Milwaukee in 48 Hours: Eating, Drinking and Lounging

A short hour and a half drive from the Windy City, a trip to Milwaukee in the fall is a great weekend escape. Whether your MO is to sightsee, sample some amazing beers or eat some of the best cheese you’ve ever had in your life, the Brew City has a little something for everyone.

With only a weekend to spare, it was tough to squeeze everything in that the city has to offer. Lucky for me one of my best friends, none other than a native of the Brew City himself, made it his mission to give us an authentic experience in his hometown. Check out my top picks for spending 48 hours eating, drinking, and lounging in Milwaukee.

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EAT

Kopps Frozen Custard

A trip to Milwaukee isn’t complete without a trip to Kopps, a Milwaukee staple famous for its hamburgers and most notably, its frozen custard. Established by the Kopps family in 1950, the family still owns two of the three locations. We just couldn’t get enough of the restaurant’s comfort food – Kopps was our first stop on Friday when we arrived and our last stop before heading back to Chicago on Sunday.

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Know Before You Go: Check Kopps’ website for the scrumptious flavor of the day, approved by the Karl Kopp legend himself.

Kasana

For Saturday brunch, our group dined at Kasana, a trendy spot in the Third Ward. Not clearly visible from the street, we walked down a few steps and entered a Latin American paradise. Doubling as an event space, the white furniture and hints of turquoise create an elegant ambience.

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Know Before You Go: Don’t go here if you are in a hurry. Although the food was delicious, we were served at a very leisurely pace. A delicious Bloody Mary will hit the spot after a night out spent exploring a few of Milwaukee’s finest establishments.

La Merenda

A cozy restaurant in the Walker’s Point neighborhood, La Merenda is small plate heaven for a tapas lover like myself. From the pork belly confit crepes to the prosciutto salad, this restaurant with international flair certainly didn’t disappoint. We all agreed that the highlight of our meal was the goat cheese curds, topped with a chorizo cream sauce and crostini. With $5 glasses of wine and tasty sangria, I would highly recommend La Merenda for date night, happy hour, or a night out with friends.

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Know Before You Go: Come in on Mondays for half priced bottles of wine. Get here early on the weekends – this place fills up fast!

Trocadero

After a fun day soaking up the last of summer at Indian Summer Fest, we stopped in Trocadero, a gastropub in the Lower East Side neighborhood. Exhausted and starving, we were ready for a hearty meal. Delicious cheese plate? Check. A generous serving of short ribs and mashed potatoes? Check. Dark and cozy, we were surprised to see that it wasn’t too crowded on a Saturday night.

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Know Before You Go: Offering up four different kinds of Bloody Marys, Trocadero is one of the hottest brunch spots in Milwaukee. Also, did I mention they have really good-looking bartenders?

DRINK

Lakefront Brewery

A trip to Lakefront Brewery was one of the highlights of the weekend. Ranked as the fourth best American brewery tour by TripAdvisor, the brewery is touted by many as a Milwaukee landmark. Your $8 entry fee includes a souvenir class, 4 6 oz. samples of beer, and um, a rather interesting experience. You’re sure to get a colorful, probably inappropriate tour guide that will make you cringe as he recounts the company’s history, which began with two brothers and a brew-making book back in 1987.

After the tour, mix and mingle with your tour guide and check out the outside bar for amazing views of the river as you sip your brews.

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Know Before You Go: Buy your tickets in advance and go early to enjoy a brew at the bar before your tour begins. Don’t forget to head to the store after the tour is over for your souvenir pint glass!

Hinterland Gastropub

We ducked in Hinterland Gastropub to kill a little time before our Lakefront Brewery tour and I’m so glad we did. I was instantly impressed with the industrial chic decor of this place and the bartender’s friendly banter. Founded by a couple of college grads, Hinterland began as a brewery in Green Bay and expanded to include three restaurants. It was the perfect way to relax and recharge after a day spent walking the Summerfest Grounds.

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Know Before You Go: If you visit in fall, try the Cherry Wheat on tap. It was so good I brought some back with me.

Colectivo Coffee

After an action-packed weekend, coffee on Sunday was a must. Checking out a local coffee shop is always on my agenda when I travel. Locally owned and operated, Colectivo Coffee got its start in 1993 in an old warehouse in Walker’s Point. The brand has grown exponentially ever since, with 16 locations all across Madison and Milwaukee.

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Know Before You Go: Colectivo Lakefront, the most popular Colectivo location, hosts a popular music series during the summer months. Don’t be deterred by the long lines – the breathtaking lakefront views are well worth the wait.

SEE

Indian Summer Festival

The heart of the Midwest is the perfect location for Indian Summer Fest, the largest Native American festival in the United States. Held in September at the Summerfest Grounds, the gathering is hosted by the eleven tribes that call Wisconsin home. With dancing, a Pow Wow competition, storytellers, cooking demos and tribal village re-creations, Indian Summer Fest is a great way to close out summer while relaxing by the lakefront.

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We sampled the fry bread, which is exactly what you think it is; flat dough fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening or lard. Albeit delicious, fry bread is a somber link to the past for many Native Americans. According to tradition, this Midwestern staple was created by the Navajo in the 1800s using ingredients given to them by the U.S. government after being displaced from their land out West. We tried the Indian taco and dessert variations.

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Know Before You Go: A fun fall activity, Indian Summer Fest brings history to life. Make sure to bring cash – many of the shops and vendors don’t accept credit cards.

Milwaukee Art Museum

An oasis of meticulously manicured gardens and postmodern architecture, the Milwaukee Art Museum is every photographer’s dream, offering stunning views of Lake Michigan. Built in 1888, the museum’s impressive collection contains works from Picasso, Monet, Warhol and Wisconsin native Georgia O’Keefe, just to name a few.

Don’t have time to check out the exhibits? Explore the museum grounds and walk around the main pavilion. Take a walk around the Burke Brise Soleil, a wing-like movable structure, or Windohover Hall, a grand reception with 90 foot ceilings, awash with sunlight on a clear day. The high ceilings in the Hall combined with the wings create an illusion that you are on a ship.

Know Before You Go:: You don’t need to pay to see beauty at this museum. If you only have a couple of hours to spare, there’s plenty to do and see on the museum grounds (without having to pay the entrance fee).

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Art in Old Town

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine came to visit from DC. She had already been to most of the touristy spots here in Chicago, so I wanted to show her around a few of the eclectic neighborhoods in the city. Because the Wells Street Art Festival in Old Town is one of the “must do” events here in Chicago, I decided it would be something fun to go check out.

On Saturday and Sunday, Wells Street was lined with hundreds of artists looking to showcase and sell their work. The art featured was of a diverse variety – including jewelry, photography and 3D sculptures. The price tags for the larger pieces (including the gorgeous panoramic photo canvases I was in love with) were fairly hefty, but you could purchase many of the smaller items at a reasonable price (including the vintage key necklace Meredith bought!)

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One of the booths that really caught our eye featured Renee King; an artist who creates oil and acrylic paints as well as mixed media art. Her paintings were heavily influenced by the underground jazz culture in Florida, featuring saxophones and other instruments in vibrant, sultry colors.

As I went to snap a picture on my phone, Renee ran over quickly to see what I was up to. She said that in the past, individuals have tried to zoom in on her paintings with DSLR cameras, looking to recreate them. After chatting with us for a bit, Renee let us take a photo of her booth area (guess we passed her test!)

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As we made our way down Wells Street towards North Ave, we came across some very odd 3D pieces – including bizarre ceramics and animal-like sculptures created with wire.
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The event was entertaining for both adults and kids alike. It was nice to get out and enjoy the beautiful day with my girlfriends, and our furry friends as well!

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Picasso and Chicago

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Ever since I was old enough to remember, there was a Picasso print hanging in my family’s dining room. Today, when I see that piece of art, memories of childhood come flooding back. It’s nice to bask in the warmth of memories when nothing really seemed to matter, except maybe how far I could ride my bicycle around the block without getting in trouble.

When I lived in DC, I had the opportunity to see Picasso’s collection at the National Gallery of Art. When I found out there was an exhibit in Chicago, I knew I had to check it out. What I didn’t know prior to doing some research was that Picasso had a special bond with Chicago. The funny thing is that throughout his life, while being highly celebrated in the United States, he never set foot on US soil.

In the 1960s, an architect from Chicago wrote a poem to Picasso asking him to design a sculpture for the city. Picasso normally did not accept commissions for work, but said that because he considered Chicago a “gangster city” (alongside Marseille, France) he would do it.  What Chicago and Marseille have in common, I have no idea, but it was enough of an explanation for me. So lo and behold, in August 1967, Picasso’s unnamed sculpture was dedicated to the City of Chicago. He was offered $100,000 in payment but refused – he wanted the sculpture to be a gift.

On a sunny Saturday, I took the trip to Daley Plaza to check out the Picasso sculpture for myself. Mixed in with the photographers were some curious-looking individuals dressed in green from head to toe, rolling around and posing for tourists’ pictures on the sculpture.

The unique sculpture is representative of Picasso’s Cubism period.

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After my trek (okay, a one mile walk) to Daley Plaza, I visited the Art Institute of Chicago for the “Picasso and Chicago” exhibit, which celebrated Chicago and Picasso’s relationship by bringing together 250 pieces (sculptures, paintings prints, drawings, ceramics) from all over the city.

For your viewing pleasure, I’ve put together a collection of my favorite Picasso pieces from the exhibit.

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“Mere et enfant,” 1921
"Red Armchair," 1931
“Red Armchair,” 1931
"Head of a Woman with Straw Hat on a Pink Background," 1938
“Head of a Woman with Straw Hat on a Pink Background,” 1938
"Blind Minotaur Led By a Girl Through the Night," 1938
“Blind Minotaur Led By a Girl Through the Night,” 1938
"Nude Under a Pine Tree," 1959
“Nude Under a Pine Tree,” 1959

 

Serving Up Your Monthly DOSE of food and fashion

It was a packed house last Sunday at DOSE Market, a year-round, monthly flea market catering to Chicagoans interested in food, fashion and fun. Held at the River East Art Center in downtown Chicago, the event featured 54 vendors serving up handcrafted designs, tasty cocktails and local homegrown foods. Launched in 2011, DOSE market’s popularity is steadily growing, with about 1,500 shoppers socializing, eating, networking (or just plain people watching) at each event.

As I walked around soaking in the sights and aromas from the different booths, I had the chance to speak with several artisans and entrepreneurs eager to show off the designs and products they worked so hard to produce. I’m excited to share their stories with you!

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Emmy Star Brown

As I began perusing the aisles at the market, Emmy Star Brown’s creations caught my eye. Emmy is a Chicago-based artist that creates freehand designs on salvaged glass windows and frames scraped from local alleys and flea markets. Her background in graphic design and love for doodling combined with her interests in type, pattern and movement serve as an inspiration for her designs. Over the past 3 years, she has resurrected more than 300 glass windows from the streets of Chicago.

Emmy’s biggest accomplishment to date is her recent partnership with Sharpie. As she uses various types of Sharpie pens for her whimsical designs, this seemed like the perfect match. She was designated as a 2012 Sharpie artist and featured as one of the stars in Sharpie’s 2012 ad campaign. Emmy’s artwork is also featured on the cover of Sharpie’s Facebook page as well as digital banner advertisements featured on popular websites such as MTV and Fuse.

Emmy’s designs are best described as whimsical, smooth and seamless – no stencils are ever used (amazing right?!)

For custom art inquiries and more information on Emmy Star Brown, please visit www.emmystarbrown.com.

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Heritage Bicycles

As I continued to make my way around the market (and take advantage of the drink tickets!), I ran into Arlan Derussy, who was working away on a unique vintage bicycle. Arlan is the head mechanic for Heritage Bicycles, Chicago’s original bike café. This café combines two concepts – bikes and coffee – creating an environment quite different from your average Starbucks.

Heritage Bicycles, created by Michael and Melissa Salvatore, is the epitome of a community bike shop, which has developed into a place where people can bring their kids, parents and friends to watch a bike being built – or just hang out with coffee and a laptop.

The bike frames are made in Chicago and built from local materials. Arlan’s responsibilities include design work, building, and fixing bicycles. “One week I’m building a bike and the next I’m building a sink,” Arlan said. “I like working for a new company that’s constantly changing and growing.”

Every bicycle is handmade and unique. All of the bikes are vintage inspired and custom built, attracting people that like to bike in stye, Arlan said.

On the Heritage Bicycles website, their concept is described as a “shop that feels like home, looks like your favorite memory of a city you used to visit, and smells like the best coffee you’ve ever had.”

This sounds pretty convincing to me. Check them out at www.heritagebicycles.com and 2959 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago.

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Real Soaps

One of the most enthusiastic vendors at the market were the folks at Real Soaps, Jason Cox and Shamus McClain. After looking at the ingredients in many commercial soaps and cleaning products, they decided to make something of their own. Real Soaps are made from vegetable based oils and natural ingredients. According to Jason, they wanted to develop a concept in which their soaps were as close to nature as possible.

Each bar is hand cut and the wrappers are made from brown paper bags. All of the materials are repurposed and made from recycled material. With 10 different scents including wintermint, lavender and vanilla, and peppermint, Real Soaps has something for everyone.

“We wanted to develop a product that’s great for your skin and the environment,” Jason said. “I like to know that just by doing something as small as showering every day, I am making a difference.”

And hopefully you will too. You can purchase Real Soaps at realsoaps.etsy.com, or like them on Facebook at facebook.com/real.soaps.

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Sir & Madame

Wondering where you can snag a funky handkerchief or retro riding pants?  The folks over at Sir & Madame definitely have you covered. Brian and Autumn Merritt are a husband-wife duo that own a men’s and women’s boutique on Damon Avenue in Chicago.

What makes their store unique? They bring in clothes that are traditional silhouettes; carry unique prints and eccentric accessories; and even have their own Sir and Madame lifestyle brand. The Merritts best describe their private label as “classic with a twist.”

I have such a love for fashion and I’ve always been involved in it,” Autumn said. “It just seemed right for us to fill the void in Chicago for an equal representation of men’s and women’s wear in a boutique space.”

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To find that perfect accessory or outfit, make your way to www.sirandmadame.com or 938 N Damen Ave, Chicago.

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Local, handmade, reusable – those were the words I heard repeated throughout the day as I explored DOSE Market. What I noticed (and loved) was that everyone had such a strong connection to Chicago – whether they had just moved here, or, like Mike Salvatore’s family, have been in Chicago for 5 generations. Although I’ve only been here 6 months, I hope to develop the same sense of pride for my new city.

If you live in the Chicago area, I highly recommend checking out the next DOSE Market on May 12. More information can be found at www.dosemarket.com.