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August 20, 2017 |

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Venturing beyond beer and brats in Milwaukee – Philly.com

There’s always something to celebrate in Milwaukee. And I’m not talking about just the music, food, and art festivals that fill the summer, or the azure views of Lake Michigan, or even the city’s beer-steeped history.


A view of downtown from a boat on a 90-minute tour of the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan Harbor.br / Slideshow





I’m talking about the jovial bands of people walking the streets of downtown every time I visit – bachelorette parties, bachelor parties, wedding parties, father-daughter dances. Really, any occasion that calls for packing the flask and breaking out the party gear.

I understand why they choose the Brew City. My husband and I love making weekend trips there from our home in Chicago. It’s small enough that getting around is easy and it feels safe, but it’s big enough that we discover a new neighborhood, a quirky shop, restaurant, or bar on every visit.

Though the drinking-and-dining scene has long moved beyond its beer-and-brats reputation, you can still find plenty of that beer and those brats (including craft and artisanal forms), along with frozen custard and squeaky cheese curds galore. (It’s the Dairy State for a reason.) Plus, it’s affordable, and there’s truth to that whole Midwestern kindness thing. Don’t put on airs, and it’s likely you will be welcomed with open arms.

GO

Local faves. When in Brew City, do as the Brew Citizens do and raise a pint. A quenching place to start is the Pabst Milwaukee Brewery Taproom, one of the newest craft breweries in the city, set in an old Gothic Revival church that formerly served as a Pabst-owned bar and restaurant. New and Pabst sound contradictory, considering the Pabst name has deep history in Milwaukee dating to the 19th century. But it moved its brewing operations out of town in the 1990s. And the latest incarnation isn’t brewing hipster Pabst Blue Ribbon (although you can buy that here), but is brewing small-batch beers with more depth and intrigue than the canned red-white-and-blue classic.


For a DIY Pabst tour, take a stroll around the block, and you’ll see Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, which walks visitors through the history of Pabst. You’ll pass the Brewhouse Inn Suites, a hotel built inside the old Pabst plant. About a mile from there, you might get a deeper feel for the family’s history with a visit to Pabst Mansion, where Frederick Pabst and his family lived.

For Frank Lloyd Wright, it wasn’t all Fallingwater and Taliesin. The Wisconsin-born architect believed beautiful houses should be affordable at all income levels, and in the early 1900s, he created a series of designs for small houses, known as American System-Built Homes, the pieces of which could be cut in advance and assembled on site to save on waste and cost. You can see six of them on West Burnham Street, and docents with the nonprofit organization Wright in Milwaukee lead tours of one of them. (The tours are offered Fridays and Saturdays in summer and early fall but become more sporadic as winter sets in.) Travel tip: One of the privately owned Wright-designed houses on the street is beautifully restored and available for overnight stays via VRBO.com.

Guidebook musts. Is it meta that the buildings housing the Milwaukee Art Museum are works of art as well? My favorite is the white pavilion designed by architect Santiago Calatrava that looks like a modernist bird, a cathedral, or maybe a yacht, depending on the time of day you see it and whether its wings – 72 steel fins that act as a sunscreen – are open or closed.

Save a couple of hours for exploring the museum’s wide-ranging collection, which includes dark portraits from baroque Europe and brighter pop pieces, such as one of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup paintings, as well as an extensive Georgia O’Keeffe collection (she was from Wisconsin), swanky furniture by Herman Miller, vintage cameras – and continual natural art in the form of sparkling Lake Michigan views through the museum’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

The double-decker Milwaukee Boat Line Sightseeing Cruise toots along the Milwaukee River out to Lake Michigan, alerting bridge operators to raise theem up and let it pass. During the 90-minute cruise, the guide regaled us with stories of Milwaukee’s industrial history as we passed old brick tanneries, brick masonry factories, and cold-storage warehouses; architectural history via the skyline and especially that winged Milwaukee Art Museum; and Great Lakes insights such as the fact that the five lakes hold about one-fifth of all the fresh water on Earth.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear some traces of lovable Midwestern aw-shucks earnestness. Our guide was talking about a lighthouse now powered by solar. “Which,” she said, “I think is pretty darn neat.”

EAT

Local faves. Tubular meats – including some vegan versions – are the draw at Vanguard. Go global with the Guzman, seasoned Yucatan venison with pork fat, sour orange, and achiote. Or keep it local with a jalapeño-cheddar bratwurst topped “Milwaukee-style,” slathered in cheese spread, shredded cheddar, and squeaky fried cheese curds. It’s nap-inducingly delicious. This isn’t your typical corner bratwurst joint. It’s also a bustling craft cocktail bar, and specialty sausages come with beer/cocktail-pairing suggestions.

Frozen custard isn’t the exception in the Dairy State, but the rule. Ask someone to name the best, and you might spark a war (which this recommendation also could lead to), but I stand firm in my love of the butter pecan at Leon’s Frozen Custard – with its rich, creamy base and crisp, salty pecans – handed to you from a neon-covered walk-up joint that dates to 1942. This custard alone is worth the 90-minute drive from Chicago. As you are waiting in line (and you are likely to be waiting in line), you can watch as machines gurgle out reams of the frozen confection while staffers in white caps and bow ties scoop it up to serve.

Guidebook musts. My three Chicago companions and I were blown away by Braise, which devises its seasonal menus based on what’s available from Wisconsin farms, using all parts, from “root to leaf” and “nose to tail.” Offerings change regularly, but what’s consistent is global influence, depth of flavor, and alluring textures – such as the chickpea pancake made with summer squash and topped with salty whipped feta, and the rich, steamed pork buns with chive vinaigrette and crushed, spicy peanuts. With a mix of shareable small and not-so-small plates, there’s an impressive variety for carnivores, vegetarians, and pescetarians, as well as an eclectic craft cocktail menu. I had a rum cocktail with strawberry, banana, and, oddly, asparagus cream that tasted much better than it sounds and that is served in a skull mug. Fun fact: Braise even created a service to act as a food hub so other restaurants and customers could easily access produce, baked goods, meats, and dairy items from the farms and artisans it works with.

Milwaukee is a city that loves brunch, and the European-style Cafe Benelux – named for Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg – draws crowds for its alfresco seating (rooftop and street-level patio) and eclectic offerings, such as the pretzel Benedict (pretzel bread, ham, poached eggs, and hollandaise); bananas Foster liege waffles; and a savory waffle made with hash browns and topped with steak. Breakfast is also served nightly, as are mussels, frites, and burgers. Save some time to read through the 50-page “bierbook,” which is updated seasonally and which highlights unique craft beers from Belgium, Holland, and the United States.

SHOP

Local faves. If you’ve ever thought, “Where in the heck do I get an owl pellet to dissect?” Milwaukee has your answer. It’s American Science Surplus, where you can also find dissection tools, including those waxy trays from middle school. This large, brightly lighted suburban shop offers aisle after aisle of experiments, microscopes, telescopes, lab glasses, gyroscopes, and just about anything a STEM-loving person could want or need. Plus, there is a solid selection of toys, tools, military items, motors, and even the occasional hatching dinosaur-egg novelty. Because it’s a surplus store, you never know quite what you’re going to find, so you’ll probably have more fun if you go without a specific need in mind (and just hope to walk out with that owl pellet).

Fedoras, porkpies, cadet caps, cloches, derby hats, church hats, intricate fascinators – the specimens are stunning at two neighboring hat shops: The Hen House for her and the Brass Rooster Hat Co. for him. Major brands are available, as are custom creations made with equipment that dates to the 19th century. You don’t hear the words hatter and millinery much these days, but these two shops will make you appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a quality chapeau.

Guidebook musts. Mod Gen – short for Modern General Store – had me at “arugula candle.” This gift shop, amid blocks of boutiques in the reclaimed warehouses of the Historic Third Ward, is packed with gifts and trinkets – artfully displayed stationery, stickers, birdhouses, handmade soaps, hundreds of houseplants, and a section dedicated to items made locally – that maybe you didn’t need but suddenly realize you can’t leave without. Like the hedgehog trivet that came home with me.

Follow the giant red neon sign that says “Milwaukee Public Market” and explore this gourmet/retail institution. There’s a seafood counter; restaurants; bakeries; purveyors of wine, cheese, and sausage; kitchen accessories; and, one of my favorites, Brew City Brand Apparel, where T-shirts pay homage to insider Wisconsin tidbits. The “Call Me Old-Fashioned” shirt is a nod to the Badger State’s official cocktail, and the “Where’s the bubbler?” T-shirt flexes a bit of when-in-Wisconsin vocabulary: bubbler means water fountain.

STAY

Local fave. The smell from the wood-fire oven hits as I walk through the doors of Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, one of Milwaukee’s newest, and it immediately scores on the cozy front. (The complimentary wine happy hours in the lobby’s living room area add to that, as do a fireplace and pool table.)

The rooms have a playful, residential feel. And wait until you see the bathtubs: Huge! Beyond the rooms, the whole hotel is a winner. The first-floor restaurant, Tre Rivali, is lucky to have chef Heather Terhune, who makes pitch-perfect Mediterranean fare ranging from wood-grilled artichokes and pizza to handmade pastas and inspired seafood dishes.

One of the best parts of being a guest: I didn’t have to stand in the 20-person-deep line to get up to the ninth-floor rooftop lounge, the Outsider. I just hopped in the elevator using my key card, hit No. 9, and ducked through the tight crowd to take in the glimmering rooftop views.

Guidebook must. Built in 1927, the Hilton Milwaukee City Center is bedecked with marble and chandeliers. Its lobby seating nooks are a great place to hunker down in opulence with a laptop. Featuring more than 700 rooms, the art deco Hilton is the largest hotel in the city, which means you can often nab a comfortable room for a bargain. But the primary reason I’m recommending the Hilton over other hotels (there are some great ones in Milwaukee) is the service. I once fell ill after a long, hot cycling trip, and I needed to go to the emergency room. The hotel’s cheerful shuttle driver transported me to the hospital at 2 a.m. and picked me up the next day and brought me home. That’s the kind of treatment you don’t forget when ing.

EXPLORE

Local faves. It took all of 10 minutes walking up artsy South Kinnickinnic Avenue – the main drag in the Bay View neighborhood – for my husband and me to nod and agree, “Yep, this is where we’d live if we moved here.” We wandered into the Tip Top Atomic Shop eyeing the vintage clothing, peeked inside the historic Avalon Theater, considered a game at an old-school bowling alley, and took in an array of tempting bars and restaurants (Sugar Maple, Odd Duck, Goodkind, Vanguard, Honeypie), as well as a solid mix of record shops, comic book shops, tattoo parlors, and tire stores along with places with words like co-op, collective, and emporium in their names. It was a little bit hippie, a little bit hipster, and we’ll be back next time.

Guidebook musts. The warehouse district, known as Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, has found new, trendy life. Now, the old brick buildings – which are on the National Register of Historic Places – are filled with boutiques, galleries, art studios, restaurants, bars, and other versions of visitor catnip. With hundreds of businesses in about 10 square blocks, there’s an urban density and energy I haven’t yet felt elsewhere in Milwaukee. Bordered by the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan, this neighborhood is an easy launching point for exploring the Riverwalk, attending the annual Summerfest (an enormous music festival that lasts 11 days and draws nearly one million people), hopping on a Bublr (the bike-share program), or just taking in the sights of the old warehouse structures, some renovated, some a little spooky.






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What Not to Forget When Moving Off-Campus

This article is brought to you by CORT Furniture Rental. We take the hassle out of furnishing your new place so you can do more important things like read this article. Learn more about why furniture rental is the best way to get a great looking apartment.

If you are headed back to school this semester and plan to live off campus, there are some things you should make sure to have in your car before you head out.

First, make sure you have all of the proper furnishings. Even if your house or apartment comes furnished, there are some things you may want to add to make the place your own. Consider bringing a few extra chairs for when you have guests over, a desk for doing work in your room, or a lap desk at the least.

Also, if you only have a closet, you may want to invest in some sort of dresser for all those t-shirts you’ll be getting from events throughout the year. Then, don’t forget a mirror so that you can see how your outfits come together in the end. It may be worthwhile to also look into lockable storage. It’s just one extra step you can take to ensure safety, especially if you ever have people you don’t know too well in the house.

Before leaving for school, look around your parents’ house and see what is in it that you would want/need for your own place. Doing so may make you realize there are some important items you had not thought about before. For example, you have a kitchen table, but do you have a table set? And do you have enough plates, forks, cups etc. for everyone in the house? Speaking of the kitchen, do you have a microwave? Toaster? Coffee maker or Keurig? We all get busy at school, and you’re not always going to have the time to make a big meal in the oven. Plus, college kids get tired, and coffee is a great answer.

pixabay.com

Other necessities that can make your place homier include area rugs and wall hangings. If you choose to hang things on the walls, however, make sure you use putty or removable hooks to avoid poking holes in your wall and losing your security deposit. Some houses can have very extreme overhead lights so it may be nice to purchase some lamps as well for an alternative light source, or as additional lighting if your home is in a shady area. A television would be a nice addition so that you don’t have to all look at individual laptops the whole time. A calendar is an easy way to keep track of where everyone will be when. Bring a rubber mat for the front door area so that people won’t track mud with wet shoes, and a coat rack would go nicely in the area as well.

After you have the big items taken care of, think about the small accessories for said large items. These include things like a mattress pad for your bed, hangers, cleaning supplies, toilet paper,  general toiletry needs (toothbrush, face wash, etc.) and a way to store these (especially if sharing a bathroom), enough groceries to get you started, a dehumidifier, fanmusic speakers, and Wi-Fi.

If you are within reasonable distance from campus, bring a bike. It will save you gas money from driving every day, and it will serve as a source of exercise without you having to think of it directly as exercise.

To give you additional help, I reached out to some of my friends who recently moved off-campus and asked what were some of their top items they didn’t go to school with initially but wished they had. Here’s a list so that you don’t have to be like them.

Ellie Lutes from James Madison University said that the biggest mistake of her apartment life has been forgetting to bring a snow shovel her first year off-campus. While the landlord plowed the parking lot, he was not responsible for the resident’s cars. Being shovel-less, it took Lutes and her apartmentmates three hours to dig out her roommate’s car using only Tupperware and pans.

Lutes and her friends also recommend reusable grocery bags to prevent a billion trips to the car … and to be eco-friendly. It’s better if you can start with a few instead of having to start your collection from nothing.

Make sure to bring along some carpet cleaner. The James Madison students ran into a problem where their carpet trapped the smell of anything they cooked. Prevent this with a little powder!

Katie Lukes from the University of Vermont said that she initially forgot a can opener. She and Northeastern University student Christina Allan both agree that general kitchen utensils are something easy to forget but important to bring. Besides a can opener, these can include things like pots, pans, a salad spinner, random spices, and a juicer.

Lukes also recommends bringing a strong vacuum cleaner.

The last thing you want is to get to school and be missing a bunch of the essentials. If you go prepared, it will be one less stress to worry about as the school year picks up. Living off-campus is exciting, but it also makes you realize that there are many more necessities you may have not realized back when a dorm room was your home. Check this list twice before the move.

Looking for an easy way to furnish your off-campus apartment? Renting furniture from CORT saves you time and money. See how easy it is to get great looking furniture without breaking the bank.

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10 stores locals want in the Wilmington area

We took to Facebook to find out what shoppers would like to see come to the area.

WILMINGTON — Large retailers such as HM, Publix and Aldi have recently brought stores to the Cape Fear region, but what brands are missing? We took to Facebook to find out what shoppers would like to see come to the area.

Ikea

Based in Sweden, this store sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home furnishings.

Apple Store

The American tech company designs, develops and sells consumer electronics, computer software and online services. Apple stores also provide in store retail purchases and tech support.

Macy’s

Mayfaire’s Macy’s store became Belk in 2006. The department store provides brand-name clothing, accessories, home furnishings and housewares.

Bass Pro Shops

A retailer of hunting, fishing, camping and outdoor recreation merchandise. Known for stocking a wide selection of gear and brands.

Sheetz

This chain of gas stations and convenience stores offers made-to-order food.

Burlington Coat Factory

This store features discounted prices on baby gear, coats, clothes and home decor.

DSW

DSW, also known as Designer Shoe Warehouse, is a footwear retailer.

Dave Buster’s

This family friendly entertainment utopia has a full-service restaurant, bar and video arcade.

Nordstrom

A luxury department store offering clothing, shoes and accessories.

Total Wine

a href=”http://s649.photobucket.com/user/starnewsonline/media/shutterstock_645260788_zps4inxjxwl.jpg.html” target=”_blank”img src=”http://i649.photobucket.com/albums/uu220/starnewsonline/shutterstock_645260788_zps4inxjxwl.jpg” border=”0″ alt=” photo shutterstock_645260788_zps4inxjxwl.jpg”//a

This discount alcohol retailer features a broad selection of wine and beer.

Reporter Elizabeth Montgomery can be reached at 910-343-2066 or Elizabeth.Montgomery@StarNewsOnline.com.

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Warwick Hills looks to host PGA Tour Champions event, per report

Warwick Hills Golf Country Club served as the long-time home of the PGA Tour’s Buick Open until 2009.

Men’s major professional golf appears to be making a return to the golf club in Grand Blanc, per a report by Tony Paul of the Detroit News.

The PGA Tour Champions circuit, which consists of pro golfers ages 50 and older, will be making a tour stop to Warwick Hills, Paul reported, attributing the information to a source with direct knowledge of the PGA Tour’s plans.

A press conference at Warwick Hills is scheduled for Tuesday, although Warwick Hills general manager John Carlson would not elaborate on the purpose of it, per the report.

It is unclear when exactly the Tour Champions event would be played at Warwick Hills.

The PGA Tour made an annual Buick Open stop in Michigan from 1958 to 2009, featuring some of the top names in golf, including Tiger Woods. But the tournament lost its presenting sponsor, signaling the end of that event.

Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor has hosted the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship in 2012, 2014 and 2016, and it is scheduled to do so again in 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2024.

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This year, traditional deep hues for fall go even bolder

 

 

 

 

Deeper, richer hues are often part of decor’s autumnal palette, but this year they’re bigger and bolder than usual.

 

“Color is a powerful communicator,” says Pottery Barn spokeswoman Monica Bhargava. “It can be a key point of inspiration that defines the mood and feel of a home.”

 

PPG’s color marketing manager Dee Schlotter sees a trend toward interiors “that embrace nocturnal shades” in homes, hotels and stores.

 

Deep hues are often incorporated through matte yet soft materials, she says.

 

 

 

IN THE MOOD

 

“I love dusky blues, plums, gray of all types, and surfaces that have a mysterious effect,” says Jamie Drake of New York-based Drake Anderson Interiors.

 

For the guest bedroom of one project, Drake/Anderson had Jonathan Kutzin of America Painting in Cresskill, New Jersey, create a strie effect — creating the look of fabric with paint — with an iridescent blue top coat, evoking a moody retreat.

 

In another apartment, in Midtown Manhattan, Drake says his company used deep plum tones to anchor the high-altitude rooms, while another project employed dark navy walls in a cozy library. “Using a color this dark in a small space is a favorite tool to make the edges of a room ‘disappear’ and create a mysterious illusion of more space,” he says. (drakeanderson.com )

 

Some deep, dark colors evoke privacy, quietude and a feeling of being wrapped in warmth, designers say.

 

But brighter, saturated hues can be uplifting and electric; Sherwin-Williams’ two new collections are Affinity, inspired by craft and tribalism, and Connectivity, inspired by technology. (sherwin-williams.com )

 

 

EMERALD CITY

 

Of the trending deepened hues, emerald green is especially dominant, Schlotter says. To her, “It represents luxury and emulates lush foliage.”

 

“Color palettes that range from darker shades such as black and navy, to gold and coral, complement the depth of emerald green,” she continues, “while pale neutrals such as white and light gray give it a crisp and trendy edge. A courageous color, emerald green also works well with a number of materials and textures.”

 

Emerald is showing up in upholstery. Furniture company Sauder has a little tub chair in the hue. CB2’s 50s-inspired Avec sofa comes in plush emerald velvet. (sauder.com; cb2.com )

 

 

 

COLOR IN THE KITCHEN

 

Italian company Bertazzoni, known for its high-end ranges in rich shades such as burgundy, orange, yellow and red, just introduced a new hue called Azzurro. Blending cerulean, turquoise, sapphire and cyan, it’s a positive, energetic color. (us.bertazzoni.com )

 

Both Frigidaire and Kitchenaid have suites of appliances in black stainless steel.

 

And look for counter tops and cabinetry in deeper tones, too. Cambria Quartz’s Bala Blue stone is the color of deep water. In a contemporary kitchen with sleek white cabinetry, Cardigan Red’s vibrant warmth would be a terrific foil. (cambriausa.com )

 

 

 

WALLS AND FLOORS

 

Intrepid decorators will love another aspect of this trend: dark walls.

 

At Kip’s Bay Show House a couple of months ago in Manhattan, Susan Ferrier dressed a bedroom in deep forest green. Organic objets d’art accents made it feel like a luxe nature retreat. (mcalpinehouse.com )

 

Kevin Lichten and Joan Craig cloaked a downstairs bar in charcoal silk, trimmed with bronze, creating an intimate, sexy space.

 

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD

 

If you’re interested in dabbling in any of these colors, don’t worry about the trend being short-lived. PPG, Olympic Paints and Glidden announced their 2018 Color of the Year choices: Black Flame, Black Magic and Deep Onyx.

 

And Schlotter reports that PPG’s color story for 2018 will be replete with deep, rich colors such as smoky greens, luxurious purples, and charred gray-blacks.

 

They’ve given the palette an intriguing name: “Brave”.

 

“These colors,” says Schlotter, “reflect consumers’ growing yearning for protection, strength and stability; to feel safe during uncertain times.”

 

 

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DAVE LOBECK: Doctor up your grilled burgers

Many times when folks grill burgers, it can be downright boring.

The same ole’ thing. Throw a patty over the coals or the flame, press it, flip it, press it again and flip it an additional time or two.

Today let’s open our creative mind and talk about how to make a burger that will rival any burger you can buy at a nice restaurant. For me, it’s about properly grilling the burger, making sure to not overcook it, and the cool things you put on it.

For this episode of BBQ My Way, we used a cast iron skillet. Don’t have one you say? Well please get one, preferably an older one that you might pick up at an antique shop, an auction or a flea market. The older ones (pre-1960) are so much better that the more current versions. Why? Because the cooking surface is as smooth as glass. You will probably need to clean it up and go through the process of seasoning it again, but if you find the right one and take good care of it, teflon skillets will be in your rearview mirror.

Griswold and Wagner are great collectible brands. Just do some research and homework online so you know you are buying the real thing and not a reproduction. We could write an entire book on cast iron cookware. In fact, many have.

Story continues below video

I like to use “80-20” ground beef, which simply means the beef has approximately 20 percent fat. Much leaner and the burger will become dry. Form a ball about the size of a baseball, or just slightly larger. Don’t pack it tightly. This will result in a one-third pound burger. Flatten it out and make sure the center of the burger is thinner than the perimeter. Why? Because as the burger cooks, it pulls inwards. This insures that the burger is the same thickness from end to end when it’s cooked. Liberally sprinkle both sides of the burger with kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper and granulated garlic.

In your cast iron skillet, place sliced mushrooms, sliced vidalia onions, a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple dabs of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Place the skillet over the hot coals and saute’ away until the onions are slightly caramelized (a light golden color) and the mushrooms are browned.

At the same time, place your burgers over the coals around the cast iron skillet. After a few minutes you will see fluids develop on the top of the burger. Flip and be ready for some flaming. Don’t, please, I beg of thee, ​don’t​ push down on the burgers. All you are doing is making the burger dry. I cook my burgers to medium. This is usually four to five minutes on the first side and three to four minutes on the second side.

Once the burgers are cooked, move them to the side to where they are not directly over coals. Pile on the onions and mushrooms and layer a slice of your favorite cheese over the burger. Place the lid on and let the cheese melt for one minute or so. Take them off, place on a bun and enjoy!

Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones financial adviser in Jeffersonville by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. Liz is his wife. You can contact Dave with your BBQ, cooking or grilling questions at davelobeck@gmail.com. You can also visit their YouTube channel at ​www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay​.

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Venturing beyond beer and brats in Milwaukee

There’s always something to celebrate in Milwaukee. And I’m not talking about just the music, food, and art festivals that fill the summer, or the azure views of Lake Michigan, or even the city’s beer-steeped history.


A view of downtown from a boat on a 90-minute tour of the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan Harbor.br / Slideshow





I’m talking about the jovial bands of people walking the streets of downtown every time I visit – bachelorette parties, bachelor parties, wedding parties, father-daughter dances. Really, any occasion that calls for packing the flask and breaking out the party gear.

I understand why they choose the Brew City. My husband and I love making weekend trips there from our home in Chicago. It’s small enough that getting around is easy and it feels safe, but it’s big enough that we discover a new neighborhood, a quirky shop, restaurant, or bar on every visit.

Though the drinking-and-dining scene has long moved beyond its beer-and-brats reputation, you can still find plenty of that beer and those brats (including craft and artisanal forms), along with frozen custard and squeaky cheese curds galore. (It’s the Dairy State for a reason.) Plus, it’s affordable, and there’s truth to that whole Midwestern kindness thing. Don’t put on airs, and it’s likely you will be welcomed with open arms.

GO

Local faves. When in Brew City, do as the Brew Citizens do and raise a pint. A quenching place to start is the Pabst Milwaukee Brewery Taproom, one of the newest craft breweries in the city, set in an old Gothic Revival church that formerly served as a Pabst-owned bar and restaurant. New and Pabst sound contradictory, considering the Pabst name has deep history in Milwaukee dating to the 19th century. But it moved its brewing operations out of town in the 1990s. And the latest incarnation isn’t brewing hipster Pabst Blue Ribbon (although you can buy that here), but is brewing small-batch beers with more depth and intrigue than the canned red-white-and-blue classic.


For a DIY Pabst tour, take a stroll around the block, and you’ll see Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, which walks visitors through the history of Pabst. You’ll pass the Brewhouse Inn Suites, a hotel built inside the old Pabst plant. About a mile from there, you might get a deeper feel for the family’s history with a visit to Pabst Mansion, where Frederick Pabst and his family lived.

For Frank Lloyd Wright, it wasn’t all Fallingwater and Taliesin. The Wisconsin-born architect believed beautiful houses should be affordable at all income levels, and in the early 1900s, he created a series of designs for small houses, known as American System-Built Homes, the pieces of which could be cut in advance and assembled on site to save on waste and cost. You can see six of them on West Burnham Street, and docents with the nonprofit organization Wright in Milwaukee lead tours of one of them. (The tours are offered Fridays and Saturdays in summer and early fall but become more sporadic as winter sets in.) Travel tip: One of the privately owned Wright-designed houses on the street is beautifully restored and available for overnight stays via VRBO.com.

Guidebook musts. Is it meta that the buildings housing the Milwaukee Art Museum are works of art as well? My favorite is the white pavilion designed by architect Santiago Calatrava that looks like a modernist bird, a cathedral, or maybe a yacht, depending on the time of day you see it and whether its wings – 72 steel fins that act as a sunscreen – are open or closed.

Save a couple of hours for exploring the museum’s wide-ranging collection, which includes dark portraits from baroque Europe and brighter pop pieces, such as one of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup paintings, as well as an extensive Georgia O’Keeffe collection (she was from Wisconsin), swanky furniture by Herman Miller, vintage cameras – and continual natural art in the form of sparkling Lake Michigan views through the museum’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

The double-decker Milwaukee Boat Line Sightseeing Cruise toots along the Milwaukee River out to Lake Michigan, alerting bridge operators to raise theem up and let it pass. During the 90-minute cruise, the guide regaled us with stories of Milwaukee’s industrial history as we passed old brick tanneries, brick masonry factories, and cold-storage warehouses; architectural history via the skyline and especially that winged Milwaukee Art Museum; and Great Lakes insights such as the fact that the five lakes hold about one-fifth of all the fresh water on Earth.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear some traces of lovable Midwestern aw-shucks earnestness. Our guide was talking about a lighthouse now powered by solar. “Which,” she said, “I think is pretty darn neat.”

EAT

Local faves. Tubular meats – including some vegan versions – are the draw at Vanguard. Go global with the Guzman, seasoned Yucatan venison with pork fat, sour orange, and achiote. Or keep it local with a jalapeño-cheddar bratwurst topped “Milwaukee-style,” slathered in cheese spread, shredded cheddar, and squeaky fried cheese curds. It’s nap-inducingly delicious. This isn’t your typical corner bratwurst joint. It’s also a bustling craft cocktail bar, and specialty sausages come with beer/cocktail-pairing suggestions.

Frozen custard isn’t the exception in the Dairy State, but the rule. Ask someone to name the best, and you might spark a war (which this recommendation also could lead to), but I stand firm in my love of the butter pecan at Leon’s Frozen Custard – with its rich, creamy base and crisp, salty pecans – handed to you from a neon-covered walk-up joint that dates to 1942. This custard alone is worth the 90-minute drive from Chicago. As you are waiting in line (and you are likely to be waiting in line), you can watch as machines gurgle out reams of the frozen confection while staffers in white caps and bow ties scoop it up to serve.

Guidebook musts. My three Chicago companions and I were blown away by Braise, which devises its seasonal menus based on what’s available from Wisconsin farms, using all parts, from “root to leaf” and “nose to tail.” Offerings change regularly, but what’s consistent is global influence, depth of flavor, and alluring textures – such as the chickpea pancake made with summer squash and topped with salty whipped feta, and the rich, steamed pork buns with chive vinaigrette and crushed, spicy peanuts. With a mix of shareable small and not-so-small plates, there’s an impressive variety for carnivores, vegetarians, and pescetarians, as well as an eclectic craft cocktail menu. I had a rum cocktail with strawberry, banana, and, oddly, asparagus cream that tasted much better than it sounds and that is served in a skull mug. Fun fact: Braise even created a service to act as a food hub so other restaurants and customers could easily access produce, baked goods, meats, and dairy items from the farms and artisans it works with.

Milwaukee is a city that loves brunch, and the European-style Cafe Benelux – named for Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg – draws crowds for its alfresco seating (rooftop and street-level patio) and eclectic offerings, such as the pretzel Benedict (pretzel bread, ham, poached eggs, and hollandaise); bananas Foster liege waffles; and a savory waffle made with hash browns and topped with steak. Breakfast is also served nightly, as are mussels, frites, and burgers. Save some time to read through the 50-page “bierbook,” which is updated seasonally and which highlights unique craft beers from Belgium, Holland, and the United States.

SHOP

Local faves. If you’ve ever thought, “Where in the heck do I get an owl pellet to dissect?” Milwaukee has your answer. It’s American Science Surplus, where you can also find dissection tools, including those waxy trays from middle school. This large, brightly lighted suburban shop offers aisle after aisle of experiments, microscopes, telescopes, lab glasses, gyroscopes, and just about anything a STEM-loving person could want or need. Plus, there is a solid selection of toys, tools, military items, motors, and even the occasional hatching dinosaur-egg novelty. Because it’s a surplus store, you never know quite what you’re going to find, so you’ll probably have more fun if you go without a specific need in mind (and just hope to walk out with that owl pellet).

Fedoras, porkpies, cadet caps, cloches, derby hats, church hats, intricate fascinators – the specimens are stunning at two neighboring hat shops: The Hen House for her and the Brass Rooster Hat Co. for him. Major brands are available, as are custom creations made with equipment that dates to the 19th century. You don’t hear the words hatter and millinery much these days, but these two shops will make you appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a quality chapeau.

Guidebook musts. Mod Gen – short for Modern General Store – had me at “arugula candle.” This gift shop, amid blocks of boutiques in the reclaimed warehouses of the Historic Third Ward, is packed with gifts and trinkets – artfully displayed stationery, stickers, birdhouses, handmade soaps, hundreds of houseplants, and a section dedicated to items made locally – that maybe you didn’t need but suddenly realize you can’t leave without. Like the hedgehog trivet that came home with me.

Follow the giant red neon sign that says “Milwaukee Public Market” and explore this gourmet/retail institution. There’s a seafood counter; restaurants; bakeries; purveyors of wine, cheese, and sausage; kitchen accessories; and, one of my favorites, Brew City Brand Apparel, where T-shirts pay homage to insider Wisconsin tidbits. The “Call Me Old-Fashioned” shirt is a nod to the Badger State’s official cocktail, and the “Where’s the bubbler?” T-shirt flexes a bit of when-in-Wisconsin vocabulary: bubbler means water fountain.

STAY

Local fave. The smell from the wood-fire oven hits as I walk through the doors of Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, one of Milwaukee’s newest, and it immediately scores on the cozy front. (The complimentary wine happy hours in the lobby’s living room area add to that, as do a fireplace and pool table.)

The rooms have a playful, residential feel. And wait until you see the bathtubs: Huge! Beyond the rooms, the whole hotel is a winner. The first-floor restaurant, Tre Rivali, is lucky to have chef Heather Terhune, who makes pitch-perfect Mediterranean fare ranging from wood-grilled artichokes and pizza to handmade pastas and inspired seafood dishes.

One of the best parts of being a guest: I didn’t have to stand in the 20-person-deep line to get up to the ninth-floor rooftop lounge, the Outsider. I just hopped in the elevator using my key card, hit No. 9, and ducked through the tight crowd to take in the glimmering rooftop views.

Guidebook must. Built in 1927, the Hilton Milwaukee City Center is bedecked with marble and chandeliers. Its lobby seating nooks are a great place to hunker down in opulence with a laptop. Featuring more than 700 rooms, the art deco Hilton is the largest hotel in the city, which means you can often nab a comfortable room for a bargain. But the primary reason I’m recommending the Hilton over other hotels (there are some great ones in Milwaukee) is the service. I once fell ill after a long, hot cycling trip, and I needed to go to the emergency room. The hotel’s cheerful shuttle driver transported me to the hospital at 2 a.m. and picked me up the next day and brought me home. That’s the kind of treatment you don’t forget when ing.

EXPLORE

Local faves. It took all of 10 minutes walking up artsy South Kinnickinnic Avenue – the main drag in the Bay View neighborhood – for my husband and me to nod and agree, “Yep, this is where we’d live if we moved here.” We wandered into the Tip Top Atomic Shop eyeing the vintage clothing, peeked inside the historic Avalon Theater, considered a game at an old-school bowling alley, and took in an array of tempting bars and restaurants (Sugar Maple, Odd Duck, Goodkind, Vanguard, Honeypie), as well as a solid mix of record shops, comic book shops, tattoo parlors, and tire stores along with places with words like co-op, collective, and emporium in their names. It was a little bit hippie, a little bit hipster, and we’ll be back next time.

Guidebook musts. The warehouse district, known as Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, has found new, trendy life. Now, the old brick buildings – which are on the National Register of Historic Places – are filled with boutiques, galleries, art studios, restaurants, bars, and other versions of visitor catnip. With hundreds of businesses in about 10 square blocks, there’s an urban density and energy I haven’t yet felt elsewhere in Milwaukee. Bordered by the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan, this neighborhood is an easy launching point for exploring the Riverwalk, attending the annual Summerfest (an enormous music festival that lasts 11 days and draws nearly one million people), hopping on a Bublr (the bike-share program), or just taking in the sights of the old warehouse structures, some renovated, some a little spooky.






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