by Abigail Fisher
I live about 25 minutes outside the city of Milwaukee in the small, (dare I say) quaint town of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. There were many times during high school where I absolutely fed up with all 11,412 residents of Cedarburg due to sheer boredom. Thankfully, the wonderfully chic yet gritty city of Milwaukee provided me the perfect outlet for my small town frustrations. Here is my ultimate Milwaukee top ten. I’ve had my whole life to explore Milwaukee, and I think I’ve found some of the best places in the city. Only an hour and a half from Madison, take a weekend trip and explore this amazing city for yourself.
Best French Restaurant
Coquette Cafe (316 N. Milwaukee St.) — Nearly hidden in the historic Third Ward, Coquette Cafe is one of the premiere French restaurants in Milwaukee. Moderately priced for amazing French bistro cuisine, Coquette Cafe serves traditional dishes such as Coq au Vin and Croque Monsieur throughout the day. They also have daily specials Monday through Friday available after 5pm. I would recommend Monday’s “Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Rosemary Oil.” It’s addictive and divine. The flavors at Coquette Cafe are impeccably nuanced and rich, mastering the crux of French cooking. I am especially partial to their Sunday brunch: served from 11am to 5pm, brunch at Coquette Cafe is a wonderful way to start or end a lazy Sunday.
Blue’s Egg (317 N. 76th St.) — I have a very fond memory of arriving at the Blue’s Egg with my mother and promptly being handed two steaming mugs of Alterra coffee. The restaurant was jam packed, not unusual for the popular Blue’s Egg, so we decided to sit at the bar. The atmosphere was homey and the food smelled delicious. Then came my moment of culinary transcendence. I ordered hash browns. Scoff you may, but these were no ordinary hash browns. These hash browns were stuffed with goat cheese, roasted olives, paprika aïoli, topped off with Sriracha hot sauce. My taste buds beg me daily for more. The Blue’s Egg serves breakfast from 7am to 10:30 am, and lunch from 10:30 am to 2 pm. The food is just plain good. Anything you order is going to be delicious, interesting and filling. If you need more of these homestyle eats for dinner, check out Maxie’s Southern Comforts, the Blue’s Egg sister restaurant. The Blue’s Egg is a prime example of hearty midwestern fair, with a gourmet twist.
Best Family Day
Lakefront Activities — If you ever have young guests from out of town and are near the Milwaukee area, the lakefront is chock full of activities for the whole family. Even just walking the paths by Lake Michigan can be fun, but to spice up the entertainment level try renting bikes from Milwaukee Bike & Skate Rental. For as low as $5 per half hour, you can rent Go-Kart bikes, tandem bikes and peddle cars to ride up and down the lakefront. Also on the lakefront, Gift of Wings kite shop provides a great activity for a windy day. Gift of Wings also hosts a variety of kite festivals that are equally fun to participate in or to watch. If it’s especially hot out, try the Juneau Park Paddleboat Company. For $8 you can rent a three person paddleboat for a half hour. Short on cash? No worries, just head to one of the many public beaches for a day in the sun.
Best Vintage Store
Annie’s Second Hand Chic (1668 N. Warren Ave.) — Located a stone’s throw from Brady Street is my favorite Milwaukee vintage lair, Annie’s Second Hand Chic. Entering Annie’s for the first time can be a bit intimidating due to the sheer volume of clothing and accessories. Plow through any initial fears though, because braving the racks will be well worth it. Annie’s is chock full of whimsical dresses, vintage pumps and patterned pants. If your wardrobe needs to be spiced up with a bit of color, you need to go here. My sister bought a pair of bright blue cowboy boots at Annie’s that were pure magic. (I seethed with envy that they weren’t in my size.) Annie’s is also fantastic for Halloween shopping: I bought a Marie Antoinette costume there that was sexy yet refined and completely awesome. Prices at Annie’s range widely. While certain items are steals, others may be a tad overpriced… but overall, it’s pretty fair. Visit Annie’s Second Hand Chic to find a vintage treasure you won’t have to max out your credit card for.
Best Coffee Spot
Brewed Cafe (1208 E. Brady St.) — Also located on Brady Street is the somewhat under appreciated coffee house beloved by yours truly. The Brewed Cafe is painted in garish pastels and serves some of the best coffee in Milwaukee. Served in tall glasses, the house blend is hot and delicious. They also offer a large menu serving breakfast, lunch and many specialty drinks. The Brewed Cafe is special to me because its atmosphere complements the wonderful coffee to the point of perfection. The walls are filled with crazy art and there are board games under a ratty old couch, on which I have great memories of kicking my friend’s butt at Scrabble. The Brewed Cafe has free Wifi, too, so it’s a great place for Milwaukee Badgers to get work done when you get sick of your family during the holidays. Open Sunday through Thursday from 6:30 AM – 9:00 PM and Friday through Saturday from 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Check out the Brewed Cafe for good coffee and great vibes.
MAM (700 N. Art Museum Dr.) — It may be cliche, but this list would be incomplete without mentioning Milwaukee’s amazing art museum. The MAM is one of the most identifiable structures in Milwaukee. We were lucky enough to have world renowned architect Santiago Calatrava design one of the most unique buildings on Milwaukee’s skyline. The MAM contains a permanent collection, but what I love most are the visiting shows. Currently there is an exhibition on Rembrandt I’m dying to see, but most likely won’t because of finals. (Ugh.) The piece I will always love best at the MAM is Robert Gober’s Untitled, 1997. I call it The Magic Suitcase myself because it’s a suitcase that opens to a grotto underneath the floor. When I was little, my mom would always take the family to the MAM, and my sister and I would sprint to The Magic Suitcase. Then we would lean so far down into the suitcase we would almost fall in. Although running around the museum is fun, MAM After Dark is a slightly more collegiate activity all of you might enjoy. The museum hosts monthly events after the museum closes. Themes vary, this month is Pajama Jam! For $13 you can tour the visiting exhibition, dance, sing karaoke and much more. Visit the MAM for great art and a fun late night activities.
Downtown Books (624 N. Broadway) — It’s going to be hard to leave eclectic secondhand bookstore, Downtown Books, empty handed. I grew to love Downtown Books at its original location, a somewhat dilapidated, three story building. The stacks were stuffed to the brim, and seemed to go for miles. Just when you thought you had seen the whole store, you would stumble onto a whole comic book section you never knew existed. It was magical. You felt as if you stepped into a alternative world where you could hide away and never be found. I even had my senior picture taken there. Sadly, the original building was condemned, so they moved a block away to 624 North Broadway. A visit to Downtown Books is still well worth it. Their collection is amazingly versatile, with sections on every topic you could imagine. The prices are great too! I picked up a ton of great titles for a pittance right before school started. Downtown books also has a great selection of vinyl to browse through. Be warned though, you may just see some book on the lineage of Russian queens or a tarot handbook that you’ll readily buy without thinking about what you’re actually there to find. The experience of Downtown Books is well worth the superfluous books you may find yourself purchasing.
Best Grocery Store
Milwaukee Public Market (400 N. Water St.) — The Milwaukee Public Market isn’t technically a grocery store, but its unique layout makes it difficult to classify. Containing small lunch counters, seafood stalls, bakeries, coffee shops and much more, the Milwaukee Public Market doesn’t need to labeled: it just needs to be devoured. You can stop by the Milwaukee Public to gather fresh, local ingredients for dinner or to grab a quick lunch with flavors ranging from Middle Eastern to Belgian. I often go for fresh sushi with friends after shopping at the Anthropologie across the street (shopping being a loose term, as I can’t afford a bar of soap from Anthro). If you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, I have to give a shoutout to Cedarburg Coffee and Roastery. Their original location is in my hometown of Cedarburg, but they also have a stall at the Market. Listen to me now. You will never find a better cup of coffee than their Cedarburg house blend. It’s all roasted and brewed on location, so you’re guaranteed a fresh cup of hot, delicious coffee. Go eat up the Milwaukee Public Market Monday through Friday 10am-8pm, Saturday from 8am-7pm and Sunday from 10am-6pm.
Best Movie Theater
The Oriental (2230 N. Farwell Ave.) — The Oriental Theater is a Milwaukee stalwart, showing movies for over 84 years on North Farewell Avenue. Screening a combination of feature and independent films, the Oriental is often the only theater in my area showing some of the more artistic films I love. The Oriental also had the longest running midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in the United States. I went to their midnight showing of “Rocky Horror” during Milwaukee’s Pride Fest, and I had an absolute blast. Prepare to be barraged by a litany of traditions that accompany the cult classic, like throwing toast and screaming profanities. The Oriental is apart of the Landmark Theaters organization and showtimes can be found online.
Sobelman’s Pub & Grill (1900 W. Saint Paul Ave.) — I don’t eat much meat, but I can really destroy a cheeseburger or two from Sobelman’s Pub & Grill. I really can’t pinpoint what makes their burgers so off-the-charts delicious, but I don’t really care to think about it too much. Schematics don’t matter when something tastes this good. For speculation’s sake, the buttery bun could be a factor, or perhaps it’s the perfectly cooked patty adorned with melted cheesy goodness? I could go round in circles with myself all day, but let’s just agree that I think it’s a damn good burger. Understandably, I was enraged when Sobelman’s lost to AJ Bombers in the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars.” I feel like the results had to be rigged because I’ve had both burgers, and Sobelman’s wins for my tastebuds hands down. Boycott popular opinion and forsake Bombers for a Sobelman’s burger. I will join you readily with an empty stomach and burgers on the brain.