Vacation in Milwaukee and Chicago
May 24, 2011 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Planning a vacation in Milwaukee and Chicago over the memorial day weekend. Any advice on - What to do/see ? - Restaurant/Food options? Thanks :-)
posted by WizKid to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Milwaukee has plenty of restaurants and things to see. We have everything from McDonald's and George Webbs to Sanborn's and Bacchus. I guess it may depend on what floats your boat? Yeah, we have boats too!
posted by JJ86 at 9:27 AM on May 24, 2011

If you can get to the Milwaukee Art Museum by the lake shore at opening time, it's fun to watch the roof of the museum open up. Yeah, it unfolds, like the structure is part of the Terran Defense Grid. Anyway, I would call them for more information.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:48 AM on May 24, 2011

What kind of things do you like to do? What kind of food do you like? There's so much to see and do here in Chicago - that would help to narrow it down. : )

If you like baseball, the Cubs are in town over the weekend. Seeing a Cubs game at Wrigley Field = not to be missed. Like museums? Chicago has some great ones (Museum of Science and Industry, Art Institute, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium...take your pick) Like zoos? Hit the Lincoln Park Zoo (bonus - it's free!) or if you want to venture into the suburbs, Brookfield Zoo is amazing.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2011

It would help if you could share some of your personal preferences, but for Milwaukee, I recommend Trocadero for gastropub grub.

In Chicago, check out Gapers Block (disclosure: I'm the editor) for ideas on things to do. Restaurants to check out: The Publican (slightly spendy, but worth it), Hot Doug's (delicious encased meats), Handlebar (great vegetarian [and I'm not one] and good beer), almost any taqueria that looks inviting...

If you have to do Chicago-style pizza, hit Malnati's or, downtown, Pizzeria Due; the latter is still very touristy, but it's less insane than the others.
posted by me3dia at 10:50 AM on May 24, 2011

Crap, I missed an </a>.
posted by me3dia at 10:51 AM on May 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far.
For food I like to try what ever local specialties. So I'll be trying a deep dish pizza in Chicago. Are there any other specialties that I don't know about? Since WI has a strong German influence maybe some German food.

For attractions, not that much in to watching a game or a show. Rather do a river walk, museum, etc... :-)
posted by WizKid at 11:08 AM on May 24, 2011

Are there any other specialties that I don't know about?

Oh yes.
- Chicago-style hot dogs -- see Hot Doug's above.
- Italian Beef -- hit Al's #1 on Taylor Street (and only that one -- the rest are a subpar franchise) or Mr. Beef on Orleans.
- Jibarito, a sandwich originating from our Puerto Rican community. Borinquen Restaurant is the inventor, but there are other places to try it.
posted by me3dia at 11:29 AM on May 24, 2011

Here's my previous recent comment on Milwaukee. Absolutely definitely go to the Safe House.

The Milwaukee equivalent to deep dish pizza would be the fish fry. Here's a guide from OnMilwaukee (also search that site for local events). From that list, I can personally recommend Balistreri's, Saz's Steak House, Cafe Hollander, and Trocadero.

For German food, the quintessential restaurants are Ratzsch's and Mader's (both downtown). I like Ratzsch's better, personally, but Mader's is easier on the wallet IIRC.

Other random ideas - rent a kayak and float down the Milwaukee River (or go on the lake if you're more experienced). Or rent a bike and ride along our beautiful lakefront. (The weather looks like it's going to be kind of meh, though.)
posted by desjardins at 11:31 AM on May 24, 2011

If you are at all into Polish food, my neighborhood joint SmakTak (roughly translates as "tastes good." )just won a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Nice little family joint, go get your own soda out of the fridge, BYOB otherwise. Literally, a Polish grandmother in back making the pierogi by hand.
posted by timsteil at 12:10 PM on May 24, 2011

Oh, man. Local specialties in Chicago. Everything is a local specialty, because everybody lives there: Chicago's just an enormous patchwork of ethnic communities. Deep-dish pizza is kind of a cliche. There are some great Greek restaurants (Pegasus, Santorini) in Greektown. There's Little India (Devon Street), Little Saigon (Argyle Street, near the Red Line) and great Ethiopian (Ethiopian Diamond in Edgewater has always been my favorite). Out past the Indian community on Devon there's Uzbek and Czech. There's Russian Tea Time on Adams downtown. And, of course, the taquerias, which are generally excellent.

You could spend the better part of a day in any of the museums downtown. While I dearly love the Shedd, it's full of screaming children (for a quiet, less crowded visit, I'd choose the Art Institute, which is enormous and has a couple nice restaurants, or the Museum of Contemporary Art further north). You could also go to the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Botanical Garden. Further north of the city is the Chicago Botanical Garden, which is larger and more breathtaking and which you can hit on your way north to Milwaukee. (And there's a bike trail that goes from north Chicago all the way to the Botanical Garden, if you feel like bringing bikes). For something a little offbeat, go for a long walk in Graceland Cemetery on the North Side. Down in Hyde Park, there's both the Museum of Science and Industry and the Oriental Institute (with a splendid collection of Mesopotamian artifacts) and Jackson Park and the Wooded Isle, which are nice places to walk and do some birdwatching, and great bookstores (Seminary Co-op, 57th Street Books, Powell's, and O'Gara and Wilson).

Now you've made me homesick. Have fun, and stay out of the tourist traps (i.e., Sears/Willis Tower and Navy Pier, though it's O.K. to have a drink in the bar at the top of the Hancock Center).
posted by tully_monster at 12:40 PM on May 24, 2011

For food I like to try what ever local specialties. So I'll be trying a deep dish pizza in Chicago. Are there any other specialties that I don't know about? Since WI has a strong German influence maybe some German food.

Don't forget Wisconsin beer! There are plenty of great places to try local Wisconsin craft brews like New Glarus and Capital, and if you are interested in a brewery tour, Milwaukee local breweries Lakefront and Sprecher both have them.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Skip the Safe House, it seems to be past its prime. Check out Comet Cafe for great food, Cafe Corazon for amazing Mexican food (go for brunch, it's divine!), take the Milwaukee Brewing Co's tour because it's great and the beer is good (You can go to Lakefront Brewery too, skip Miller though). If you can find them, Satellite Crepes is amazing. A great corner bar/restaurant is Nessun Dorma, great soups and sandwiches.

Definitely skim through this past question to find a few more places.
posted by svdodge at 2:44 PM on May 24, 2011

If you stay at Hotel Metro in downtown Milwaukee, they provide guests with bikes to ride around the riverfront area.

I like the Brew City Barbecue, not too far.

Seconding the Art Museum. Viva Calatrava!
posted by yclipse at 2:47 PM on May 24, 2011

Milwaukee has had a large immigrant Serbian community (supposedly one of the largest in the country). As such, you might want to check out Three Brothers for Serbian food.
posted by drezdn at 5:00 PM on May 24, 2011

In Milwaukee, Miller has daily brewery tours, but a smaller brewery might be more fun. Skip the Safe House, or just go for a drink, the food's not good. For German food Kegel's Inn is better than Mader's or Ratzsch's, and has a good fish fry on Fridays. Hang out by the lakefront, or fly a kite by Veteran's Park on the lake. Check out the museums. Get drunk, you won't be able to turn around without seeing a bar. :D
posted by catatethebird at 6:01 PM on May 25, 2011

I see from some your earlier questions that you are looking for budget options so many of the Milwaukee suggestions here may be out of your budget. Raatzch's & Maders are pricey. It sounds like you will be more of a George Webb's kind of guy. svdodge lists some great places in the Riverwest area. Assuming you are younger that area may appeal to you more than the regular touristy areas. Brady Street is a similar area and Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View is another option.

Other budget options are to hang out at the lake front if the weather cooperates
posted by JJ86 at 7:04 AM on May 26, 2011

Wait, how has no one mentioned Kopp's or Gilles or Leon's? If you're going to come up to Wisconsin, you need to get some frozen custard, man. Kopp's has good burgers, too.

Also: Culver's. I hope you're not on a diet. There's a reason we have a high obesity rate here.

Also also, nothing to do with custard, but Miss Katie's Diner is where all the important people stop in Milwaukee (Obama, both Clintons, etc.). Link goes to Yelp, because oddly, the first Google result is a spammy blog.
posted by desjardins at 9:00 AM on May 26, 2011

Miss Katie's doesn't hold a candle to the Sunflower Inn that used to be one block east but there's no room around Marquette for a speakeasy/whorehouse anymore. The funny thing was more important people stopped there than at Miss Katie's.
posted by JJ86 at 9:11 PM on May 26, 2011

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