Our first stop in Milwaukee, WI was the Art Museum, housed in the iconic, postmodern building right on Lake Michigan. The fee to get into the museum is a little steep, at $17/person, but it’s also pretty worth it. The entryway is beautiful, with a view of the lake through a convex wall of windows.
The best part for me was the collection of contemporary art and the special exhibit of Rembrandts on the top floor. The museum was having a used book sale while we were there as well, which was fun to browse. As we walked back along the lake to our car, the sun finally started to peak out, highlighting the beautiful and well-maintained parks.
From there we drove to Lakefront Brewery to meet up with our friends Colton and Sarah, who were en route to Green Bay for the Packers Game. The brewery tours were sold out for the day (learn from our mistake – buy tickets ahead of time!), but we were happy just to partake in the beer and food at the brewery.
Between the four of us, we ordered pretzel bites, cheese curds, fish tacos, smothered fries, pulled pork flatbread and fresh, delicious, Wisconsin-brewed beers. The food was excellent and everything you could want in Wisconsin food: fried, cheesy, comforting and indulgent. The dining room was open with long tables filled with guests. Brewery tours ran through every half hour, with the guide riling up the crowd loudly. I was a little bummed not to be participating, but we taste tested quite a few beers on our own.
Our next stop was the Riverview Antique Market, a ten minute drive away. The store was huge and full of a curated collection of antiques, split into stalls by vendor. My favorite feature were the large Barnum & Bailey circus posters hanging from the walls throughout the warehouse. The four of us had a blast walking through the store, picking out memorabilia and antique home goods.
The staff was friendly and willing to point us in the direction of more antique stores in the area if we felt so inclined to keep shopping. After we left the store, it was time to go our separate ways; Sarah and Colton heading to Green Bay and Mike and I going to check into our hotel. The Hilton City Center was a little outdated but still glamorous, with ornate chandeliers and gold accents.
Our room was small, but comfortable, with a view of the lake and the soft, white bedding that I love so much. When we were looking for somewhere to go for dinner, we did some research and stumbled upon a list of “Essential Milwaukee Restaurants”. One of said restaurants was one I had read about before, famed for their great Friday fish fry. And although it was Saturday, we decided to try it anyways; their German menu fit in nicely with the Oktoberfest celebrations around the city. Kegel’s Inn was a ten minute cab ride away, across the highway.
Milwaukee is interesting because the highway bisects the city, which makes it not all that walkable. This means that we spent a pretty penny on uber rides that evening. The restaurant was in a residential neighborhood and when we walked in, the locals sitting at the bar gave us the stink eye. That to me, seemed like a good sign, but I could tell by the look on Mike’s face that he wasn’t so sure. The host sat us at a table in the corner, where we ascertained that we were the youngest patrons in the place by about 20 years. We ordered “traditional” German food, which came with soup and salad and bread with herbed butter.
Definite supper club vibes here. The soup and salad were good, but the entrees… were not delicious. They were unappetizing looking and didn’t taste any better. We did our best to push the food around the plate and make it look like we ate some of it to appease our very sweet waitress. We got the check and hustled out, keeping our heads down. Perhaps next time, we’ll stick to the fish fry. We went to the Rave next for the main event, the Thrice concert. The show was fantastic and the venue is very pretty, but it’s not run very well.
After ordering $9 Bud Lights, we decided this would not be a show we would drink during. Luckily, Thrice is amazing live, and that made up for the expensive drinks. As soon as the band started playing their encore, we high-tailed it out of there to catch yet another cab to the Cactus Club, a bar that I knew both Mike and I would love. It was a long cab ride there and the place was mobbed with people, so by the time we got into the bar, Mike was not a happy camper.
But! Once we were seated at the bar with a couple of New Glarus beers, there was punk music playing and Star Wars on the TVs. I could see that Mike was trying hard not to smile. This was so his type of place. They had live music playing in the back room (with a cover charge), but we were perfectly happy sitting at the bar. The beer was cheap and the bartenders were friendly and attentive; it’s easy to say that this was our favorite stop of the evening. We made our way back to the hotel (another uber) happy and a little drunk.
The next morning, we checked out early and headed to Café Benelux for breakfast. The area the restaurant was located in, the Historic 3rd Ward neighborhood, is super cute and fun to explore. We sat on the amazing rooftop terrace where you can enjoy your brunch in the sunshine and with a view. Mike got the Hodge Podge scramble and I got the waffle with berries along with our coffee.
Both entrees were delicious, but Mike’s was the best and of course I snuck a couple of bites. We walked across the street to the Public Market next, which was very similar to the one in Grand Rapids, MI. There was a mixture of shops and food vendors, selling everything from fine cheeses to handmade jewelry to local brews (both coffee and beer).
We particularly liked the t-shirts and magnets at Brew City, where we bought a Milwookie Chewbacca t-shirt for my niece. The market deserved more attention, but we were determined to keep moving.
We went to Downtown Books, where it was entirely possible to get lost amongst the stacks. The vast variety of genres would make any bibliophile very happy. I ended up getting a Hunter S. Thompson book before we went on our way.
Our last real stop of our Milwaukee trip was the County Clare, a family-style restaurant with an Irish theme and a bar on one side. Mike and I sat at the bar and both ordered one of their famed Bloody Mary’s, his spicy and mine not. The drinks came with a beef stick, string cheese, a pickle, a potato and a small glass of Harp beer to chase it all down. I had never had a Bloody Mary before and wasn’t sure how much I’d like it.
It turns out I don’t have to wonder anymore, I definitely don’t like them. They’re just not my cup of tea, I guess. But the bartender serving us was so sweet that I drank the whole thing, gulping beer or water after each sip. We caught some of the Packer’s game before rolling out, thanking the kind bartender profusely as we went. We grabbed coffee at the hip Collectivo before starting the drive back to Chicago.
The café was warm and welcoming, with tables filled with people working on their computers contentedly. The coffee was just what we needed to propel us home. Thank you for a fun weekend Milwaukee!
Have you ever been to Milwaukee, WI? What did you like most about the city?