back, watched the museum open it’s doors, and took the walk around. Great pieces and interesting architecture made for a great start of our time in Wisconsin. After we headed to the Milwaukee Public Market for a quick lunch before our brew tour of the city. The market was bustling on a Saturday afternoon, we took a quick walk around and spotted all the foodstuffs we carry on the shelves – from Spice House to Bea’s hot pepper jelly. For lunch we stopped and got a sandwich, but unfortunately meat on bread most likely was not enough. Not that it was the sandwich shop’s fault but cheese is just too ingrained – although my lady’s sandwich looked really good. The market was great and the surrounding neighborhood was exactly the kind of place I could see living in.

We weren’t exactly on a tight schedule but we wanted to make it to Lakefront Brewery with enough time to make sure we made it on the tour; so we scooting out and down the river. The tour is $7, an amazing value because it includes four pours of beer, a pint glass to take home, and a beer at a local pub. What more could you want from a brewery tour? How about funny and entertaining tour leaders, a beautiful walkway on the river, and did I mention four beers? It’s an old building filled to it’s edges with bottling machines, walk in coolers, and fermenting tanks. A lot more ‘lived in’ than the newly remodeled Great Lakes Brewery in Cleveland which has a feeling of it’s own. The beer was fantastic, from the Monkey Wheat to the Eastside Dark, each were great on a chilly late summer’s day.

After our river front meanderings we checked into our hotel, set out bags down, and rode the elevator down with Slash. The hunger of walking around all day was setting in so we set to take the two blocks it took to the Water Street Brewery. We took up one of their beer flights – nearly taking up the entire table with tastings of brew – and a massive pretzel; both were great, a couple of the beers were not, but after a flight who pays any attention anyway. After “dinner” we got drinks at the hotel or Clear – very lounge-y and relaxing to end our day.

In the morning we waded into the stormy streets to find breakfast. We sauntered through the downpours and closed stores then stumbled upon Broken Yolk. A great little place with a menu so big it floats all over the wall behind the counter – a bit overwhelming but the food is amazing. Perfectly made eggs, great pancakes and bacon – a great stop. You’ve got to have good, cheap, quick breakfast being seated nearly inside a college like they are. A great place to stop for an easy going breakfast.

After a quick nap before check out we headed to lunch at Mader’s German Restaurant: a wood and brick castle in the heart of the German district in Milwaukee, well the really german part of it. It wasn’t open just yet so we walked the neighborhood, checking out the local cheese shop (torture for me) and scooping out where to get sausage on our next trip up. Mader’s was great; we ordered beer, I got the sausage platter and my lady got the ruben. The soup was heavy and warming, the platter was completely overwhelming with amazing encased meats and sauerkraut, and the ruben was salty, buttery, and incredible.

A great lunch before heading to the Domes. The Mitchell Park Conservatory, or the Domes, is a great little conservatory sectioned off by their namesake and filled with all nature of plants and even a few birds. A great, and not to be missed when visiting. We closed out our weekend at the gift shop and headed back south.

The city is interesting, a touch scattered, and very easy going. I’ll be back, that much is for sure. If you haven’t been, you’re missing out on a great city a few hours drive north of Chicago.

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