The weather was so gorgeous today when we arrived after a short 90 minute drive from Chicago that we couldn’t bear to go indoors, which meant skipping one of Milwaukee’s main attractions- the stunning art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava that looks like a massive white bird landing on Lake Michigan’s shimmering blue waters. We did walk down from our cozy Irish hotel, the county Clare, to watch the huge outstretched white wings of the museum slowly, slowly, slowly close into the base of the museum at 5 p. M. And will try to be present when the wings open again at 10 a.m. What other building does that?
Compared to Chicago, Milwaukee’s lakefront is marvelously undeveloped with huge green lawns stretching out to the rocky shore, sometimes with sandy beach. We were amazed at how few people were around, again compared to Chicago. We walked various stretches of the lakefront to the north, near downtown and in the south neighborhood of Bay View where ThreeBrothers, the famous Serbian restaurant in an old wooden corner tavern endures in a now trendy residential. (I ate its specialty , a massive filo dough and cheese concoction, Burek, there years ago, following my old friend Johnny Apple’s orders.)
Lunch was tacos in the zocalo food truck courtyard in the hipster Walker’sPoint neighborhood followed by an obligatory stop at Leon’s Frozen Custard, which was so creamy and delicious. Nearby, on Burnham Street, we found six FLwrighthouses all on the same block, surprising modest and small by design. Wright was experimenting with creating affordable housing. I wondered if they are affordable today. (VRBO offers an overnight in one for $231.) They’re on a busy street in a working class neighborhood. One has siding which I am guessing would appall Frank.
Dinner was at Bavette in the lively ThirdWard area, which has massive old brick forever warehouses with interesting restaurants and shops. Who knew a hamburger could be so good and original – quality meat served rare with a slice of grilled eggplant and tomato, feta, tzatziki, something vaguely spicy. Dirck was happy with his Cuban sandwich.
Sad to say goodbye to Door County but we enjoyed the pretty backroads-drive to Chicago, starting with County Road B from Egg Harbor to Sturgeon Bay (a tip from Torch, the name of the fish boil master in Ephraim.) As promised we passed by pretty dairy farms and big waterside mansions that we caught a fleeting glimpse of through the woods.
Kopp’s Custard, pandemic-style
Onto Algoma on Highway 42, another scenic alternative to the highway (43) that took us along the water and through small rural towns (Alaska, wi.). We also drove into Kohler, to see the famous American Inn Spa and the Kohler Design Center. Shortly after we took 43 to Milwaukee stopping at the famous Kopps Custard in Glendale, just off the highway, for excellent burgers, with grilled onions, and super rich butter pecan custard. We drove through the elegant suburbs north of downtown (Shorewood, Whitefish Bay) with streets lined with old gated brick mansions that reminded us of Evanston and a drive-by the distinctive Art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava.
In Chicago, we laid low, visiting family. We did ride our bikes along the lakeshore trail from Edgewater to Astor, which wasn’t as fun as it should be, thanks to too many bikes and walkers. I felt like the bike proctor, scolding various cyclists doing stupid things (reading their cellphones, riding two abreast, peddling furiously in tour de France mode.) We saw a bad accident — a crowd around a young kid laying on the pavement, someone else cradling his head. Sadly, I wasn’t surprising to see.
I was sad to learn that usinger’s, the famous sausage maker, no longer has an outpost in the Milwaukee airport but I had a very good burger with cheddar cheese and grilled onions at NorthPoint in the main terminal. I could see the cook flipping the burgers on a grill through a window by my table. good frozen custard too. Best of all my flight left ahead of time. Only wish it was a direct flight to Des Moines, which used to be available a few years ago. Now you have to take two puddle jumpers, via Minneapolis.
Amtrak finally got me to Milwaukee, but three hours late. Our 10:25 am train was delayed and delayed until it merged with the 1:05 pm. Oh well. Much of the ride was thru a white out of snow. In Milwaukee I had to trek through pelting snow up the hill to my hotel, the hilton city center. I was one of the few people on the street at 3 pm and although the snow was so intense I couldn’t look up without pf getting hit in the face with snow, I made it to the Milwaukee public market where I had a very late lunch at a salad/sandwich/juice bar called The Green Kitchen and then wandered thru the snow to explore the Third Ward warehouse district. I had an early dinner at Kiku, a Japanese place near the hotel, and returned to the hilton looking like the abominable snow woman, my boots caked with snow, my jeans wet, snow covering my blue coat. very happy to be in bed watching white and Davis from my home state of Michigan win the gold Olympic medal for ice dancing.
It’s hard to get excited about a trip to Milwaukee in February – especially when it’s been so darned cold here in the Upper Midwest. But the NYTimes travel section yesterday had a story about the Walker’s Point area that got me a little psyched. (Granted I’ll be there more for work than pleasure but hope to sneak in a quick walk around town.) Here’s the story: In Milwaukee a district for a bite or a brew
Of particular interest to moi:
Servers note that 90 percent of ingredients used at the two-year-old restaurant — with the exception of coffee, tea, spices, citrus and chocolate — are sourced from regional farms. Menus change daily, but the cooking by the chef David Swanson is consistently hearty and robust.
CLOCK SHADOW CREAMERY AND PURPLE DOOR ICE CREAM (The cheese appeals more than the ice cream this winter)
A cheesemaker and a separate ice cream business share production and retail space in the newly built, LEED-certified Clock Shadow Building. Tours ($3) offered by the urban creamery (come Wednesday or Friday to see the popular cheese curds being made), culminate in cheese samplings. The popular Purple Door, known for unusual ice cream flavors like whiskey or chai with pink peppercorn, plans to move at the end of the month and reopen nearby in March.
The biggest of several antiques stores in the area, this one opened in 2010 in two merged early-19th-century warehouses. Shoppers can ride the operator-manned freight elevator between three floors stuffed with vintage clothes, wood chests, record collections and eclectic finds like a midcentury vinyl living room set.
A friend came home from a weekend jaunt to Milwaukee raving about the city in general and the Iron Horse Hotel in particular. (Nope that’s not it above – that’s the fantastic Milwaukee Art Museum) The Iron Horse a boutique hotel in a former 100-year-old warehouse at the crossroads of the city’s Fifth Ward and Latin Quarter. With its urban chic decor and high marks from the travel industry, it looks like well worth a visit. Last time I stayed in Milwaukee, about six years ago, I stayed at the old dowager of a hotel, the Pfister, which was a little bit frumpy but interesting and near the lively historic Third Ward district. I see online that there’s a $259 package at the Iron Horse that includes tickets to the fantastic Milwaukee Art Museum, inside a whimsical building designed by Santiago Calatrava, and the new Harley-Davidson Museum. One thing I didn’t realize about the museum, which resembles a bird, is that its “wings” open at 10 a.m. daily (when the museum is open), close and reopen at noon and close at 5 p.m. (8 pm on Thursdays). Now that I’d like to see! (Below is the new building he’s designed for NYC’s World Trade Center site – didn’t realize he’s doing that.)