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.
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.
Friends are going to Milwaukee for a college visit to Marquette U. so here are a few suggestions of things to do/see/eat:
– Three Brothers – a Old World Serbian restaurant in a neighborhood just north of the airport. Yes Serbian food. Good. Try the burek, sort of akin to Greek spinach and cheese pie
– The Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Santiago Calatrava. The building alone – looking like bird landing on the lake – is worth a wander. There’s an exhibit on the building of the museum, marking its 10th anniversary. (more below)
– Usinger’s Sausages – okay, you don’t have to go to the original store downtown but it’s kind of a kick. there’s a stand selling them at the Milwaukee Airport.
Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and the Milwaukee Art Museum
September 8, 2011–January 1, 2012
It has been named the sexiest building in the world, featured in TV ads and shows and Hollywood movies, and it has transformed the city of Milwaukee. In September, the Milwaukee Art Museum celebrates the 10th anniversary of its iconic building, the Quadracci Pavilion, with the exhibition Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Designed by internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, the Quadracci Pavilion was the Spaniard’s first completed commission in the United States. In 2001, it was named Time Magazine’s “Best Design of 2001.”
A friend is going to Milwaukee which reminded me that I’d love to visit that city again – I was there in, um, 2006 or so, and stayed at the grand old Pfister Hotel (on the company’s dime). Highlights were roaming around the old Third Ward district downtown (where I ate good french food at the Coquette Cafe), visiting Usinger’s sausage shop, visiting the art museum with its fantastic Santiago Calatrava architecture and eating burek (akin to Greek Spanakopita – or spinach-and-cheese-pie) in the Old World atmosphere of Three Brothers, a Serbian restaurant. The burek was huge and took awhile to make so I brought much of it home on the plane with me. I also remember being struck by how lovely and undeveloped the city’s lake-shore was.