Tasting Milwaukee (Summer 2015)

Dear Milwaukee,

I apologize for having given you little thought except for being the backdrop for That Seventies Show (and also, Laverne and Shirley and Happy Days). You are much more than a stage prop. You are quirky, obsessive and gritty with style. Your passion for the fermented and the fast is unparalleled.



My ode to you appropriately begins with the Safe House, one of the many hidden oddities of the city celebrated on the television show Man finds food. The lack of blaring signage was refreshing. I’m not supposed to reveal the location or the password since that would rob visitors of the fun. We had delicious burgers and fries, as well as a Wisconsin cheese plate to start.



Oh the Pfister Hotel, you made me feel like a princess with your lavishly ornate 1893 flair throughout. You were gracious and charming without a hint of snooty ostentation. I felt welcomed in my road-trip casual clothing despite being surrounded by bridal party glamor and beauty. The 23rd floor lounge with it’s morning breakfast buffet and dainty afternoon snacks was a wonderful “fancy but absent mom’s living room” to plot, plan and chill between explorations.



Thank you, thank you, thank you for inviting Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to design your art museum. It is magnificent. When we first arrived we saw the atrium filled with yogis through the locked doors. It gave us time to walk around the building and enjoy how perfectly sited it is. Anchored yet moving. It conjures images of a sailboat, wings, fish fins, bones, scales and more. Witnessing the fountains spring and the wings open when the museum did officially open was just magical. To see the sailboat transform into a seagull was an experience I will fondly and gently hold for a very long time. Thank you, Milwaukee.


Then there was lunch (salad and fried fish) at the Lakefront Brewery perched on bar stools ON the lakefront followed by the most comedic learning experience in the form of a tour. I learned more about beer than I ever wanted to know that included the sex life of yeast. Katy, the tour guide, channeled her middle school teaching experience very well in managing a group of avid beer connoisseurs (many of whom were on their third brewery tour for the day!). TripAdvisor.com ranks this as the number one tourist attraction in Milwaukee. Yes, Milwaukee I admire your deep obsession with fermentation.


A stroll through the historic third ward and the Public Market was worth all the smells and sights. And gave us space to walk off our lunch and get ready for dinner.



B…r…a…i…s….e………….I say with the same longing that I speak my husband’s name. Braise lured us in with it’s promise to deliver Wisconsin on a plate. And, oh my, did it. It felt wrong to corrode and objectify the experience by whipping out an iphone. Sorry, no pictures. Again, I learned a lot, tasted new flavors…like smoked trout on a Johnny cake, tea soaked chicken, rhubarb-radish granita, golden beet salad….so much more. Chef Swanson’s pairing of bright and velvety flavors marked every dish. Not the most exciting or inviting part of town but sure was worth seeking out. As I said, you are a city with marvelous hidden secrets.

There is no way to top a dinner at Braise. So, back to our cloud soft bed at the Pfister to conclude day one in Milwaukee.

Day two began with coffee at the Pfister lounge. I am told they have a lovely Sunday brunch as well. At the time we were still recovering from your gastronomic generosity the day before, dear Milwaukee.



We spent the morning at the Harley Davidson Museum’s celebration of beautiful speed. I found my new hero there. In 1929, in order to prove girls can ride too, Vivian Bales rode her motorcycle from Albany, Georgia to the Harley Davidson headquarters in Milwaukee. Just amazing (and humbling). Where is my passion, I demand! I want to be “The Eater Girl” or ah…yes….”The Hungry Philosopher.” Somehow this doesn’t sound as inspiring. I’ll have to think on it. Suggestions?




Back to the Historic Third Ward for lunch at the Coquette Café. We took advantage of downtown dining week and enjoyed a three-course menu. The leek-potato soup was the best I’ve ever had.


We completed our visit with a tour of the Pabst Mansion. An eccentric mansion in style, very consistent with the general “do your own thing” vibe of Milwaukee. The house combines nautical and beer making themes. What a town!


Our last stop as we drove back to Indiana was at the Cheese Castle. Our trip just wouldn’t be complete without purchasing a cheese head and various Wisconsin cheeses.  Tourist traps exist for a reason. We willingly walk into them. I am not ashamed. I have cheese to eat tonight and to remember the wonderful time I had visiting you, dear Milwaukee.

Thank you for your hospitality and your artful love of the rotten and the odd.

Yours truly,



And, a BIG thank you to Jim (as reflected on the Museum entrance) for being the best travel partner and willing photographer ever. Exploring wouldn’t be as fun if not for all the people we’ve met together along with way (even the disoriented person who almost hit our car!).

Thank you to all the online advisers… food network, trip adviser, Yelp and more.

Thank you to my car, Clementine, wonderful weather on Saturday, weekends, summers and all the little and big things that make adventures of learning and sharing like this possible.

I wish my fellow hungry philosophers many happy tastes of summer! Thank you for being a sweet part of mine. And your willingness to read this!

2 thoughts on “Tasting Milwaukee (Summer 2015)

  1. Meg Howlett

    I love that art museum!! The Mars cheese shop has a restaurant across the way I believe that says sandwiches and cocktails. Who doesn’t like a cocktail with their sandwich?!


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