While I was no stranger to Milwaukee, having visited previously for concerts, I wanted to spend some more time getting acquainted with the food/beverage scene and turns out there was a lot to explore!
My first stop was a decent sized gastropub called Drink Wisconsinbly. The name alone prompted me to go and the first true test of any Wisconsin eatery are the cheese curds. As a New Yorker, the only real opportunity I have to eat cheese curds are from Sonic and let me tell you, don’t even bother with Sonic if you can’t get your hands on the real thing, and these were! Served with a side of ranch, the piping hot with a delicate batter crust, the hot, melty curds oozed on first bite, releasing their salty, cheesy goodness that I’ve come to know and love. Washing it down with a Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss. Made with real Wisconsin honey, the Honey Weiss had the right amount of sweetness to bitterness ratio that paired extremely well with the fried cheese curds. A light, easy to drink beer perfect for the summer months. Plus, you can’t leave any good pub without sampling their buffalo wings and again, I was won over. The wings, not too small or too big, were perfectly sauced, had a good amount of crisp and extra seasoning added, with telltale black pepper flakes sprinkled throughout. Did I also forget to mention it was happy hour? Relaxed crowd, good food, and ice cold beer. No complaints from me.
The Milwaukee Art Museum was a beautiful sight to see, with it’s stunning architecture. The white fins of the structure reminded me a lot of The Oculus in NY, which will coincidentally be right next door to my new office in September. Turns out they were both designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.
Taking in a Brewer’s game was also a must, of course. Miller Park, which I likened to Citifield because of the sheer size of it had great sight-lines from anywhere you sit. The retractable ceiling was open, allowing for a light breeze to make its way around the muggy stadium, and I enjoyed watching the Sausage Race & the Bernie Brewer home run slide. The game went into extra innings and with bases loaded, the Brewers won when pitcher Brad Lewis from Minnesota Twins walked the winning score.
The next day, checking out the Milwaukee Public Market was a must! While not as large as Chelsea Market would be here in NY, the Milwaukee Public Market was jam packed with tons of food offerings. Seafood, ice cream, cheese of course, and tons of spices were on display. I opted for tacos from Margarita Paradise. In addition to it being Taco Tuesday, it was Taco Happy Hour, with 6 tacos for $10. Normally I show a little bit of restraint and get 3, but I wound up trying 6: ground beef, carnitas, barbacoa, pastor, grilled steak, and chorizo. I opted for “raza” style which was cilantro and onions over the “gringo” style which was lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese. All of the tacos were delicious, but my two favorites were barbacoa and the grilled steak, juicy and flavorful. All of the tacos are served on fresh, warm corn tortillas, and I went for a frozen peach margarita that hit the spot quite nicely.
Walking around a bit, I went to check out Riverside Theater and The Riverwalk. This was one of the venues that I’ve previously visited but it looks a bit different during the day. The cool temperatures and welcoming breeze by the Riverwalk was worth the stroll, and it was nice seeing a bunch of folks kayaking and taking advantage of the perfect summer day.
While I ventured over to Summerfest I took in the fair-like atmosphere and decided to check out Klements for a brat. Hot, fresh and super juicy with a good snap, the brat went down easily with an ice cold Coca-Cola.
Rolling out of bed a bit earlier, I went to check out Sweet Diner, which was steps away from where I was staying at the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel. Inside the bustling diner, the wait was up to 45 minutes, but dining solo I was able to grab a seat at the counter in just over 5 minutes. Water was brought out instantaneously and my order for orange juice arrived quickly, freshly squeezed of course. I was craving something sweet and indulgent so I went for the creme brûlée french toast and a side of bacon. The French toast had the crisp, crackly crust on the outside reminiscent of the famed dessert, topped with fresh berried and a generous dollop of whipped cream. The bacon was thick cut and slightly chewy – my favorite texture. I took the time to savor each bite, internally vowing to figure out how to recreate the french toast back in my home kitchen.
Stepping out into the hot sun, I walked back over near the Public Market again to a small chocolate shop called Red Elephant Chocolate and was pleased to find they also had a teensy selection of ice cream to choose from. I went for the Chocolate flavor – dark chocolate, with chocolate chunks – so deliciously creamy.
After getting back to my hotel, I decided to hang out at the rooftop bar before dinner. The Outsider was impressive to say the least, with views of Milwaukee as far as I could see. Out on the patio, there were a few games of corn hole in progress, while others relaxed in various booths around the space. The bartender who was incredibly nice offered to make me one of their best selling drinks called “Toucan House Rules,” that was so good, I finished entirely too quickly… oops.
Down at the restaurant, the beautiful Tre Rivali, I snagged an outdoor table to soak up more of the beautiful day. The server was right over with some water and told me about the specials, but I had already seen the Carbonara on the menu. If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I cannot refuse Carbonara. Their take on the dish was delightfully refreshing. The fresh, hand cut pasta were in fettuccine sized ribbons with a perfect al dente bite, the sauce coated each and every strand, the crispy pork belly still had a slight bit of softness and chew to it, and the pecorino romano cheese was sprinkled on top in just the right amount. I haven’t cleaned a plate that quickly in a while. The glass of Riesling I ordered on the side was on the slightly drier side than I’m used to, but it paired beautifully with the richness of the pasta. By the last bite, I was completely stuffed and ready to be rolled out of there. I wished I could have somehow made room for dessert, but there’s always next time.
Finally, late night drinks were had at Boone & Crockett! At first I couldn’t figure out how to even enter the building but a carefully placed sign led me around the corner into the parking lot to the main entrance. When I made it inside, it felt like an episode of Cheers. It was cozy and inviting and easy to have a conversation with old friends or new acquaintances. I appreciated the music selection too – a bit of Sylvan Esso, some Field Report…. this was my kind of place. The bouncer told me that a kitchen was in the works, in addition to the taco truck they have in the parking lot, as well as a stage for live music.
*This post is sponsored by Travel Wisconsin.
Article: Lesley Keller